Santa Cruz, CA – Ten days ago, UC Santa Cruz gave Shakespeare Santa Cruz the news: it could no longer cover the Theater Company's losses. It gave the staff of seven until noon on December 22nd to raise $300,000 or go dark.
When the clock struck noon on Monday the staff felt confident, but still anxious as they waited to hear from the University, which was processing the donations. Finally just after one o'clock the word came by email. "Okay this is the message from the Chancellor. We raised $416,417," exclaimed Marketing Director Dana Werdmuller.
Shakespeare Santa Cruz will have a 2009 season thanks to donations that came in locally, from across the nation and around the globe. At a time when arts organizations everywhere are feeling strapped, Shakespeare Santa Cruz's success is getting noticed.
Werdmuller has already been asked to write a piece for a theater industry magazine on how they pulled this off in these tough economic times. She attributes their success to the viral nature of the internet for getting the word out, and the Theater Company's openness about its financial situation. "Anybody whose thinking about how to approach this, I would really encourage them to think about the history about how they got into the situation they are in because people do want to see the arts survive, but there has to be also some fiscal responsibility. And so showing what the situation has been and what you are going to do differently to try to bridge the gap going forward will encourage people to support you," she said.
But even as the staff celebrates their overwhelming success, they know the work has just begun. "Because what we just raised just means we can go forward. Now we actually have to sell the tickets, we have to raise the money, we have to get the sponsorships, we have to write the grants so we can do the summer season this year," said Managing Director Marcus Cato.
This coming year will still be lean. The theater company will be working with a $1.49-million budget, down from $2-million, which means 3 summer shows instead of four and no holiday program. Plus they have to work to prevent a repeat performance in 2010. "We have a lot of marketing initiatives up our sleeves," said Cato. "We're going to do group sales. We're going to find lots of ways for people to buy tickets. We're probably going to lower some of our ticket prices and make sure that everyone who wants to see Shakespeare Santa Cruz has a chance."
Theater goers will have that chance when the 2009 Season begins in mid-July. It will include A Midsummer Night's Dream and Julius Caesar.