Public confusion about the Playhouse venue has presenters scrambling

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      The collapse of the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company has hit presenting organizations, as phone calls pour in from patrons who have confused the theatre company with the venue itself.

      Ticket sales for DanceHouse’s presentation of Gallim Dance, which opens in the Playhouse Theatre this evening and runs until tomorrow (March 24) night have stagnated since the announcement of the VPTC’s closure, said DanceHouse producer Jim Smith.

      “Since the announcement of the Playhouse, we’ve received a number of phone calls of people under the impression that our activities would be cancelled, and people were asking ‘How do I get refunds?’” Smith told the Straight by phone.

      Ticket sales, he added, “have kind of halted. We go through a process of selling subscriptions in the course of the year, which is pre-selling tickets in advance, and then we have a single-ticket campaign which really gears up four weeks heading out in front of the event. And that basically coincided with much of the activity that was going on in terms of the Playhouse [Theatre Company] and its tragic story.”

      It’s a similar story at the Vancouver Recital Society, where staff have been fielding phone calls from confused subscribers and would-be ticket buyers. “We had our last concert of this particular season at the Playhouse just last week, and we did have to fight that same perception,” reported marketing director Niamh Small. The organization has tried to clarify things with special emails, mail-outs, and online messages, she said.

      “We’ve had lots of phone calls and we’re trying to sell a new season now. We’ve launched our 2012/13 season, and there are concerts at the Playhouse, there’s an entire series there, and we’re finding that we’re still fielding phone calls. We’ve put it on our website, we’ve put it in our e-newsletter, but I don’t think the message is really hitting people. And people really do assume that they’re one and the same—the venue and the company. It’s very baffling. We’re sending out a renewal postcard today, and we’ve had to add a line saying our Playhouse series continues as scheduled.”

      Smith said that ticket sales for Gallim Dance are about 20 percent less than what they normally would be. “It’s a bit troubling,” he commented. “Luckily, we’ve had a year that has been relatively robust…. I don’t think we’ll be completely hard-hit of course, but you know, any sort of being blown in the side of the bow of a budget is always a bit upsetting.”

      Friends of Chamber Music board member Paris Simons said he has been working hard to get the word out that the volunteer organization’s concerts are going ahead as planned. “We are trying to use Facebook and email, we’re trying word-of-mouth, the website,” he said. “The general perception is if the Vancouver Playhouse [Theatre Company] goes down, that is the Vancouver Playhouse. There is not a general understanding in the city that the venue is different from the theatre production company."



      Fatty McGee

      Mar 23, 2012 at 12:34pm

      So what went bankrupt and what did the city give $1 million dollars to? Did the City of Vancouver actually give $1 million to a SOCIETY (basically a group of performers) and NOT a brick and mortar business? AND that "group" went bankrupt? Because if that's true I may lose my mother fucking mind!

      And OF COURSE there's confusion. THEY HAVE THE SAME NAME!! And every headline said, "Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company" shuts it's doors (or something to that effect). How could you NOT think the venue was closed down?

      Informed Arts Patron

      Mar 23, 2012 at 3:34pm

      Perhaps if the so-named-"Fatty McGee" knew anything about the arts, or was following this travesty's media coverage at all closely, he would have read that the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company represents $2.9 million worth of jobs every year to professionals (rather than paying some little group of performers as this comment implies). Those jobs range from construction work to customer service - not just performers.

      Another FYI: every not-for-profit is set up as a "society." And yes, I did say "not-for-profit" as opposed to the brick-and-mortar sinkholes which are theoretically for-profit but end up costing taxpayers far more than arts organizations such as this regional theatre company, which until last week created ongoing employment for arts professionals not just here but across the country. What constitutes a brick-and-mortar sinkhole, you ask? Some might name the BC Place roof, into which $550 million was invested. Even if "Fatty" and his cohorts think that was well invested, it's still 550x as much as we're talking about here.

      A message to the City of Vancouver and the Province: perhaps if the Playhouse had in the first place been treated as the regional theatre it was designed to be, and supported as such - rather than an arts organization renting its building from the City - we would be saved the current PR debacle of venue vs. company name which is damaging so many other arts organizations in its wake. Let's learn from Canada's many other regional theatres that are continuing to attract tourists, create jobs, and flow money into the local economy.

      Fancy Pants

      Mar 23, 2012 at 4:10pm

      Once upon a time, the theatre was called the Queen Elizabeth Playhouse. But as the primary tenant for the last 49 years has been the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company (and because apparently people are too stupid and too lazy to familiarize themselves with the cultural venues in their city and kept confusing the smaller playhouse with the Queen Elizabeth Theatre next door) they changed the name to the Vancouver Playhouse decades ago. But, sadly, the hillbillies that live in this world class city don't know that.

      Stephen Bath

      Mar 23, 2012 at 5:32pm

      Ineffective marketing, poor branding, elitism, name-calling, profanities and ideology - all the attributes of cultural debate in Vancouver. As Yogi Berra once said, ' if peple don 't want to come to the ballpark you can't stop them.' If productions don't have resonance with local audiences who's to blame? High brow Opera Society members resisted change until relenting for last season's Westside Story - a financial hit. Look to the Playhouse for shortcomings not the non-participating audiences.

      Jeremy Berkman

      Mar 23, 2012 at 9:26pm

      I'm afraid there is a fair bit of discussion re: arts and finances that does require a discussion more important than "who to blame". Interestingly in the Sun recently there was an article on how the movie presenting business thrives not on ticket sales, but the concession stand (buy popcorn and support your film artists!). I remember a funny line from Howard Jang at the Arts Club telling me that he sometimes felt he runs a restaurant and bar more than a theatre. A successful restauranteur told me that it is the drink revenue that funds every kitchen (and I don't drink -a lousy customer!). As I run a music ensemble - do I want to spend time an energy on a non-core, non-artistic revenue generator - but what if that is a necessary part of producing quality art (which the Playhouse was doing, and the Arts Club continues to do for that matter). I'm not sure I want to know the answer to that question, but it's a discussion as artists, as funders, as audience members, and as tax payers, I think we need to have.

      Informed Arts Patron

      Mar 24, 2012 at 1:04am

      Just a follow-up to Stephen Bath - the Playhouse's primary reason for closing was in fact the legacy debt, leftover from the company's previous managers/boards. It was not non-participating audiences. On average, audience revenue only accounts for 40% of the operating budget. In the past 5 years there have been far more cuts in government funding, for example, than reductions in audience numbers - and those cuts have impacted other companies than the Playhouse.

      Yes, poor management in the past could be cited as a reason for the hole the Playhouse's current leadership just couldn't get themselves out of - but just to make sure the facts aren't confused, it's not accurate to say the Playhouse's work isn't respected and that there haven't been HUGE amounts of people devastated by the loss of their regular theatre.

      d. mackenzie

      Mar 26, 2012 at 10:06pm

      The factors that led to not yet fully closed Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company are complicated and go back to the founding to the start of the relationship with the venue and the city. TO REPEAT: the 1 million grant, in that range, never fully reached the theatre company. There are still possibilities of a revival. The Playhouse serves a regional support network for the many smaller theatre companies and is important to our city, the province and this country. Otherwise, we may as well as just stay home and watch The Good Wife on TV. (And I like the Good Wife, but we are more than good or bad american TV.)

      West Coast Snine

      Mar 28, 2012 at 11:14am

      It's simple the people who own the Vancouver Playhouse theatre ( bricks and mortar) are Civic Theatres or the City of Vancouver always have and mostly likely always will. The people who build and put on the shows are the now closed Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company.