NPA urges Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company rescue
NPA councillorGeorge Affleck says the city should be doing all it can to work quickly to revive the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company, including using leftover money from the Olympic Legacies Fund or dipping into the newly created Innovation Fund.
“I think we need to take a leadership role in whatever that means, and that could mean working with corporates, working with other levels of government, anything we can do, and fast,” he said. “Council is on holiday [until March 26] but I’m willing to talk to people. We’re missing some crucial time here right now.”
Affleck said he is working on a motion to request a full report on the status of the city’s $20 million Olympic Legacies Fund, which was established in 2007 to help the city cover costs of hosting the Games.
“Maybe that’s a place [for funds to help the Playhouse],” he noted, adding that the recently approved $2 million Innovation Fund, which he voted against, could also be a source of help. “It’s a very curious $2 million set aside for innovation. Perhaps there’s an opportunity for the Playhouse to look at that money.…To me, the Playhouse Theatre Company is really important to the city and the theatre community because it feeds up and down and all around to the community. So it’s crucial to the whole community.…I think it’s important that the city gets involved.”
Affleck’s fellow NPA councillor Elizabeth Ball added that developers could help save the Playhouse.
Ball, who founded Carousel Theatre Company and School and cofounded the Waterfront Theatre on Granville Island, said that encouraging developers to purchase season’s tickets as an incentive for condo buyers could have made a difference to the Playhouse’s fortunes.
“It would have been possible quite some time ago, because there’s a huge amount of connection at the city with the developers who are building our city,” she said. “In a number of American cities where this happened to their premiere organization, they spoke with the developers and said, ‘Look, guys, help us here. Get behind us. You know and we know that people buying suites want to live in an exciting and cultural place. Buy a subscription for every single person that moves into a suite in Vancouver.’…That would make a huge difference to the solidity of both the Playhouse and the Arts Club, and the symphony and the opera, because it is the subscriptions that allow the companies to survive.”
Ball also said the Playhouse’s financial problems could be traced back to its theatre-usage agreement with the city. When the regional theatres were founded in the 1960s, said Ball, “you had people doing negotiations that had never run professional theatre companies. So they did the best they could without all that much knowledge and ended up in what has really been next-to-impossible situations for the Playhouse theatre.”
Vision councillor Heather Deal said that the city would not be able to bail out the company again, having given it a $1-million leg-up last year in a combination of one-time emergency grants, additional operating funds, and debt forgiveness. “There would have to be a grant of $500,000 a year to cover their ongoing gap in their operating budget, and the city just can’t afford that,” she said.