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Business Manager's Report 2010

Savoyards Money Stuff for end of Gondoliers until June 2010

(comparing Gondoliers year with Mikado year)

This will be written in a very conversational style. If you have ever read one of those boring annual reports from one of the financial institutions, . . . need there be more said?

There were several big plusses in the Mikado year. It is one of the “big three” (Pinafore and Pirates being the other two; what the board used to call an “A” show). The numbers will be rounded off a bit because this is a cast party too, and numbers, like big words, are sometimes hard to follow, even on paper. (If you want a detailed printout, ask one of the Grays.)

Gondoliers box office was over $28,000, (not bad for what the board used to call a “B” show), while Mikado box office was not quite $38,000, or an increase of $9,300, give or take a euro or two. However, (unlike Congress), don’t expect that increase to continue the same $9K for Princess Ida, which used to be called one of the “C” shows.

The Carolina and the Savoyards have what could be called “vendor net.” The opposite is “vendor gross,” where the Savoyards collect and process all the box office money, and then write checks to the Carolina for rental space, electricity, techies, equipment, etc. This is cumbersome, and the “vendor net” is much simpler for the Savoyards, as the Carolina box office takes in all the money. (This is why our extremely efficient ticket-meistress, Cathy Lambe, needs to bring all the orders to the Carolina box office.) Then they figure out how much everything costs, and give the Savoyards a check for the net profits (hence the name). Our extremely efficient producer, Sarah Nevill, goes over it with a fine-tooth comb, and maybe finds that there was a charge for an extra chair or too many tables in the lobby. All in all, it is a very satisfactory system for the Savoyards, which got two copies of the Carolina print-out. Jim Burnette and Sarah Nevill got those – the business manager handled the resulting check.

So, even though box office was $9,300 more, the Carolina took their “fair share” (note the rhyming) – thus, Gondoliers' net proceeds were $15,433.48 (getting exact for this one.) For the Mikado, the check received from the Carolina was $22,373.01 (for an increase of – are you ready? - $6,939.53). Again, don’t expect this to continue on an upward trend for Ida.

Without getting too detailed, remember that a show of this type needs many, many volunteers, but there are still items that have to be paid for. Costume material is bought and sewn by Karen Guidry and company, needing buttons, zippers, lace, and other frills to be authentic. (Better than renting them at $50-75 a dress). Props are found, borrowed, rented, and bought by Kara John and Catherine Zeph. They are frugal but there is a cost. Bobby Cameron or somebody gets a truck to load in and load out; it has to be paid for. The Orchestra, managed by Tanner Lovelace, got a raise (see the increase in Friends below), but theirs is still a bit below the going rate in the Triangle. All those rehearsals need an accompanist; they need to be compensated for their time and talents. The mass mailings need postage; the Friends campaign needs envelopes and a newsletter to put inside them. And then there are all the techies (both present and here in spirit) who put sweat into the set, made of wood, and paint, and lots and lots of screws and bolts. All these cost money. (And I know I left people out; forgive me.)

Two things that the business manager did that would be of interest to the casual thespian. First, the Gondolier’s check from the Carolina was not transferred to the mutual funds, as in past years. The stock market was going “topsy-turvy” in its own way, and the board agreed that keeping the money in the checking account was safer, and much less risky. As it turned out, the market did improve over the rest of the year, but then (as you all know), it went “turvy” again. The money already in the funds increased, from $39,500 (4/11/09), to $57,400 (5/11/10), rounded. Meanwhile, the money in the bank paid for much of the operations of the group throughout the year. So the group didn’t lose any money, but perhaps didn’t gain as much with the higher risk.

The second thing (for which the business manager is justly proud) was to arrange with the Carolina to find all the people who had bought tickets for at least two of the past four years (Patience 06, Pinafore 07, Yeomen 08, and Gondoliers 09). These people were added to the “small list” of Friends, (now 525 or so instead of 290), as compared with the “large list” of everyone who is told of the show – the “Big Mailing” (almost 7,000). Along with some very generous donors, the Friends total went from $22,000 for the

Gondoliers year to $32,800 for the Mikado year, not counting some post-Mikado donations. Everyone who was new to the Friends list was doubly thanked in the mail, with the information that appears, (condensed), in the two paragraphs below.

Even with all the box office receipts, the cost of a group, small as the Savoyards is, exceeds that income. Like many other non-profit groups (note the word “proceeds” and not “profits” above), the Savoyards depends on other forms of income. Unlike most other non-profits, the Savoyards does not get state tax funds (like public college theatre groups do), or government grants other than a minimal one (the Fletcher Fund) that is basically a “quid pro quo” with the Carolina. There is also a “grant for space” with the Durham Arts Council.

So, the Savoyards depends heavily on their Friends. This is why the business manager, oh so gently, prodded those continuing audience members into donating a bit to an organization that obviously means a lot to them, even if only for one evening each spring. Enough people did to exceed the cost of the show, when combined with the ticket income.

There were some Savoyards, who were also state employees, who donated through the State Employees Combined Campaign (SECC). The Savoyards tried that for two years, and stopped for two reasons. One was that the people who donated would have given anyway; in the first two years there were no new names of people who had not donated in the past (though maybe not in the immediate past years). The other was that, in order to qualify, the Savoyards would have to endure (if that is the right word) a complete and total audit, again, and have to pay the auditors another $4,500, again, in order to get on the SECC approval list. The board felt that the expense, and the much extra effort, was not being offset by increased income to the tune of $1,500 a year.

Two other items – one good, and one challenging – and then you can go back to your party, already in progress. In the past, the concert series, where the Savoyards do “outreach,” mostly to community centers and retirement homes, caused the organizer to scramble about for a piano. Without a piano, the Savoyards becomes an a capella group; good, when it’s Hail Poetry,” but not so good during solos or duets. Outdoor venues (such as Southern Village) always gave the organizer fits, and the accompanist was not always pleased with the results.

So, if you haven’t already heard (either through the grapevine, during a concert, or at a rehearsal a couple of times during Mikado), the Savoyards are now the proud owners of an electronic piano. When not used by the group, it has a nice home with Szymanski Studios. The cost was $1,333, and the dolly on which it rides was tossed in free (donated). As it is being set up, it is the techies who control it. As soon as it is set up, the accompanist has total jurisdiction. Please don’t experiment (or let friends, family or children do the same) with it. The piano should last until the next production of Ida, in 2028. (Ask our new president-elect for the complete schedule).

The challenging item, which many of you have already heard, is that the Liberty Warehouse is being put under new management, to be brief. The cost will increase, and our extremely efficient warehouse manager, Charles Guidry, is frantically looking for a new place in which to put the stored costumes, props, flats, platforms, and other theatre stuff. The Liberty was slightly over $2,800 a year to rent (complete with holes and rain.) Any new place should be nearby, with space to build whatever is needed for the show. Otherwise, the Savoyards may have to do what other groups do (when the business manager worked on the “every G&S in the world” welcome for his wife, he discovered that is more common than not); and that is – store the various items in various personal garages. Costumes and props, OK; ten-foot high flats and any platforms, not so OK. Mikado gave the group some extra cash; don’t expect that cash every year, as Ida is one of the least-known shows. Even with added publicity (which costs money), expect lower attendance, and perhaps a need to dig into the mutual funds. It has not been needed so far, but keep your fingers crossed and your legs unbroken (unless you are the out-going immediate past president, who seems to break her knee, ankle, or foot every other year.)

Respectfully submitted,

Michael Hale Gray

Business manager, Durham Savoyards

(only because nobody else seems to want it either!)

Photo of Business Manager Michael Hale Gray
by Tanner Lovelace