RCT 101

That’s a term coined during a meeting between our Friends leaders and board officers  a few weeks ago to describe a proposed gathering for our Friends of RCT group. Presumably, it was intended for them to explain to us the inner workings of a theatre. As I ponder the run of bad decisions they’ve made, their complete lack of any theatre operations experience, their inability to parse the financials, I’m wondering who would they have had to lead such a “discussion?”

They were so horrified at the thought that a “small” group (the hundreds of us) banding together to call a member meeting – the legal right of members – and maybe depose some of them, that they changed the rules behind closed doors and eliminated that possibility. In truth, it would have been quite a task for us to assemble enough members to call the meeting, and the board would certainly have had time to dig up some members of their own to oppose us. That they instead changed the rules shows what base of support they feel they have.

But let’s play a little “what if” game. Suppose the meeting had happened and some of the directors had been ousted. What then?

Greg Miller would still be in place as Artistic Director. There’s a budget shortfall ($60k according the Heather Holmes, president) to deal with. Greg had Leaving Iowa ready to go, and it would have been produced as planned. We know there were many actors looking forward to auditioning and the volunteers would have rallied to make this show a success.

Greg would have assembled the creative team for Urinetown, the opening show for the 2017-2018 season. They would have met already and auditions later this month would be all planned and ready. It’s a big musical, and we’d expect to see high attendance. The Friends group would have helped ensure that.

We’d have elected to the board new officers who 1. actually like and attend theatre, and 2. were willing to dig into the numbers to see what’s what. By now, plans would be in place to cope with the shortfall and start working on fundraising activities.

We’d have had people at every performance of “Heaven Can Wait” and “Leaving Iowa” pushing season ticket sales and asking for additional contributions.

Greg’s long list of questions regarding the new season would have been answered, and he’d have been given the autonomy his position deserves to make the shows happen. We’d have tried to work out the issues with rehearsal dates being double booked to low-revenue-producing activities in the most fair and reasonable way.

There would have been a call-out for help in several areas to the Friends. The “small” group would have answered.

Meetings between staff and the new board would have taken place to address ongoing issues and make definitive plans for the 2018-2019 season (yes, that season planning should be happening right now).

Denise Ruemping would still be heading the education department (now, former education department?). And, with a more rational approach to the budget and to what’s important to the mission, STAR and other education programs would be in the process of being raised from the shadows and given their due emphasis. This is an area that needs to be pumped up by unearned income (contributions, grants).

Various problems such as booking the theatre without accounting for productions and rehearsals would have been addressed, and new operational guidelines put in place. By now – because it’s extremely important and extremely frustrating to have such problems over and over.

A five year plan for the theatre would have been started. (Evidence suggests the previous operational model was let’s just wait until the last minute.)

I could go on, but it’s pretty clear: the Civic would have been in better shape and its future more stable and more overtly positive than its current state. Pretty horrific, right?

There’s still time, but the clock is ticking. Board officers can still do the right thing, step aside, and let someone with the passion and competence to right the ship take the tiller.

I know. I’m an naive optimist…