Southern Theater founders over funding

  • Article by: ROHAN PRESTON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 15, 2011 - 8:02 AM

The performing-arts hotbed in Minneapolis is facing down a budget and management crisis.

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cheltyApr. 14, 1111:54 PM

Shouldn't the headline be "fLounders" instead of "founders"?

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eddieoroyanApr. 15, 11 2:09 AM

I expressed to Preston that the MOST frustrating thing is not knowing whether or not my solo commission will be produced and premiered. I'm going to Spain this summer to work with a wonderful choreographer, Roberto Olivan, and have been working really hard to get some talented musicians to play for my solo live, and now all that is up in the air. The money in the Fellowship will get dispersed, albeit six months later than promised, but no one can tell us if we'll have any place to premiere these commissions! I don't want this experience to just serve as 'professional development!' I want to perform it, to share it with this community! I am not really mad at all. Disheartened mostly. I DO consider this Fellowship a gift, but this debacle has certainly dampened the excitement in receiving it. It has caused much undue stress to artists who have planned to have this money in January. Several of us have taken serious professional risks based on the security we would have from the Fellowship money. The McKnight is doing all they can to get the remainder of the money to us, even willing to front us a portion of it to help pay bills we've been waiting to pay, but it may still be another 8 weeks. Mary Ellen Childs has been an amazing director for the McKnight program and deserves much honor for her heart in serving the artists over the years. When the McKnight was taken away from the Southern, it was taken away from her as well. This, also, is a very unfortunate side effect of those bad decisions she had no part in making. I love the Southern Theater! I got married there even, and wear their t-shirts! I brag about it to people. I truly hope it can pull out of this storm. Losing it would certainly be a huge blow to this Arts community.

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kate0311Apr. 15, 11 8:12 AM

Chelty, According to my dictionary, flounder can mean "to struggle awkwardly to move, as in deep mud of now; plunge about in a stumbling manner" or "to speak or act in an awkward or confused manner, with hesitation and frequent mistakes." Founder can mean "to stumble, fall or go lame"; "to become stuck as in soft ground; bog down"; or "to break down; collapse; fail." Given all that, I think founder is an acceptable word choice.

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jinskeepApr. 15, 11 8:15 AM

I wonder if migratory theatre such as Frank Theatre could house itself in the Southern for a time to help...I've heard that they have had shows cancelled because of their temporary staging spots not working well.

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theater123Apr. 15, 11 9:21 AM

It is truly tragic that with the depth of talent we have in this community things like this happen. If the artistic community truly wants to find respect within the community as a whole we need to turn to people with business and artistic sense. Co-mingling funds on this level (if that is indeed what happened) is inexcusable no mater whose watch it occurs on. And it gives the general public even more ammunition in their wants to divert funding into other areas.

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jessy09Apr. 15, 1110:58 AM

It's floundering but will it founder? fft

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gflem62Apr. 16, 1110:12 AM

1. The 'new' Board would be well served to realize that sentiment, emotion and shortsightedness never combine to make for an effective, compelling business model. 2. The sensible course of action is to temporarily cease operations (afterall, it's obvious that continuing to 'present' art only exacerbates the deficit spending) for 6-9 months. 3. During this interim period, re-tool the entire organization by eliminating unessential staff personnel, recruiting board members and volunteers whose primary task is to raise money (pay artists for their 2010, 2011 work, pay down debt) and rebuilding the artistic-operational components of the theater. Good Luck Southern Theater...

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ScottSimonApr. 22, 1111:36 PM

It really has been more of a clubhouse for dance than a performing arts venue and obviously the funds have been co-mingled and mis-spent. But with them finally being caught by McKnight and a full audit pending, it will prove that they have been overstaffed and poorly managed as many of us have pointed out for some time. But alas, none of this will do much to solve the current situation. The good news is that the headquarters and focus of local dance will soon be shifting to downtown and the Cowles. This will allow the Southern to go dark and sit empty for awhile as other more commercial enterprises are considered and eventually mounted. This will perhaps allow a genuine anchor to reinvest in the space and recreate a magnet on the Seven Corners area to team with TRP to bring the area back to life like it once was with Dudley Riggs, Grandma's, Haberdashery and other locations. This won't happen with a 200-seat venue hosting obscure productions that no one has heard of playing tunes you can't hum on the way out the door. There is a reason Children's Theatre is running Annie and The Guthrie is planning The Sunshine Boys with Peter Michael Goetz. In show business terms it is called programming to "put butts in the bleachers". If the Southern Theatre knew how to do this, they wouldn't be in the mess they're now in.

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scottycruzApr. 24, 1111:15 PM

Hello. In response to ScottSimon's comment, I would like to offer this incite: no one in the arts community is looking the Southern Theater's operating structure and them as "over staffed". This is the exact opposite, with a small core of people taking on a variety of responsibilities working long hours. I would also like to point out that small non-profits and arts institutions are often vulnerable to an usual and slimy breed of ineffective leaders, frequently under the guise of an "arts non-profit CONSULTANT" whose fees and poor planning often cost companies a lot of money! Also, to suggest that the West Bank needs "revitalizing" sounds a bit off by my measuring stick. In the past two years I've seen AMAZING work at the Southern Theater, waited for tickets in many a crowded box office, seen incredible performance installations, concerts and dance parties at 1419, a space across the street from the Southern. The Southern has also done several large scale installations that used the area surrounding the entire building as well. Leaning on commercial cash cows is something for other companies to do. The Southern Theater is a presenting venue for cutting edge work, and there are many companies and dedicated audiences following this work. Niche houses are important AND VIABLE in these economic times. And to use an example from a friend of mine, PEOPLE MAGAZINE is failing, while niche publications, like READY MADE are doing better than ever.

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ScottSimonApr. 26, 11 6:24 PM

I'd suggest you step back and see the bigger picture and also look at SEVEN CORNERS as it once was. It is a ghost town compared to the days when there was Grandma's and SGT. PRESTON'S and Haberdashery and DUDLEY RIGGS, and Bullwinkel's and TRP and SOUTHERN and others all operating at booming capacity. 200-seat Southern open on average 1 and 1/2 days per week, doing some abstract, elitist production that no one has heard of and apparently, no one is getting paid for is not only NON-commercial, IT CAN'T GO ON ANY LONGER. Your head is in a cloud. And as for staff, to have a Programming Director for Dance and a Programming Director for Music and a Programming Director for Theater and an Executive Director and a Technical Director and a Electrical Director and a Lighting Director and interns and Communications Directors and on and on and on and on AND then a 10 or 12 or 14-person board and REMEMBER you're only trying to book 8 dates a month that need 200 bodies to fill the seats. Perhaps the McKnight's $300,000.00 went to pay for coffee and donuts at the staff and board meetings! It is clearly overkill or as I said in a previous post . . . the people running the Southern were wannabe impresarios. Either that, or criminals. Time will tell.

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