…launches 2009 outlook
The Theatre Guild, which has found itself in a financial quagmire, says it is still owed $1.5 million by the government for performances held at the Guild Playhouse during the Caribbean Festival of Arts (Carifesta).
The disclosure came Friday evening as the Guild made a passionate appeal for help in the forms of sponsorship, new membership and volunteer services.
Nine months after Guyana hosted Carifesta, it was Dr. Paloma Mohamed, the Festival’s Artistic Director (a position she described as being “sometimes thorny”), who disclosed that the Guild was in need of the money to help meet its biggest liability – some $3 million to the Guyana Power and Light Company (GPL).
Dr .Mohamed was one of three members of the Guild’s management committee who laid out the state of the Guild’s financial position. The management committee would like to see revenues increased from $5 million to $12 million, if the Guild is to become financially sustainable.
According to Dr Mohamed, electricity cost burns a chunk of funds, averaging some $300,000 a month. But the Guild has a plan that could possibly cut that cost in half. The high electricity cost is because of the size of the transformer that was installed during the renovations.
The renovations were completed in time for Carifesta, and marked the return to activity at the Playhouse, after a hiatus of over two decades.
The installation of a smaller transformer will reduce the electricity cost until the Guild is able to negotiate a billing system that is reflective of the Guild’s operation as a not-for-profit organisation. The Guild is currently billed as a light industry. The estimated cost to replace the transformer is $780,000.
The Guild’s second priority involves upgrades to the performance areas, which are needed for the facility to mount quality stage productions. In this regard, the Guild needs ladders to set up lights and sound systems ($120,000); a system for effective communication between backstage and the light and sound technicians ($150,000); an across stage fly bar ($150,000); fire-proof curtains ($500,000); and purchase and installation of an on-stage cyclorama ($500,000).
For the upgrades to the dressing rooms, including mirrors, closets and iron boards, an estimated $170, 000 is needed. The Guild’s other priority is for upgrades and maintenance of the rehearsal area and the Playhouse office. This will cost an estimated $232,000.
According to the Guild, there is also the need to fund the salaries of a Playhouse Manager ($1.2M for one year) who can market the Guild and its programmes effectively in order to generate optimal revenue from these areas. In addition, the Guild is seeking support for its planned theatrical productions.
The cost of putting on one production is $400,000. The Guild also estimates that its advertising programme for 2009 will amount to $1.2 million.
Chairman of the Guild’s management committee, Russell Lancaster, said if these targets are met the Guild would be able to become functional and sustainable.
Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Major General (retired) Joseph Singh said a total of $68 million cash was raised for the rehabilitation of the Guild’s Playhouse. This was in addition to $11 million in kind, and the volunteer services of many, including Bert Carter, the engineer who spearheaded the restoration of the Playhouse.
Singh said the restoration of the Playhouse presents a platform for the development of 21st century theatre in Guyana, and for the Guild to become the “crucible of culture” in the country.
He said too that the Guild needs to bring forward a new cadre of players in theatre, including playwrights, actors and actresses.
The launch of the Guild’s “Outlook for 2009” was poorly attended. The few, who attended the launch of the Guild’s strategic plan, enjoyed a visual art exhibition and Caribbean jazz music, compliments of the Roots and Culture Jazz ensemble.
The Theatre Guild currently has 80 members and hopes to double that by 160. The Guild offers individual membership at $4,000 annually and corporate membership at $40,000 annually.
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