Loss is tragic, whatever the loss is.
It is hard to imagine the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company having to close its doors and this definitely leaves a big and deep hole in the entire Vancouver community.
The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, in the 1980′s, went through something similar with a huge and unsustainable debt load due to a sharp decrease in subscribers, sponsorship and donations and the list of woes went on and on.
Three levels of government bailed out the VSO, to no avail.
I sat at many meetings with Cabinet Ministers, the Canada Council, the BC Government, the BC Arts Office, the Chief Bankruptcy officer for the Province of British Columbia, (who became the President of the Board of Directors of the VSO in this terrible period of its history), VSO musicians, the Music Director, and many, many, others trying to “save” the VSO.
I was commissioned by the Province of British Columbia to prepare a financial and artistic recovery plan that the Province of BC could understand and begin to help implement a recovery process.
The Vancouver community could not imagine a world-class city without a symphony orchestra; and neither could I.
The short story of this downturn for the VSO is that it did close its doors for a time. The organization hired Ed Oscapella, (may he rest in peace), to put the organization back on track, financially, artistically, (when he took over there was no articulated strategic artistic plan, long or short that addressed the needs of the Vancouver community to have an world class symphony orchestra).
Through some years of trials and errors the VSO made good strategic decisions on how to involve the community to re-build the VSO and today we can all happily say the VSO has succeeded, splendidly.
Will the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company come back again? Perhaps, in another form, location, and it will be a vibrant entity in the Vancouver community; I certainly hope so, and I believe it will.
This is not to place blame, but many level headed and experienced cultural entertainment professionals warned that the “secret” bailouts as a “Band-Aid” fix, and, also the manner in which the bailouts were managed would not work. I know the movie; I lived it in the 1980′s with the VSO.
In my humble opinion running to the government for a bail-out is a short-term fix, and the City of Vancouver who owns the Playhouse facility is getting a good kick in the butt and maybe a wake up call that either they should operate the Playhouse facility professionally; (there are some models for government doing this successfully), or get out of this facility operation business and leave the artists alone to do what they succeed at – create fantastic programming and theatre entertainment.
Now is the time for some serious, serious, reflection on the part of the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company community, being the actors, directors, designers, creators, staff, stage management, production management, technical production management, marketers, publicity, fundraisers, and board of directors for all of them to come together. And first look after their supporters – ticket-holders, donors and clean up a mess.
There is always tomorrow, and there will be a tomorrow for the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company.
The next step is to re-build, and what this re-build looks like is up to the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company community.
Vancouver is blessed with talented, experience willing individuals, corporations and other entities that can help and make a difference; (the VSO and Ballet BC came back, so I am hopeful)
I am there is spirit, tonight; Lois, light a candle for the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre community, for me, thank you.