DCLO to continue for now, but future uncertain

DOWNEY - The Downey Civic Light Opera will continue its 2012-13 season as scheduled after city officials on Monday agreed to let the 57-year-old theater company keep control of its own box office as long as the organization grants the city access to its patron list and ticket sales information. The compromise comes after weeks of uncertainty surrounding the future of the DCLO, which threatened to close its doors after the city announced the group would have to forfeit the rights to its box office for the last two productions of the season.

Marsha Moode, executive director of the DCLO for 12 years, protested the policy change, which would have switched over control to VenueTech, the private theater group contracted in 2010 to manage the Downey Civic Theatre.

"They wanted to take away my tickets," said Moode, who argues she needs operating money to pay the costs associated with each production. "I need to control the tickets - there must be a fluidity of cash before [each production] to pay for the sets and costumes. There are payments on royalties and insurances, and after we pay the actors and musicians."

Moode says the theater company would not be able to survive if VenueTech took over the box office as it takes nearly two weeks for the city to issue checks for such payments.

During a theatre subcommittee meeting at City Hall on Monday, City Manager Gilbert Livas and Mayor Roger Brossmer expressed a desire to keep the DCLO vital, but acknowledged the organization must become more transparent and less costly.

"We're concerned with the longevity of the DCLO, we would like to see it move forward," said Livas. "So we're willing to say, you can control the ticket sales, but we want to have the empirical data. How many tickets are you selling? How many are you comping?"

Brossmer agreed that the theater company is a valuable asset to the city, but he maintained the two entities must work closer together.

"We're asking to see the exchange, the patron list, ticket sales. No organization's survival should rest on one person," said Brossmer turning towards Moode. "What if you decide to retire after one or two seasons? If we want the legacy of the DCLO continued, we have to have something."

Moode, who has worked with the DCLO since 1986, said she has no desire to leave her post as executive director anytime soon, but just wanted to ensure her season could continue as scheduled.

"I'm here for the long run, I'll pick my own time to stop," she said. "I'm very happy - I felt an obligation to the subscribers who in good faith already purchased tickets. I've been doing this for 26 years, why change the policy now?"

Although city officials agreed to let Moode control the box office this season, Brossmer says everything including theatre fees and ticket sales will be on the table next fiscal year.

"We appreciate you agreeing to sharing your box office," he said. "But we have to realize that in the long-term there has to be some changes."

Currently, the city offers the DCLO nearly $50,000 in subsidies, charging the organization discounted rates for staff costs and the use of the theatre. While an average tenant would pay $120 per hour to rent the theatre Monday through Friday, the DCLO pays just $50 per hour, said Arlene Salazar, interim director of community services.

"The issue is dollars and cents...we're all big supporters of the arts, but arts is a cost drain to any community," said Councilman David Gafin. "As politicians we have to tell non-art-loving people why its worth supporting the arts and to what extent.

"The slush account is not there anymore. We can't spend more, we have to work with what we have," added Gafin.

The DCLO and the city currently have a one-year contract, which keeps rental fees low until July 2013, but Brossmer maintains the "super subsidies" will have to end next year.

"We need to quantify these things," he said. "These are tough fiscal times...the reality is we have to pay the bills. We can't continue at this level of subsidy."

Every season the DCLO puts on three musicals at the Downey Civic Theatre, one in the fall and two in the spring. The theater company's next production, 'Crazy for You,' will open as scheduled on Sept. 28.

********** Published: September 13, 2012 - Volume 11 - Issue 22