Community theater possible for Truckee
By Christine Stanley
The Truckee-Donner Recreation and Park District now has a strategic plan for a community theater, and interested residents are looking to take charge.
“It is really going to have to be handed off to the public from this point,” said district board member Marshall Lewis. “We will stay involved to keep things moving forward, but to become a reality a core group is going to have to become seriously involved.”
The establishment of an arts center has long been on the minds of many local actors, musicians, dancers and teachers who have been strapped for rehearsal space for years. Some local organizations, such as the Tahoe Truckee Youth Theater, have gone defunct due to lack of resources.
“When an organization is based on performances and there is no place to perform, well, then there goes that,” said Elizabeth Archer, founder and director of InnerRhythms Dance Theatre.
So when the district began to discuss building a new community center in Truckee, the idea of including a performing arts venue surfaced almost immediately. It was at that point unclear whether a theater should or could be housed in the same space as the community center, or how the project would be paid for. But public sentiment was stirring and the district remained open for discussion.
With the establishment of a strategic plan, a number of those questions have been addressed, and district board members are now optimistic that building a theater is a very real possibility.
“Could building happen within two to three years? I think it could,” said Lewis. “Within five years we should see some serious movement. People have been talking about this for an awfully long time, and now we finally have something for people to sink their teeth into.”
The district’s strategic plan, which was developed by VenueTech Management Group, Inc., outlines a creative and financial vision that is malleable.
According to the company’s report, a successful arts center in Truckee should share space with the proposed community center, therefore eliminating overlapping needs such as staffing and parking space. The facility, said by VenueTech to cost somewhere between $6 million and $9 million, would be of professional quality with 300-350 seats, and would include a blackbox theater with seating for up to 80 viewers.
“The construction budget is all over the map,” Lewis said. “VenueTech made it very clear that many of the larger ideas, like dressing rooms and fixed seats, would be pared down to lower construction costs.”
Construction and maintenance costs would likely come from a combination of private and public funding, said district general manager Steve Randall, and it is also possible that additional dollars for the theater would be added to a bond measure for the proposed community center.
VenueTech also recommended the formation of a new non-profit organization dedicated to “expanding community ownership of the theater,” implementing a capital campaign and building community interest.
But the feasibility of the project really comes down to the expectations of Truckee’s residents and the level of commitment they are willing to put forward to get involved and raise the necessary fund, according to district officials.
“The community has to want it bad enough,” Archer said. “They’ve got to be willing to step up and take the bull by the horns.”
The operating budget of a community theater in Truckee, as expressed in the district’s strategic plan, would require about $328,000 in the first year of operation. The plan also identified about $215,000 of potential revenues at that time, leaving $113,000 in required operating support. Financial projections by VenueTech Management Group, Inc. indicate that the theater can reach a level of 66 percent to 78 percent self-support from direct revenue within five years, a margin considered successful for such a facility.
While the primary creative base for a new center would be events produced by theater clients, the theater would also occasionally facilitate cultural events and recreational programming. Some of the main priorities, as indicated by VenueTech Management Group, Inc., include:
– Local drama and musical productions
– Live music concerts and recitals, chamber music, orchestra and opera
– Youth and family programming
– Audiovisual presentations
– Community events
– Classes for music, dance and drama students