In July a new board of directors announced it would be ceasing day-to-day operations of the theater and revamping its performance schedule for the remainder of the year. New board chair Chris Andrus called for the public information meeting Sept. 10.
“The community has an investment in the Holly and deserves to be able to fully participate,” he said. “We cannot go to the community with ours hands out when money is scarce yet exclude the community from any opportunity to participate in the management and productions of the Holly.”
Many, perhaps the majority of those attending last week’s meeting had never met Andrus. He told the crowd that while he had been a Holly supporter since moving to the community, he only became actively involved eight months ago.
“I really only wanted to build sets,” he said.
But in July he found himself nominated to be vice chair of the board, he said, “and the board chair immediately resigned, so here I am.”
A retired project manager, Andrus looked at the Holly’s situation from that perspective, what he saw was a cycle of success through community effort, volunteers becoming overburdened, paid employees being hired, the need to generate cash growing forcing the board to make cuts. In the end of the cycle the theater lost community support because it was not providing what the supporters wanted. His focus now is to put the right processes in place for decision making that will break the cycle as the Holly goes forward. Then, he said, “it will take on a life of its own.”
“We need to produce shows that the community wants to see, increase community financial and volunteer support and find long term methods to relieve financial pressure,” he said.
As a step in that direction, cards were handed out at the meeting and people were asked to write-in two musicals and two dramas or comedies they would like to see the Holly produce in the coming year. Votes will be tallied and productions ranked in order of popular vote and will be a large factor in considering what will be performed on the Holly stage in the coming year. Andrus asked those voting to keep in mind productions should have a large cast to involve as many as possible and must be family oriented.
In the effort to increase community and volunteer support, Andrus plans to work on four areas—transparency, board organization, keeping financials in line and the creation of guilds.
From here on out, he said, there will be open board selection. In the recent past, a nominating committee proposed new board members. Andrus is calling on all members of the Holly Theater to chose the next board. Nomination forms are available for download from the Holly’s website, www.hollytheater.com and must be completed and returned by Sept. 24. Biographies of nominees will be posted on the website. It has not yet been settled just when or how the election results will be announced. That, and “the resolution of other issues of which we are not even aware yet,” will be addressed by a Board of Elections Working Group meeting after the paper goes to print, Andrus said.
Transparency in financial reporting is also part of Andrus’ plan, as are open auditions to encourage everyone who wants to be a part of a Holly production to try out for a part.
The board itself will also be different, Andrus said. “It will be a working board. Everyone will run something—coordinate volunteers, organize advertising and promotion–something.”
There will also be an ad hoc committee structure “to help create board members in waiting. We need to have some depth,” Andrus said.
Another area where depth is needed, he said, is in its volunteer base—technicians, actors, directors, stage managers, costumers and other areas of theater production. Toward that end Andrus is setting up guilds so that those who have an interest in a particular area but no experience can learn the craft from experienced hands.
The Holly is about $125,000 in debt, including $30,000 owed to local debts.
“That’s not a lot, but it’s an emotional number for me,” Andrus said. “I deal with these people every day. We are making some money, and cash flow is projected to be positive to the end of the year, but it is fragile and it won’t be enough to retire that debt. So from now on, all expenditures are on a cash basis, and we’ll be watching every penny like a hawk.”
No productions will start without being fully funded, he said.
He is also looking for someone who can produce a cash flow projection so the board will have some guidance for the coming year.
Andrus also gave an update on what’s been accomplished in the operations of the Holly to date. And most of what has been accomplished, he said, can be attributed to Bruce Pilgrim. Pilgrim, the former drama teacher at Lumpkin County High School and who has performed several roles on the Holly stage, volunteered to be the operations manager earlier this month. In only a few short weeks, Andrus said, the theater has been cleaned up; sound and lighting equipment, costumes and props have been inventoried and organized; and Pilgrim has reached out to former sound and light technicians and other volunteers.
About 24 volunteers came in over the last couple of weeks, Pilgrim said, and have been a tremendous help. And now that much of the grunt work has been accomplished, Pilgrim is turning his attention to production.
“I want to see the Holly come back,” he said, engendering long and loud applause from those attending the meeting. “I’ve been told that in the past, volunteers were not treated so well. I want to treat our volunteers right and show appreciation for their efforts. An one way to do that is by offering a great number of roles–not just acting roles, but back stage and technical roles too. And producing family shows with large casts, and with community input.
“We have a lot of problems, but the solution is pretty simple. Rejoin the membership, volunteer, try out for a play, buy a ticket,” he said.