Seattle Celebrity News!

Editor’s note:  Rik Deskin gives us good insight as to just how the numbers pencil out when running an under 99 seat black box theater… and the travails from running any live theater venue.

Rik tries to manage a plethora of theater and live comedy and keep it all in the black.

A Note About Fiscal Responsibility

By Rik Deskin

Earlier today, I got word from my monthly renter of one of the three studios that make up the Odd Duck Studio that we had received a 3 day pay or vacate notice from the property management. The amount due now is $5050.69.

This is not a surprise as we have been two-three months behind in the rent for several months now. A very large rental and a few smaller rentals canceled their shows at the last minute in May and June. An actual worse repeat of what occurred last summer due to the size of one of the rentals being a 3 month-long booking.

I of course had no other recourse but to solicit other companies/groups looking for space. No one was looking that late in the year. So I put together a summer series of comedy shows to help fill the weeks partially. None of them has sold more than half capacity (yet as we have one more tomorrow night) and three did not even make the rent for the evening. And one had a performer oblivious to the policy I had put into place that rent must be paid before performers in a box office split, demanding reimbursement of their expenses or face small claims court, putting us behind by an additional $85. Because being the nice, easy-going person that I am, I wrote them that check even though we could not afford to. That was the last vestige of fiscal irresponsibility that I will allow.

In May we instituted the policy of shows that are co-productions, resulting in a box office split, the first $125 that comes through the door per night, always goes to the rental of the theater. The next $125 goes to the performers/co-producer. After that, it’s a 50/50 split. This reduces Eclectic Theater Company’s risk, still makes performance space accessible to groups that cannot afford a rental, and puts the onus on the co-producer to sell tickets. This has been an occasional problem in the past because some co-producers failed to make much effort in promoting their shows, resulting in reduced attendance.

We also now have a new invoicing software so that we can efficiently manage rental productions and are enforcing the 25% deposit and no cancellations less than 30 days before, otherwise if you cancel in less than 30, you are responsible for still paying the rental. We refuse to be put in this economic situation again so will be stringent on this policy.

Eclectic Theater Company, out of a desire to give back to the theatre artists, used to give space credit as a form of compensation. That is no longer economically viable. We will always strive to give a stipend based on box office after rental costs are met. That is all we can do for now.

The fiscal reality is that we have monthly rent, electricity and insurance to pay. That does not go away.

Because we are being as fiscally responsible as we can be with less revenue than we actually need to run the place, we’ve fallen behind again.

Live Comedy: Tossing wadded balls of money at them, or anything valuable, is generally appreciated

Add to that a lapse in Eclectic Theater Company’s ability to fundraise through a revocation of our non-profit status right before we were about to receive a gift of $5000 in May, we were injured by not being able to accept that gift a few months ago.

Because we’re trying to be fiscally responsible with no paid staff and only a few volunteers, we applied to the Shunpike’s Associate Artist Program. They excel in fiscal responsibility and the business of art. And they are now Eclectic Theater Company’s fiscal sponsor and will be doing the back office work that being a volunteer, I never had the time to focus on because as an unemployed actor, my first priority is seeking employment.

We’ve also taken on a partner, in House of Cards Theatre Company, who are paying $200 a month in order to regularly produce three shows throughout the year and help to upgrade and beautify the interior and exterior of Odd Duck Studio.
This weekend members from House of Cards Theatre Company, The Schoolyard, and The Confrontational Theater Project are teaming up to replace the theater seating with newer seating.

The ecology at Odd Duck Studio is and has always been very fragile. Our monthly rent is $1500. We have Alleged Tattoo that leases a space monthly from us paying a third of the rent ($500). We have WARP which nearly always rents Tuesday night from us which is another $108-$135 a month. The rest has to be made up via box office revenue or additional rentals. Most months there are an abundance of performances that help us make ends meet. I like to stack the deck and hope that some shows sell even when some don’t. And hope that concessions sales contribute.
Today after posting the initial announcement of being sponsored by Shunpike and my renewed plea to donors, I received a reply asking why we need to raise money for rent again when we just did that last year, raising $2075. This person questioned our fiscal responsibility.

This is what I need and ask from the community:

1. If you have booked a rental, please pay your 25% deposits now. If you can pay the full rental booked, even better. Current tally of invoiced rental revenue that is outstanding is $9978.50. 25% of that is $2494.62. That deposit amount alone gets us nearly half way to being caught up.

2. If you have rented space and have not paid yet, please do so now.

3. If you are a producer and have a show you want to rent space for, we will bump Eclectic Theater Company’s shows in favor of the rental revenue. As long as we are not already in production.

4. If you are a producer that can’t afford to rent but have a show or shows that you know you can sell tickets for, we’ll consider continuing the co-production box office split scenario based on the policies noted above in paragraph four. The key to this being successful is that you must market and promote your show. Be responsible.

5. If you can buy tickets to shows, that’s always good.

6. If you have loaned us money in the past that we have been unable to pay back, please consider letting that be a donation for which we will request a retroactive donation receipt from Shunpike (if that is even possible). Or continue to be lenient with us paying you back. We will eventually.

7. Donate to our cause. We are an important facilitator and incubator in Seattle for Theatre, Improv, Stand-Up and Sketch Comedy, Screenplays, Independent Films and have a great history and legacy of moving theatre and film artists forward in their professional careers.

8. If you cannot give financial gifts, consider volunteering in some capacity. We want to build the company into a stable organization that can actually pay artists and staff. We can only do that with people engaged in helping to set Eclectic Theater Company up for success.

Thank you for your belief, faith and support in the work that we do at Odd Duck Studio.

“And while I’m at it, how about a Celebrity Drink?”

Photos by Carl Nelson

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