On a smaller stage and with a smaller budget, some nonprofit theaters face similar problems. “These are very challenging times, as difficult as we’ve faced in 40 or 50 years,” said Roche Schulfer, executive director of the Goodman Theater in Chicago. “I’m concerned about institutional funding from corporations and foundations. Over the next couple of years we’ll have to figure out ways to do as much with less, doing smaller productions, for example.”Well... I guess the Goodman counts as smaller than, say, Radio City Music Hall. But the Goodman's balance sheet showed net assets of just under $52 million in their August 2007 annual report. Now, I'm sure that a fair amount of that is property, that their investments aren't performing very well right now, and that corporate sponsors (like American Airlines, Sarah Lee, Kraft Foods and Target) may cut back considerably on contributions. The Goodman, as with many other large non-profits, is about to go through a tough period.
But to speak of the Goodman as if its a relatively small house is bizarre. It's an institution that's been in existence since 1922. It's a minor quibble with the phrasing, maybe, but it belies blinders about how the majority of theater is made in the US, and under what conditions. Most companies margin of error, financially, is razor thin. I'm hoping we don't see a massive bloodletting as endowments die and corporate sponsors disappear.
To the Goodman, it'll mean fewer and smaller plays. To some companies, like Milwaukee Shakespeare, it will mean the end.
The article also notes that some producers see a possiblity of a creative boom. It's comforting to know that when there's less money to be made, and less security, the producers finally turn to risk. You'd think it would be the other way around. I, for one, am not holding my breath for a large scale festival of emerging works to appear on commerical stages once all the corporate sponsors disappear.