By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
While M.B. hasn’t yet reached the point where it’s selling donor nametags on seats, it has adopted the tradition of creating levels of Meadows Basement donors.
“We start with Weeds, go up to Burning Bush, and for $1,000 It’s Your Meadow, We’re Just Playing in It.” Core ensemble of six members, plus six auxiliary actors. The no-dues company is not currently seeking new members.
Company of Angels, 2106 Hyperion Ave., Silver Lake; (323) 883-1717; www.coangels.org. Board president Christian Arroyo. With 44 seasons under its belt, Company of Angels is L.A.’s oldest continuously performing repertory company, although its membership of mostly 20- and 30-somethings places it among the city’s youngest. Nine elected directors make decisions for the theater and act as its office staff.
Fire gutted the Angels’ original Hollywood home in 1988, and since then the company has leased its current Silver Lake theater — although the building’s owner is about to sell it. According to Arroyo, who is serving a two-year term as the Angels’ board president, actors who have trouble paying monthly dues can make up their financial obligation by stage managing. Like other companies, Company of Angels has embarked upon its first organized season, which consists of five mainstage plays and about half a dozen “members projects.”
Arroyo says last year Angels operated on a $58,000 annual budget, with about 55 percent of that derived from box-office receipts, 16 percent from dues, 22 percent coming from two or three fund-raisers, which often take the form of theme parties, and the rest from miscellaneous sources. It also runs paid ads in its program — some of which are bartered for product from neighborhood businesses like Baller Hardware.
“Sometimes we exist paycheck to paycheck,” Arroyo says. “It’s frustrating, because no one likes to ask for money.” Angels doesn’t even charge for its concession snacks, although that may be because, as Arroyo admits, theatergoers tend to pay more for a Coke if it is offered for a donation than if it had a price tag. He says the company is about to look into creating a subscription base, using the theater’s mailing list. A nonprofit theater, Company of Angels receives no public money, because, according to Arroyo, funding agencies prefer to deal with the same people serving long terms on theater boards.
“The problem with grants,” he says, “is our board of directors, which rotates every two years.”
Shows at the 99-seat-contract Company of Angels cost between $900 and $2,000 to mount, Arroyo says. Besides rent, he counts production costs and advertising as his theater’s biggest expenditures, with royalties also figuring prominently. Membership of 60. New members by referral/audition. Dues $30 monthly.
Actors Co-op, c/o First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood, 1760 N. Gower St.; (323) 462-8460; www.actorsco-op.org. Producing director Marianne Savell, artistic director Gary Lee Reed. Although the economic downturn of 2001 caused Actors Co-op to shrink its budget, the Christian-based company can count its blessings — including the tax-exempt protection of a 501 (3) (c) nonprofit status provided by its sponsor, the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood. Still, Savell says that the group is considering leaving “Mom and Dad” and getting its own 501 (3) (c), which would allow it, as a secular theater company, to open up federal and county grant money. Besides, she says, “We might want to do a play that has language. We’ve never used the F-word onstage, or G.D.”
Actors Co-op was formed 15 years ago and is now celebrating its 12th season at its two church-supplied, 99-seat-contract Crossley Theaters on the church campus. This year’s budget is $368,000, which supports a four-show season, a large company of Christian actors (though not necessarily Presbyterian, while outside directors and technical designers do not have to be Christian), four full-time staff and one part-time worker. Savell shares control of the co-op with Gary Lee Reed, yet, as A Noise Within discovered, increasingly needs a managing director to handle fund-raising.
The theater receives several private grants. As an official ministry of Hollywood Presbyterian, the co-op has to pay only its phone bill, since it receives free rent and utilities for its theater and nearby offices, with the church handling its finances and check-writing.
Actors Co-op also has a supportive subscription base, drawn mostly from Hollywood Presbyterian — aging parishioners, Savell says, who may not know any other source of theater.
“A lot of our subscribers are dying,” she also says, pointing to the need to look beyond the embrace of the church, and the desire to be a larger Equity (union) theater.
Savell estimates that grants provide 27 percent of the co-op’s funding, with subscriptions covering another 18 percent, ticket sales 17 percent, and dues accounting for only 4 percent, with the remainder provided by fund-raising activity and concession sales. (“We sell coffee for 50 cents, but we’ve got to go up.”)
The co-op operates as a democracy with a constitution and bylaws, with a seven-member committee elected to three-year terms overseeing the company’s financial and artistic direction. Savell has found it’s often the small things that make a difference in audience cultivation.
“This season’s theme is ‘Piercing the Darkness,’ and our brochure pictures a lighthouse during a stormy night. Suddenly subscriptions dropped. People didn’t subscribe, because they said the brochure looked scary and dark.”
Savell says she’s learned her lesson:
“Next year’s theme is ‘On the Cliff’s Edge’ — but not close enough to fall off.” Membership of 70. New members by referral/audition. Dues $20.
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