Lake Dillon Theatre’s expansion includes three new positions
September 16, 2010
The Lake Dillon Theatre Company hit a crossroads about a year ago, but the success of this summer’s repertory clinched it: Board members had to decide whether to ramp things up or pull in the reins and, essentially, shrink.
They chose the former, and in doing so, board members decided to hire three new full-time employees.
“What really was the tipping point was this summer, as we continued to expeditiously improve … we took a major leap and added over 600 ticket buyers to the system,” said artistic director Chris Alleman.
The roadblock to greater growth had to do with lack of staffing, which leads to an inability to raise the money the theater needs to bring in New York actors, as it did this summer.
“It’s expensive to run that summer rep program,” said board member Anne Marie Ohly. “We realized (we needed to) raise money to support it, because so many people love it, and Chris wanted to up the quality of our actors. That’s what started (the need for more employees).”
The organization just hired the first employee, an executive director who will focus on the business side of the theater, including budgets, development and contracts: Josh Blanchard will leave Keystone Neighbourhood Company to fill the executive position (look for next week’s story on Blanchard, including the inside story on the hiring decision), freeing Alleman to focus on what’s he’s good at.
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“Chris is very artistic and has great ideas about what to do in the theater, but we need somebody to facilitate – to make sure all those funds are going to be there to do what Chris wants to do artistically,” Ohly said. “We’ve had huge growth over the last four years … (thanks to) the expertise of Chris and his vision for the theater … and the support of the community.”
The nonprofit also will hire an individual patron developer, who will focus on increasing individual donations – whether they’re $10 or $100,000. The third, yet unnamed position, will involve customer relations, box office demands and front-of-the-house duties.
And those are just Alleman’s top three, most urgent needs. One of the first things he and Blanchard will do is develop a one-, three- and five-year strategic plan for the theater.
“I’m pretty confident in assuming the five-year plan will have hopes of a new facility, especially if we continue on the same trajectory,” Alleman said, adding that he believes he could have sold 150 tickets a night to “Hair,” and that the “loss of revenue stream is mind-boggling,” due to limited space; the theater’s waiting list for “Hair” reached more than 200. However, the sold-out “problem” mostly applies to the summer repertory; Alleman still has room to expand his winter programming by adding more weekday shows.
The ability to hire three new positions came from Robin Hadley, a patron, and four board members. The adage “ask and you shall receive” played a starring role in this “production”: Hadley had been telling the board it doesn’t ask for enough money. So, they asked, and she said she’d match $75,000, if members could come up with the same amount by Oct. 1. Within 24 hours, four board members stepped up to match Hadley’s offer. The $150,000 allows the board to hire staff and add needed infrastructure, such as a phone system upgrade, additional office space and computer software that will help track and create strategies for individual donors so Alleman and Blanchard can see, for example, the top 100 donors.