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At our November Monthly Meeting, I facilitated a discussion about how the executive board approaches planning and budgeting a season at OLT. For those not able to join us in person, here’s what you missed!
When first elected president, I encouraged the organization to conduct an open assessment – asking patrons and members to provide feedback on their experiences with, and perceptions, of OLT. The results of this 2013 community satisfaction survey gave us many valuable insights, from which we enacted a few substantive changes.
A leading piece of feedback received indicated that, though the talent on-stage and off was of a high caliber, OLT was not investing financially in them (production teams and musicians), nor in the visual components patrons looked most forward to enjoying – namely set and costume design. As a result, we began a years-long process of reallocating resources, fundraising and other initiatives that would allow us to provide our productions with additional funding for those production aspects. We increased stipends for members of the production team, added a set designer to all main stage productions, and increased budgets for sets, props and costumes.
At this same time, we began collecting and logging data – a must for any business. It’s important for us to understand who our patrons and performers are, what shows they want to see and participate in, and how our productions perform over time. We’ve used data from the past four seasons to help us plan season selection and budget productions selected. This has allowed us both to raise the quality and quantity of our productions. In fact, it’s that very relationship – quality and quantity – and the public confusion about how each relies on the other, that prompted me to discuss our internal planning at our November meeting. It’s important to me and all members of the board that our performers, production teams and members have a full understanding of how, and why, we operate as we do.
First, let’s start with some numbers that will be important to keep in mind:
– We perform in a space that has a maximum capacity of 170. For each performance, that’s the maximum number of tickets that can be sold.
– We have a staggered ticket pricing structure, which at our patrons’ urging we have not changed. We remain committed to not raising ticket prices – which currently are $20 (Adults), $18 (Students/Seniors), $15 (Groups), $10 (Children Under 12/Members) and $5 (House Staff). Over the past four seasons, our average ticket price has been $17.87.
– Over the past four seasons, our average ticket sales across all productions is 91 seats per performance. That’s an overall sales percentage of 53.89%.
– As part of our relationship with the Borough of Fair Lawn – we’re the resident theater company! – we give 20% of all ticket sales to them, following each production.
OLT productions run for one or two weekends, for a total of 3, 4 or 6 performances. Six performance runs are given to main stage musicals, four performance runs are given to one-weekend special event musicals, and three performance runs are given to plays. These performance numbers are based on projected ticket sales balanced against the cost to produce and license each specific show. Plays are much cheaper to produce than musicals – both because they don’t require musicians and because licensing fees are much lower.
For a main stage musical, the maximum ticket sales intake for a sold-out six performance run (170 seats x 6 performances x $17.87) would be $18,227.40. Twenty percent of that would go to the Borough, leaving a maximum net profit of $14,581.92.
As previously noted, we sell an average of 53.89% of tickets. So, likely ticket sales intake for a main stage musical (91 seats x 6 performances x $17.87) would be $9,757,02. With twenty percent going to the Borough, that would leave us a maximum profit of $7805.62 — approximately $3000 below the typical budget currently set for a main stage musical.
In 2016, OLT set a season operating budget of $52,206.65, split across eight productions. As a self-funded, not-for-profit theater, we do not start with that money in the coffers; rather, we set our season operating budget based on what we believe we can make back through our revenue streams. There’s an argument that OLT should return to offering only its constitutionally-mandated four performances each season – one main stage play and three main stage musicals – as doing so would give more money to those productions and benefit the organization overall. But here’s why we don’t–
Let’s assume OLT presents four productions, each running for six performances, and were to maintain the same operating budget ($52,206.62). Given the funding needs of plays and musicals, in a four production season with the same overall operating budget, the starting budgets in this case would be:
– Play – $6425.83
– Musicals – $15,226.94 each
If each of these shows sold at our likely sales rate of 53.89%, the net loss for six performance runs of each would be as follows:
– Play – -$435.73
– Musicals – -$7421.31 each, or -$22,263.96 total
Over the course of one four-show season, this would cost OLT nearly $23,000. As we’re self-funded, not-for-profit and don’t operate from a donor base, this isn’t feasible.
Let’s then say that OLT presents four productions, each running for six performances, but decreased the season’s operating budget – keeping each production’s budget consistent with what was given to each 2016 production, but only for four shows instead of eight. In this case, the budgets would be:
– Play – $5084.28 (adjusted up $500 from 2016 budgets for 6 performance run)
– Musicals – $10,818 each
Under this scenario, if all shows sold at our likely sales rate of 53.89%, the net profit/loss for six performance runs of each would be as follows:
– Play – $1005.82
– Musicals – -$3012.38 each, or -$9037.14 total
Over the course of one four-show season, this would cost OLT more than $8,000.
In order for OLT to project a four-show season that would not lose money overall, production budgets would need to be cut by more than 20% across the board. Rather than increase the budgets for productions, less shows actually ends up meaning less money available for all.
In order to fund more lavish main-stage musicals, it’s proven vital that we also offer smaller, less expensive plays and musicals to help balance out the season financially. Despite all the data detailed above, theater isn’t always a science and what an audience does or does not respond to can’t always be predicted. Through additional offerings like youth productions, play festivals, concerts, original plays and musicals, OLT is able to offer a full season to capture audience’s imaginations – and to fund the bigger shows people want to see and perform in.
Our overall goal is to provide a diverse slate of performance and production opportunities that showcase talented folks in all forms. By offering more productions annually, not only do we ensure we remain fiscally viable, we also present performers and backstage talent with multiple opportunities to become involved. Not a singer? Audition for our plays! Not an adult? Audition for our youth productions! Not free during the school year? Audition for our summer productions! We plan seasons in hopes that everyone will find something that piques their interest – as performer, production team member or patron.
I’m proud of OLT’s growth these past four years and am excited to help shepherd the group into its milestone 50th season. But our growth isn’t about me – it’s about you! It is the community that you all bring to our community theater that has helped it thrive for fifty seasons and counting. As I always say to the cast and crew of each production: Thank you for sharing your time and talents with us. The world is our stage, and we’re very glad you’ve chosen to join us in telling the stories that both reflect, and change, our lives.
Craig M. Tiede
President, Old Library Theatre
Old Library Theatre, The Fair Lawn Recreation Department’s Resident Theatre company, is proud to present:
Come enjoy a “catalogue” of hits borrowed from the library, as we celebrate an evening of musicals based on books!
Based on a concept and Directed by Mollie Gash, with Musical Direction by Cathy Corcoran and Produced by Brendan Joel Bartlett, SING ME A STORY promises something for everything, delivering a literary list of classics like Peter Pan, The Secret Garden, Jane Eyre, and Little Women, but the songs don’t stop with the classics – with selections from Hamilton, Fun Home, and Legally Blonde, you might be surprised just how much Broadway owes to Books!
Featuring OLT performers past and present, including:
Brendan Joel Bartlett
Craig M. Tiede
Put a “bookmark” in your planner for SING ME A STORY: Musicals Inspired By Books!
SING ME A STORY is ONE NIGHT ONLY!
Saturday, June 25, 2016 – 8:00pm
The performance takes place at the George Frey Center for Arts and Recreation, 10-10 20th Street, Fair Lawn, NJ 07410.
General Admission. All seats $25.
Ticket sell quickly, so please reserve early!
Box office voicemail: 973.OLT.4420
Follow us on Facebook: Old Library Theatre (OLT)
And on Twitter: @OldLibraryTheat
I’m humbled to have once again been nominated for the presidency on OLT’s Executive Board, a position to which I was first elected in December 2012. Throughout my three decades in theater I’ve appeared on stage in more than thirty productions and directed eight. I first appeared at OLT as “Roger” in the 2009 production of Rent. Other OLT credits include Pageant: The Musical (Miss West Coast), Jekyll & Hyde (Jekyll/Hyde, NJACT Perry Award Nominee, Best Actor in a Musical), Spring Awakening (Director/Co-Producer), The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (Director), Meet Me In St. Louis (Director/Producer), The Wizard of Oz (Producer), Avenue Q (Producer) and our annual benefit concerts and original one act play festivals. I’ve been happy to help steward OLT through a period of assessment and rebirth, helping to bring new ideas and talent to the group. I believe our production quality is high, our reputation and reach are growing and we’ve assembled a community of theater paraprofessionals committed to cultivating talent and positive relationships. As Prior says in Angels in America, “the great work continues” – and I’m pleased to be entrusted with helping guide that work.
This team really worked hard to create a better OLT in 2014. Our mission is clear for the new year around continued improvement in our quality, aggressive fundraising campaigns, more children/teen theater activities, education and workshops, and creating a more active membership. I am excited for all the possibilities in 2015. I anticipate a great year and making the changes we must instilling in order to become a best in class and distinctive community theater.
I am sincerely honored to have been nominated for the second year for the position of Secretary at OLT. The first time I walked through the doors of OLT to see Rent, I knew this place was special. I came back again as an audience member to see Jesus Christ Superstar and was completely blown away. Once the time was right and my kids were a little older, I finally decided to come out and audition for one of my favorite shows, Jekyll and Hyde, after a ten year hiatus from performing in a main stage production. It felt great to be up on stage again and I was reminded why I fell in love with theatre over 25 years ago when I was just a kid. Since Jekyll and Hyde, I have worn many hats at OLT, both on and off the stage. In 2013, I worked stage crew for the 4X4 One Act Play Festival, performed in and assisted with set design and hair and makeup in The Who’s Tommy, and was assistant to the Director, Craig Tiede, for The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas which was the best learning experience I have had in theatre. I even learned a bit about working in the sound booth! I also served on the 2014 Selection Committee and was then nominated to be OLT’s Secretary for 2014. Serving as OLT’s Secretary has given me the opportunity to really work toward achieving the vision of high quality shows, a growing youth program, and bringing a sense of fun and community to OLT. Our 2014 Season Kickoff was a great way to jumpstart our season and have a great time mingling with audience members in and around the Fair Lawn community. Painting an original work of art around the theme of “Women Empowerment” was a true labor of love. The artwork was sold off during the silent auction at Vagina Monologues and part of the proceeds went toward two great causes for women. It was a pleasure to work on our very first children’s production of Wizard of Oz as one of the set designers and set up/strike. I was also excited to be on the initial planning team for Avenue Q and work the auditions. The amount of talent that showed up just blew me away. To round out the season, I served as child wrangler for the very first time during Meet Me In St. Louis where I also helped paint and build set pieces. Whew! If I am given the opportunity to continue to be OLT’s Secretary, I plan to continue the work I have begun on the fundraising committee. I also want to ensure everyone has a fantastic time at our first ever OLT 2014 Season Ending Gala in January, which I am organizing with my party planning team. I will be co-producing for the first time for our 4th Annual One Act Play Festival in January 2015, and hope to produce The Great American Trailer Park Musical this summer if I am still an executive board member. I also hope to grow our youth program and lead more outreach to share OLT’s vision with the community. Thank you for your time and consideration.
I was very pleasantly surprised to receive Brendan’s nomination for the position of Secretary in Old Library Theater’s Executive Board. My first experience with Old Library Theater was in Rachel Lichter’s production of The Vagina Monologues. It was such a great group, and I had so much fun, I decided to go out for Avenue Q, which is how I got to know Brendan and Craig, and also got to know Dawn and Mollie a bit better. Avenue Q was an absolute joy through and through, and it came right at a time in my life when I needed that joy, and needed that sense of community. I knew I wanted to keep coming back to do more with OLT. I jumped right in to Dream of Wings, and got to know more great OLT folk, like Linda, Andy B., and Sher. Most recently, my one-act play katfished was accepted for the upcoming one-act play festival, and I’m hoping to audition for Dogfight in December. I have found that there are three factors which make community theater a joy to do, and it’s very rare that you find people and a place where all three are present, and valued. One, you’ve got to have people with real talent. Two, they have to actually give a damn. And three, they have to be good people – kind, smart, funny, and easy to work with. It is really difficult to find people who possess all three attributes, let alone a theater company FULL of these people, and that is exactly the kind of community I’ve been delighted to discover at Old Library Theater. Everybody’s talented, everybody works, and everybody’s pleasant to work with. It is such a rarity, and so refreshing. I have been so honored and grateful to be a part of this company, and I would love to be able to give back and make myself useful in whatever way you think would be appropriate. I’d be honored to be on the Board, but mostly, I’m just happy to have found a home here at OLT, and would like to be of service in any capacity you find helpful. No matter what your decision, I’m just content to be here, surrounded by people doing good work, and no matter I do for OLT, I’ll always try to bring those three most important attributes with me: Talent, Hard Work, and Kindness. Thank you again very kindly for the nomination. Your vote of confidence is really appreciated!
I was very happy to take on the role of Treasurer for most of the 2014 season after the elected Treasurer departed. My education was a mix of fast-paced lessons thanks to current President Craig Tiede and a lot of learning as I went. It was rough but I learned quickly and always checked my work. But more than taking care of the monetary aspects of the theater I was happy to be in a position to help the theater in more ways than just selling kisses or ushering a show. I truly care about Old Library Theatre and want to see it continue to grow and prosper. I joined the Fundraising Committee in hopes to find fun and innovative ways to raise money for our productions. I volunteered for the Party Planning Committee to plan our first Season Ending Gala which is looking to be a terrific event. I worked hard to make myself available to all productions for anything they may need, whether it was monitoring auditions, wrangling and microphoning our Wizard of Oz cast, working the box office, or sewing on puppet noses when Avenue Q General turned them down for not having insurance. During the 2015 season I hope to do more of the same work I accomplished this past year and then some. In the past year we have brought our production values up to an incredible level and I hope, through fundraising endeavors, we may continue this upward trend in ways that not only benefits the theater but the community as well. I think an important aspect of our 2015 season will be the involvement of our community members who have supported us throughout the year as well as those who are new to the theater. I came to Old Library Theatre as a patron, was brought in as a replacement performer, and now, as I go into my 4th year with the company, I am happy to be here in a capacity where I can not just watch the theater grow, but help it.
I’d like to accept the nomination for OLT publicity chairperson and officially say that it’s an honor to bring the auditions and performance schedule to our audience and actors. I have utilized social media and email to bring OLT to the next level. Our sales have gone up, our followers are plenty and people certainly seem to be talking about OLT as a better place to work and share. In the future I will continue to draw people in, get them to participate and appeal to a larger audience by constantly reinventing methods to reach our target audience and new talent. Best regards.
Hello, my name is Rachel Lichter and I am interested in being the Old Library Theatre’s House Manager. I have held this position for the past 2 years and I think that there have been major improvements to what it once was. We now use Google Voice as our answering service, so it goes straight to my personal phone and is free to use. To organize ticket sales, along with EZ register, we also use google doc excel sheets to help keep track of how many and what kind of tickets are sold and reserved. I am also able to use my Sam’s Club card to save us money on purchasing snacks for the box office during shows. These improvements have helped the flow of ticket sales become more organized, and help the lines at the box office move through smoothly and efficiently. I will be happy to be OLT’s House Manager for this upcoming season. Thank you.
I was elected to be on the Executive Board as webmaster for the Old Library Theater website in 2013. Over the past year, I have become very familiar with the back end of the site powered by Word Press. I’ve developed a good system for getting things updated quickly and efficiently with the help of President Craig Tiede. I am running for the position of Webmaster for the OLT website again. I have worked professionally in Information Technology (IT) for 20 years. Some of my skills include programming for Windows forms using languages such as Visual Basic, web forms using ASP, ASP.NET, JAVA, HTML, CSS and CMS (Content Management Software) including launching the first website in the world to send horse race and lottery results to cell phones when I worked for Scientific Games. I currently work for Century Bathworks as an IT manager running all aspects of the department which include server management, network infrastructure, engineering, website management/maintenance and all ranges of technical support for user’s computers and printers. I would like to continue what we have started to build on in 2014 into next season. Once again, I want to increase web traffic to the site and get as many eyes to view our pages. The more people we can attract, the more talent to choose from, the better quality of shows we can present. A great looking website can only be appreciated if people see it. We want as many eyes as possible to find OLT to help drive more talent to auditions and more people to the shows. We also want to increase our exposure through other community theater sites throughout New Jersey and make OLT one of the prominent community theaters in North Jersey. Hopefully with my professional experience and my actual work on the site, I can continue to make the user experiences even better in 2015. Thank you.
We’ve changed our main phone number to 973-OLT-4420 or 973-658-4420. Please update your contacts.
A huge OLT welcome to our new Summer intern, Isabelle Siegel! For more information about the program and bios on our enthusiastic new intern, visit our Internships page.