IT HAD ALL THE MAKINGS of one of the Rubicon's best productions: drama, laughter, poignancy and a great song-and-dance number. But the non-profit Ventura theater company's rally and town hall meeting Wednesday night was a real-life drama highlighting the need to raise $1 million in 90 days.
"Major gifts are down from $900,000 last year to $150,000 this year," explained Ken Wesler, Rubicon managing director.
The 200-seat theater, which provides an intimate setting for original productions as well as the tried and true, such as the recent well-received "Fiddler on the Roof," relies on earned income for only about 40 percent of its budget.
So, while the theater brought in $1.4 million in revenue in 2008, $2.2 million came in from contributed income. Of that, $900,000 came in from a few major donors. "These usually come from just a handful of very generous philanthropists," explained Wesler.
Increasing the number of productions or seats would only boost income by about 10 percent, Wesler said. "The intimacy of the theater is part of our strongest selling points."
TO PILE ON EVEN MORE troubles, the City of Ventura usually contributes an average of $25,000 a year to the Rubicon through its competitive cultural grants program, but that money is dwindling with the city's budget cuts. And the theater's youth programs have also taken a hit because of the economy. Families are cutting back, too.
The Rubicon has already trimmed expenses by $114,000. "An overworked staff is working harder and longer," Wesler said.
Rubicon's board ideally wants to keep ticket prices low and offer reduced prices to students, and scholarships to children in the summer programs, board member Doug Halter said. The award-winning theater also brings 40,000-50,000 people a year Downtown, he added. And these folks go out to dinner here and often spend the night in local hotels.
The company has applied for National Endowment for the Arts grants and has raised more than $63,000 so far in its "It Takes a Village" campaign. The goal is to come up with 2,400 gifts of $365. "Almost everybody on the staff gave the $365 right away," said Rubicon Marketing Director Cindy Frankey.
This dynamic theater company and its supporters have been known to pull off fund-raising miracles in the past. Let's hope they can do it again.
Another rally is scheduled for Saturday at 3 p.m. and the theater is opening a new show, "Spit Like a Big Girl." For more information go to http://rubicontheatre.org/