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'Stop Being Angry' Says Shakespeare Theatre Advocate

Flooding of homes on Bowe Avenue, update on dog park also discussed during public forum.

Mayor John A. Harkins was not present at the public forum held Monday night, but residents made it clear they had a message for him about the historic and White House.

"I suggest you stop being angry and feeling unconvinced," said Henry Bruce of the historical preservation group FORStratford as he addressed Joseph Kubic and the other Town Council members present.

"You are not going to put a sports complex on that property in our neighborhood," he said, referencing in which Councilman James Connor suggested the land could be used for such a facility.

Terry Masters, Stratford resident and Democratic candidate for State Assembly, said that preserving the Shakespeare Theatre has and calls for leadership from the Town Council.

"This is a grassroots reaction," said Masters. "This is an opportunity to show some leadership."

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Others pointed out that Stratford has money bonded to fixing the dilapidated buildings and that land deeds prohibit any non-residental construction.

Aamir Kadeem, 16, attends and spoke about his theater experience and how he believes other kids will come to enjoy the theater.

"As someone who appreciates art, as someone who loves it, I wish it would just be open, it's a great place," said Kadeem.

Other notes

Other topics brought up for consideration during the forum included concerns about flooding from a creek that lies alongside Bowe Avenue. Council member Stephanie Philips said during the Town Council meeting that the town engineer plans to address this soon.

Matthew DeBernardo also gave an update on the in Roosevelt Park and announced there will be a fundraiser 5K road race in August.

Frank Stirna June 13, 2012 at 12:15 PM
Yep Cynical that's my point why take something that is admittedly pristine and well .. make a mess of it, when there are areas in town that truly need help, are not used at all and would benefit from the business traffic a dog park would generate, which by the way I fully support the concept of, just not in a Town Forest that is the home to almost every type of bird and animal that still survives in the northeast. This merry band of dog park advocates went up to Roosevelt Forest saw a beautiful nature preserve and decided it would be nice for them to have a forest setting for a dog run, for themselves, personally I don't think a dog cares where he gets to run and socialize with other dogs as long as he does. As far as Roosevelt Forest being under utilized I don't agree, it is what it is, a camp ground and a refuge for what little wildlife we have left in this area. Think about it would anyone agree to a dog park on Long Beach West? Probably not, but yet a few would like to use the same type of open space for a dog walk park.
Karen E Daden June 13, 2012 at 02:30 PM
In all this talk of open, close, tear down,use, don't use taxpayer monies there has been not discussion of how much, in today's economy, running a theater costs. There are very good examples of how hard it is to run a theater even with a diverse venue. Look at the Downtown Cabaret, the Polka Dot theater or just look at the price of a ticket to go to a show in New York. It is beyond expensive to put on plays or musicals - just for the rights to put on such performances. Just in the past 10 years groups have come and gone and not a thing was done. The outdoor Festival Stratford was great. How much did that cost and could that be put on each week. Latest studies of theater survivability shows that they do not make a profit. I am all for having an arts center for Stratford, but just how will it be funded, who will do that fundraising week in and week out? That is the question I have not seen answered. What was in the past can never be recreated in the future. Those behind saving the Shakespeare property need to understand the frailty of such a venture and need to put a business plan in place showing funding over a 5 and 10 year period. Has anyone within this group of supporters actually talked to theater management anywhere - Bridgeport, Redding, New York? If not they need to do it now.
Gary J. M. McTrottes June 13, 2012 at 06:57 PM
The Shakespeare Theatre is a major disaster looking to happen. Mayor Harkins did the right thing when he changes the locks and closed the building to volunteers. It is a public safety health hazard. If a volunteer was injured, the town in the end would probably be involved in a suit. To compare it to the Levitt Pavillion and the Westport Country Playhouse is a joke. Both are class facilities that have been developed with a lot of public and private donations and money for many years. This is not going to happen in this town. I vote to have a dog park, or a public park free to town resident and a charge for all others. Let the Fire Service use the building as a training facility as they do with other building in the same shape here in town
CuriousOrange June 13, 2012 at 09:20 PM
Right! And just to be clear for everyone involved now and future, lest someone feel the urge to plant a Globe-type theater in the dog park, change the city name "Stratford" to "East Bridgeport," "South Ansonia," or "Dogville."
Donna Rae Henault Caporaso June 14, 2012 at 12:52 AM
Karen is dead on. While I would love to see the lights on once again on the stage of the Shakespeare Theatre, the cost of running a theatre is tremendous. I was employed with the Downtown Cabaret Theatre for 15 years and it was a constant struggle to raise the sums of money needed to put on award winning professional musical theatre. In this area you are between Long Wharf and Goodspeed to the north and Westport Playhouse to the south. There are not enough deep pockets nor corporations that can (or are willing) to support a theatre in this area. And if your ticket prices are too high people will not come. The competition for funding from individuals and businesses in the Bridgeport/Stratford area is fierce. Most will give larger sums to those organizations that help children, families or medical issues - which is a wonderful thing. There just aren't enough dollars in the area to sustain a lot of the arts and cultural organizations. If you go the nonprofit route you need a deep pocketed board members with deep pocketed friends that they can call on.
Donna Rae Henault Caporaso June 14, 2012 at 12:53 AM
You need to spend money on salaries for top notch, development, marketing & fundraising personnel and be able to fund the duties of those jobs. If you are professional theatre you have higher royalties to the licensing houses & higher wages to AEA union actors and pay a bond up front to AEA. Stage lighting wrecks havoc with utility bills. You need to hire set designers & people to build the sets & buy the materials to build the sets, costume designers & the materials they need, wig/hair designers, directors, choreographers & musical directors & musicians if you're doing a musical (people seem to favor musicals). Then there are printing costs for posters & playbills. All of these plus your regular support staff. A show at the DCT could cost $250-500,000 just to get to opening weekend depending on the size and we did everything on the cheap. Where will the funds come from?
George E. Mulligan June 14, 2012 at 03:17 AM
Councilman Matt Catalano, Arts Commission Ed Goodrich, OSNA President Henry Bruce, neighbor Carol Lockshire were among the leaders deserving credit on getting some public involved & passionate about the Shakespeare Theater. There are more like Christine, Attila, Arianna, Orna, and many others who wrote, marched, spoke, and worked to open the Theaters. I believe the Theater can be a create "change of pace something different and FUN to do." Entertainment with quality content are capable of massive revenue. People against Shakespeare & Theater & Historic have their priorities and right to their opinion. I support Aamir Kadeem's reasoning, passion, enthusiasm, & vision. (please watch the Public Forum Link or TV from June 11) It's easier to destroy than to build. It's even easier to sabotage. And .... even honest efforts fail .... although for a change, wouldn't it be nice IF ...
Rockannand June 14, 2012 at 02:54 PM
OK, some very interesting ocmments here, but let's bring some more tangible and factual data to the table as far as what the Arts can mean to Stratford. This study released yesterday by the Cultural Alliance of Fairfield County basically says that performing arts in our region is BIG BUSINESS. From front page of today's CTPost: http://www.ctpost.com/default/article/Report-Arts-big-business-in-Fairfield-County-3632384.php http://blog.ctnews.com/fcbuzz/2012/06/13/cultural-alliance-of-fairfield-county-announced-the-national-and-fairfield-county-results-of-arts-economic-prosperity-iv-a-national-research-study-conducted-by-americans-for-the-arts/
Donna Rae Henault Caporaso June 14, 2012 at 03:04 PM
Don't be mislead by the article in today's CT POST. They estimated their numbers. This includes ALL forms of art/cultural organizations and some do much better than others. "In Fairfield County, the study estimated about $130 million in spending -- about $84 million by the arts and culture organizations, and about $46 million by audiences (excluding the cost of admission). Odinak said the study proved that Fairfield County's nonprofit arts and culture industry is an economic engine that supports nearly 4,000 jobs annually. Read more: http://www.ctpost.com/local/article/Report-Arts-big-business-in-Fairfield-County-3632384.php#ixzz1xmQ2Gt8m."
Rockannand June 14, 2012 at 03:12 PM
Donna Rae and Gary JM, i hear your opinion, but the facts don't support your position based on the study I posted above. Also the study in process with Arts Consulting has worked for over 2 years with the town and the region to determine the viability for THIS theatre and proposes how to bring the theatre back and what the return-on-investment will be. They used a very reputable project cost accounting firm to cost every aspect of the project from phase 1 through phase 3. Also, there is a ton of misinformation being released here and through the press over the past few months that is simply not true. FACT 1: No taxpayer money is involved in any of the proposals from Arts Consulting. All money is from private donors and state and federal grants. That's why its now called Stratford Center for the Arts (SCA) which is in the process of becoming a nonprofit 501c3 corp that CANNOT use taxpayer money. FACT2: This initiative to reopen the Theatre is not about Shakespeare, its about performing arts - music (blues, classic, gospel ... whatever sells here), dance, drama, you name it. So if you are against the theatre, don't keep saying what is not the case in this effort. The evidence with this study shows unequivocally that reopening the theatre can be a huge economic to the town, the region and the state and constituencies all over the state are lining up behind these efforts to ensure they succeed.
Donna Rae Henault Caporaso June 14, 2012 at 03:14 PM
I suggest those wishing to pursue reopening the Theatre sit down and meet with the local producers of the area Theatres and ask them first hand about doing business and running a Theatre. I think you will find most amicable to the idea. Without a financial commitment from the Town and State for some form of guaranteed funding or in-kind services, and without having a solid list of corporations and individual donors ready to make a long term commitment to this endeavor, I truly believe it will fail. While the Cabaret Theatre in Bridgeport was successful artistically, it failed in the financial area for various reasons. It was a wonderful venue to see top notch mainstage productions and now it is merely a road house for has beens and hack acts. The Children's Theatre is still hanging on but fundraising is still a huge challenge in this area. Affordable ticket prices will not sustain a Theatre and high ticket prices will not draw the crowds.
Donna Rae Henault Caporaso June 14, 2012 at 03:29 PM
I am not against the Theatre in the least. I am not against the town supporting the Theatre if it will be a viable Theatre. I would love to see it reopen as I stated earlier. The Study states clearly that they "estimated" the numbers so this is not a FACT. When employed at the DCT we had a studys done and believe me they don't carry much weight in the real world. The study does not prove the Theatre can be a success. It comes down to funding and good management and top notch fundraising skills. Also, check demographics of other theatres. People will not come from ALL OVER the state in droves to support this Theatre. Yes, some might depending the show/event being offered but not on a regular basis and not in the numbers you imagine. As mentioned in another study posted re this issue, Seattle is a cultural destination with many top notch venues. Stratford is not. And, it will take years for the Theatre to make a name for itself while in the meantime needing revenue to operate. It is an expensive venture just opening and operating an arts/cultural venue. Again I ask where will the funding come from? Who will support this undertaking until such time (if ever) it becomes established to support itself?
Walt June 14, 2012 at 03:57 PM
Those "has beens and hack acts" pack 'em in, I've been to several shows there in the last few years, everyone sold out and thoroughly enjoyed by everyone there. Plus it's a great night out with friends, get a table and have fun.
Donna Rae Henault Caporaso June 14, 2012 at 05:15 PM
I have been and yes, some are enjoyable (some get cancelled before they open because of lack of sales) but they are not the quality, nor of the caliber the DCT was once proud of or capable of - why? Mainly the lack of funding. Sponsorships were lost over the years as banks merged, as companies moved out of CT, as long time donors passed or moved away, and when the economy started to take a dive. Competition for grant money increased while grant amounts went down. It's virtually impossible to replace those lost dollars. I am not against reviving the Shakespeare Theatre. I worked in nonprofit theatre for 15 years. I was laid off regularly, I worked in exchange for health benefits. I worked in just about every capacity from fundraising, to refinishing set pieces to cleaning the bathrooms when we laid off other staff members to pinch and save to open a top notch production. I am practical in my question....where does everything think the money is going to come from to support such an endeavor?
max June 15, 2012 at 10:41 AM
It's a two part solution, need sponsorship/grant funds to get the project off and running and need public demand (and patronage) for the performances to keep them going. When was the last time anyone paid to see a live performance vs spending their discretionary funds (assuming there are any in this economy) on a dvd rental?
Donna Rae Henault Caporaso June 15, 2012 at 12:44 PM
Ticket sales alone will not support the Theatre so fundraising and getting and keeping sponsorships and grants will be an on-going activity. Getting a few endowments would be ideal (but hard to come by). If ticket prices are too high people won't come. You can't charge what NYC charges, not even close - at least not in the beginning years.
George E. Mulligan June 15, 2012 at 02:56 PM
NEGATIVES about the Stratford Shakespeare Theater are EVIDENT. POSITIVES about the Stratford Shakespeare Theater are EVIDENT. LOOKING around at ENTERTAINMENT REVENUES and DELIVERY VEHICLES they are so LACKING CONTENT .... - Even a simple search would tell of the hundreds and thousands of books, plays, movies, and varieties of spin offs from SHAKESPEAREAN words, phrases, acts, plays, sonnets and charaters. SHAKESPEARE base many of his works on PRIOR WORKS. OT / NT - Grecco/Roman/Egyptian/Babylonia Levant are primary sources of Western Civ literate. Then there were Germanic, Norse, Celt/Gaul/Anglo/ Spanish/Moore/oriental and other influences. People who are for the Stratford Shakespeare Theater will find all kinds of reasons, justifications, rationalizations, and excuses projecting success. People who are against the Stratford Shakespeare Theater will find all kinds of reasons, justifications, rationalizations, and excuses projecting failure. I agree with Teenager Aamir Kadeem whose imagination is inspired by the Arts!
Cynical June 15, 2012 at 05:15 PM
So I guess 2 newspapers are lying about the worth of the Theater and the Stratford Center for the Arts? http://stratford.patch.com/articles/new-study-says-arts-and-culture-is-a-rich-business-market?ncid=newsltuspatc00000001
Donna Rae Henault Caporaso June 15, 2012 at 06:11 PM
isn't that the same article posted yesterday? Seems to be. They admit they estimated their numbers & we all know you can make numbers look great. Their are realities that need to be brought to light and operating arts/cultural businesses in this area of the state. It is not easy to say the least. You are over worked and under paid (you work there because you love the arts). You rob Peter to pay Paul (both at the job and personally on the salaries you get paid) but you do it because you want to. No one yet has been able to say where they expect funding to come from? Why? I suspect because no one has given that minor detail any thought. If you want to succeed, you need to know where the next pay check is coming from. Fairfield County has FIERCE competition for corporate/individual dollars and most will be leery of funding an "unknown startup". The State of CT has changed their arts grant program drastically. Federal dollars are most likely nonexistent.
Donna Rae Henault Caporaso June 15, 2012 at 06:11 PM
You need to do a lot of "thinking outside the box" to find funding, you need Board members with good connections to the corporate worl that are willing to work and knock on doors to get money. Ticket sales will not fund the start up costs, nor will they likely turn a profit. Figure you out yourself.... tix $ x @ seats x # of shows, now make a list of ALL expenses....it's a long one. You need to figure out running costs of the production and factor in operating costs/salaries, etc. Those studies have been around for years. Bridgeport has had them done several times. Artsport (defunct) did one, as I believe CBIA in Bridgeprt. They do not base their findings on similar areas yet show you well established art/cultural distinctions that have the long standing relationships with corporations, cooperation and funding of towns and states and support of the public. Shakespeare is starting from scratch......
Rockannand June 16, 2012 at 02:23 PM
Donna Rae. Studies like the one just announced have NOT been around for years. There are way too many examples of successful examples of performing arts projects on the scale of that being proposed for Stratford Center for the Arts with far less history of this location. Please stop with the generalities about the opportunity for STratford. Stratford is NOT Bridgeport and the DCT. Fairfield County is second richest county in the country and philanthropy for projects of this scale and opportunity is clearly there. Bridgeport does not have the history that Shakespeare and STratford have regionally, nationally and internationally. The success of this project is not based on ticket sales, etc, it will ALL come from private donations and public grants. Its clear you have not led nor been hands on with a large scale capital campaign that will be launched this fall for the SCA. Further ACG has already figured out all the numbers you rattle off in your various posts and have had very competent project cost accountants run the numbers based on all the known assumptions for a theatre of this magnitude. Finally Shakespeare is NOT starting from scratch. Far from it. If you really are a supporter, you would know otherwise.
Rockannand June 16, 2012 at 02:24 PM
Imagine our Mayor and Councilman Sports Complex saying somthing like this about Straford: Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch said that a vigorous arts and culture community is essential to every thriving municipality. "The dramatic growth of the arts community in Bridgeport over the last decade has played a very significant role in the city's renaissance," he said in a statement. "Our nonprofit arts venues draw thousands of visitors annually, creating a positive image for the city throughout the region. We are proud of their accomplishments and we will continue our efforts, in partnership with our local arts council, to promote Bridgeport as a thriving, creative community for artists of every kind." Read more: http://www.ctpost.com/local/article/Report-Arts-big-business-in-Fairfield-County-3632384.php#ixzz1xxpItaxT
Rockannand June 16, 2012 at 02:38 PM
There you go again George. Its not ignorance and pomposity - the later is your MO. Its this Council Chairman and Mayor not understanding what's right and whats wrong. Public Forum is for the PUBLIC, not the Council. Kubic can site whatever technical rules he wants, but the 2.5 minutes is solely so he can get home on time and have his meeting start at 8pm. They knew what was coming before MOnday night and decided to restrict public comments. PERIOD. On your Mayor point, this town has only had a Mayor for 6+ years and yes technically he does not have to show, but since the MAYOR made the decision to lock the doors and to withhold the bid awards of the WH, he should face the people and not hide in his office. One can make an argument that both acts are the jurisdiction and authority of the COUNCIL, not mayor. And that Council led by Kubic and Mr Sports COmplex allowed the mayor to usurp their authority. They knew the march was coming and that petition was coming, so Kubic - purposely i might add - made conscious choice to restrict comments to 2.5 minutes. 3 minutes would have added 13 minutes to the forum time. 4 minutes would have added another 25 minutes. STarting their meeting at 8:30 or 8:45 is not too much to ask given the circumstances.
Donna Rae Henault Caporaso June 17, 2012 at 12:04 AM
Yes, those studies have been around for years. I've read many of them from different cities on the rebound, successful arts comnunities, etc. Yes I have been a part of many major fundraising campaigns, one when the DCT underwent major renovations to the tune of over 1.5 mil to be raised in less than a year. The DCT was critically acclaimed in its day. It's a shame more people didn't enjoy the world premiere's and the countless award winning productions but their ignorance prevented them from venturing into Bridgeport. I doubt the "reputation" of Stratford's Shakespeare Theatre still holds the same clout today as in the past. It will be interesting to see how it does. And I wish you all well and I will attend performances there, if they should ever come about. And, I still believe you will find the dollars won't be pouring as you all seem to believe. Good luck.
Donna Rae Henault Caporaso June 17, 2012 at 12:07 AM
"Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch said that a vigorous arts and culture community is essential to every thriving municipality." Every Mayor in Bridgeport has said the same thing yet none other than Ganim truly supported the Arts in Bridgeport both financially and via promotion.
Rockannand June 17, 2012 at 12:45 PM
Zero Walt ... honestly. That crap coming from Harkins and Councilman Sports Complex is subterfuge. Ask them to be honest, because they know exactly what is going on and know that the ones for the Stratford Center for the Arts success rests on philanthropy and federal and state grant money. The Stratford Center for the Arts, which is what its called, is in process of becoming a nonprofit entity that BY LAW cannot use taxpayer money for what was reported in the papers in April. Larry Ciccarelli is responsible for getting that done via 501c3 filings with the IRS. And you are totally off base as to why people marched on Town Hall last Monday and spoke at Public Forum. When was the last time 60 citizens marched for ANYTHING in this town and 125 people jammed Tonw Hall to listen to 25 people speak? This is NOT About Shakespeare Walt, its about jobs and a reason for people inside and outside this town to come downtown and spend money in the town. If you haven't noticed, there is nothing to attract business to restaurants in this town. NOTHING. No I think the footsteps you will start hearing in the coming months will be the people who need tax relief, people who need jobs and local merchants and restaurant owners who need customers asking why this administration is sitting on their hands with this asset sitting idle.
George E. Mulligan June 17, 2012 at 08:45 PM
Various CT. Festivals could easily be connected/feed each other as TOURIST things to do in CT. from Spring through Summer, into Fall Barnum Festival was # 3 in the USA for attendance behind MARDI GRAS & ROSE FESTIVAL. New Haven Festival of ARTS & IDEAS has grown, as have Oyster Festivals in Norwalk & Milford. Stratford Shakespeare Theater has history of HS/Jr. HS /College matinee, productions which could play 2 shows @ 600 students per am/pm for five weekdays times three to six week runs in spring & fall seasons during the school year. 6,000 students/week matinee can be gravy to fund raise Investment by production companies who can make good profit during Thursday, Friday, (2) Saturday. & Sunday Shows. Well planned Summer Festival surrounded by contemporary draws & tours could use some Captain Cove type summer enjoyment? On site Radio - TV - Cable can more than pay maintenance overhead. Documentaries about the Rebuilding of the Theater released to ART HOUSE and with CABLE PAY / RESIDUALS can lay foundations for Tourism, Marketing, Licensing, & other revenue streams to GENERAL FUND. -I work in marketing. Shakespeare is a precious BRAND NAME. -I make no claim to having all the answers. -However look to money made by TV, CABLE, MUSIC, MOVIES. -All need CONTENT. -Shakespeare is a foundational & inspirational source for CONTENT I agree w ROCK - I don't like ROCK. My belief is the whole thing will be skimmed by the local Nibelung.
L Davis June 18, 2012 at 01:48 PM
We absolutely need the voices of young adults like Aamir. He was one of the evening's most influential and inspirational speakers.
Joseph Pedoto June 25, 2012 at 11:58 PM
George, Can you source your statement that the Bridgeport Barnum Festival has attendance figures third behind the Portland Rose Festival (1.2 million in 2011) and New Orleans' Mardi Gras (500,000)? I find this comparison hard to accept without a reliable reference. Bridgeport had a 2010 Census figure of 144,229. What was the attendance figure for last year's Barnum Festival, George? The previous life of the Shakespeare Festival cannot be revived in 2012. The original theatre was subsidized and never generated a profit for the town. However, a non-profit group running a multi-use arts center on those grounds is an excellent idea. But please understand, while absolutely worth pursuing, this is not going to be a great economic boom for Stratford. The economic argument for an arts center will not carry the day. Do it because it will improve the quality of life in town, not the bottom line.
Rockannand June 27, 2012 at 03:34 AM
Joe, Can we stop talking in generalities in get specific. The only economic idea that will carry the day for that property IS the Arts Center. Have you read the CAFC study yet posted on http://culturalalliancefc.org/ There are over 130 Performing Arts members of the Cultural Alliance of Fairfield County and the numbers don't lie. Ask the local merchants and small business owners, especially the ones below the train station what this town is doing to draw business to this town. ZERO. The argument FOR the SCA is all of the above - quality of life, jobs, local businesses, tourism, etc. The economic argument is never an immediate impact one, but the numbers from the study don't lie. Look at what happened in Fairfield, look what happened in Westport. Both have vibrant arts centers that transformed the down town centers over time. I shop in both towns rather than here because they have shopping i want. What do we have here? Why would anyone open a restaurant or specialty shop here. This current admin and town council is the most incompetent i have ever seen when it comes to economic development. Clueless and with no viable plan for how to deal with the 100's of acres of property contaminated by Raymark and SAEP and turn things around. Absolutely clueless. The Arts Center is the only game in town right now so why not give it a try? What does everyone have to lose?

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