Weekly Update, Dec 24, 2013

MPC Theatre Company under siege

By Philip Pearce

I went last Tuesday to Paper Wing Theatre, whose producer/director Koly McBride hosted a cross section of Monterey’s theater community gathered to plan a strategy for the survival of the Monterey Peninsula College’s theater department and the newly renovated Morgan Stock Stage.

Ably led by MPC actor and stage manager Ana Maximoff, MPC theater staff, students and supporters talked, listened, learned and drew up a preliminary plan for countering proposed draconian funding and employment cuts to be considered by the MPC Board of Trustees on January 22nd.

If you haven’t heard already, college president Walter Tribley wants to balance the college budget to the tune of some 2.5 million dollars in cuts, which will mean layoffs of thetheater’s entire technical and front of house staff.

If you picture beleaguered theater folk as explosively emotional and histrionic in the face of a crisis, you would have been pleasantly surprised. With tact and humor, Maximoff and MPC Theatre head Gary Bolen, directed a discussion that acknowledged the college’s financial troubles and eschewed finger pointing, theatrical demonstrations or paranoid charges of a vendetta. MPC was in a tight financial corner and, like any other department at MPC, the theater program is part of the shortfall. Theater classes MPC goes big musical in their newly renovated Morgan Stock Stage theater with Les Miserables.and performances won’t be returning soon to the comparative opulence and ease of the past, even after this year’s wildly successful and widely acclaimed Les Miserables (image from the production.)

But it was also evident that there are real injustices, not least in the fact that of all the job cuts proposed for the entire college, a staggering 40 per cent are slated for the theater department.

In a recent Herald interview, President Tribley suggests that, while the existing theater building should remain a classroom block for theater classes, a possible campus drama club could take over the mounting and production of plays on the Morgan Stock Stage. With a creditable lack of rancor, the meeting viewed this suggestion as further evidence of a widespread failure by even well-disposed non-theatre goers to understand the complex technical and business processes involved in staging any production. One participant wryly suggested the board were victims of the Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland “Hey, kids! Let’s put on a show” syndrome when it came to solving theatrical financial problems.

Somewhat heartened by assurances from Dr. Tribley that he is open to other suggestions, Maximoff outlined a plan of action, beginning with her producing, in tandem with MPC’s Henry Guevara and Sky Rappaport, an Information Packet which would outline the financial situation and explain the impact the proposed budget cuts would have on the MPC Theatre Company as a force on campus and in regional theater. This, together with a flyer, will go out under a signed form-letter to all MPC theater subscribers, ticket buyers, benefactors and business partners, who will then receive a follow-up phone call and a personal invitation to support the college at the January 22nd board meeting.

A major army of volunteers is clearly going to be needed to activate a program whose details went out in a follow-up email to everyone who attended Tuesday’s meeting. Its call for volunteers includes:

A “Street Team” to hand out flyers at large events and at big population venues like malls, high-traffic retailers like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, farmers’ markets, community bulletin boards and “any parking lots that can be hit [by] placing flyers on windows.”

“Team MPC “ to stuff envelopes, apply labels and assemble info packets, and other mailings.

“Boots on the Ground (BOTG)” to go door to door with information packets to local businesses, equipped and informed with facts and statistics, ready to urge business managers and owners to speak at the January 22nd meeting, and to visit local schools’ drama, dance and art instructors, educating them about the situation and how it will affect them and their students.

“Team Phone” to phone one week after the mass mailing has gone out, to see if people have received the packet, and be prepared to answer any questions.

“We can’t have too many people helping,” writes Ana. “It will make everything go smoother, and we can ensure a broad canvassing of the area, not just Monterey, but Carmel, Pacific Grove, Marina!”

Volunteers for any of these groups should email Ana Maximoff at savempctheatre@gamil.com

Philip Pearce is an actor and playwright and theater critic for PAMB

Please be sure to study our Calendar page here. After a staggering choice of events at the start of the month, pickings have thinned out during the holidays, but good choices remain. We strive for accuracy but did manage to tangle up dates for the Santa Cruz Chorale’s concerts last weekend. Apologies. If you see something on our site that’s not right, please let us know.

Scott MacClelland, editor