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Missouri Theatre to close, seek new management strategies

Three full-time employees also were laid off
Wednesday, July 21, 2010 | 4:01 p.m. CDT; updated 8:53 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Patrons wait outside the Missouri Theatre Center for the Arts for the doors to open for its Grand Opening Gala, which featured singer Tony Bennett, on May 21, 2008.

COLUMBIA — The Missouri Theatre Center for the Arts will shut down for August and part of September, according to a letter from the Missouri Symphony Society. The society also announced the layoff of the three full-time employees of the Missouri Theatre. During the closure, the board will seek new management strategies. 

"We are actively soliciting proposals from professionals in theater management to lead us in a business plan and a financial recovery," the letter said.

 


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Comments

Mike Martin July 21, 2010 | 11:01 p.m.

"Actively soliciting proposals from professionals in theater management" would be the last proposal in my playbook. Professionals in theater management haven't exactly saved the Mo Theater, and they cost money.

As a person who, in another life, turned around more than one failed business and did well enough to have the time to armchair quarterback, I would:

1) NOT shut the doors. In business, you close for a month and essentially, you're dead. Keep the doors open. Put the volunteer board to work and keep the doors open. The show must go on.

2) Immediately make payment arrangements with creditors, to "pay what we can" in this time of crisis.

That means settling the Huebbert Builders debt for what is owed -- $400,000 -- paid monthly at say $2,000/month -- until the clouds clear. Same with the $23,000/month bank debt. Pay about 1/3rd of that, or about $8,000/month, WITHOUT FAIL, until the crisis ebbs, then gradually ramp the payments back up to their normal levels.

Have never had a problem with this sort of arrangement. Creditors know it's far better than the alternative.

3) Assuming they've been productive, keep PR manager Kanani May and tech manager Tyler Richardson, at least part time or on contract. They may be seeking other employment, but letting them go during a crisis is short-sighted. Make them members of the crisis management team, if they want to stay.

4) Keep Kirk Trevor working. From an audience member's perspective, he's a huge asset to the organization. He understands audiences and never condescends. He's also great with kids -- speaking from personal experience -- and a world-renowned
conductor/educator.

5) Start a David White-style fund-raising campaign. From sitting on the theater roof to walking around town until his ankles gave out, White had a loony but uplifting money raising sensibility that works when times are tough.

6) Market and joint venture. MU, for instance, has a fantastic music department. Get their work onstage pronto, like last year's marvelous production of Mozart's "Magic Flute" under Paul Crabb and Ann Harrell.

Joint venturing with people like Crabb, Paul Sturtz, Tracy Lane, and other local leaders in the performing arts should be first on the Mo Theatre agenda.

7) Get sponsors. Get advertisers. Get companies who want their names and products in front of audiences. A 1,200 seat beautiful theater is a major asset in the sponsorship arena. This isn't my forte, but Columbia is filled with good marketers who could make this happen.

These are but a few ideas, and I have no way to know if any are viable. But it seems to me the Mo Theater board is shutting the doors prematurely -- and some would say, predictably.

(The above thoughts reference:
http://www.columbiatribune.com/news/2010...

http://www.columbiatribune.com/news/2010... )

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