Turnage Theater —

Published 3:35 pm Sunday, August 10, 2008

By Staff
The first season
On Aug. 2, with the final performance of “The All Night Strut,” the Turnage Theater completed its first full season of operation. And a wonderful first season it was.
The Turnage succeeded on so many fronts — stimulating new business and revenue for downtown Washington, proving to be a catalyst in uniting local interest in downtown development, bringing to Washington a wide variety of live entertainment options and, perhaps most important, delivering on the promise made to so many supporters that local theater could prosper. There were critics, and some still imply that the Turnage hasn’t been successful and will “fail in the future.” The facts, however, say otherwise.
As a tax-exempt, “non-profit, 501 (c) (3)” organization, the Turnage Theaters Foundation is required to file with the IRS an annual “Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax” which is known as “Form 990.” The annual return for the Turnage Foundation for 2007 and prior years may be viewed by anyone interested at www.guidestar.org where all such returns are made public. Likewise, the Turnage return for 2008 will be available in 2009. Unfortunately, these annual returns may not make it easy to see how the Theater did in a regular season, so allow me to look back and summarize August 2007 to August 2008 — the theater’s first full season of operation.
Total ticket revenues exceeded $433,000 with almost 11,000 patrons attending shows. But, like almost all performing arts theaters and centers (including renowned venues like Lincoln Center and The Metropolitan Opera), ticket sales alone cannot cover total operating expenses. The Turnage was very fortunate in receiving these additional funds through several sources.
Contributed support from grants, pledges and unrestricted contributions totaled $345,000. This exceeded the foundation’s expectations in almost every category.
Businesses found the Turnage “Playbill” an excellent advertising option, spending almost $31,000 across the regular and summer seasons. And business sponsors of specific shows believed the Turnage was an excellent venue to showcase their products, community involvement and commitment to the performing arts by providing more than $59,000. This exceeded our goal by $20,000.
Members of the Turnage Theaters Foundation provided annual dues and special donations of more than $108,000, bringing total income for the first season to more than $1 million.
And how did the foundation and theater management do in keeping within the expense budget? The Theater operated within budget, and when all expenses are totaled later this month, we expect to be 5 percent below the first season budget for all show expenses.
With much help from a fine staff and a foundation board of hard working, highly committed members, I’m excited to say we had a great first season. And, of course, thanks to all of you who supported us as members, patrons and volunteers. We hope you’re proud of your great accomplishment in bringing the Turnage Theater to life.
Sept. 12 will begin the Turnage’s second season. Many of the decisions made last year were based on estimates and “educated guesses.” This season we have the knowledge of “lessons learned,” and we’ll use that information to make better decisions in selecting shows with greater appeal to our patrons, paying more attention to the frequency of performances, targeting ticket prices and doing a better job marketing what we offer. A Turnage program-advisory board was created, and brings the Beaufort County Arts Council, downtown merchant groups, Washington city government and the Washington Tourism Development Authority together to focus on how the Turnage best serves all interests.
To those who insist on being negative about the Turnage Theater, I can only suggest that you look at the facts — not the hearsay. To those who haven’t had a chance to attend a theater performance, come and share the experience. And to all who have made the Turnage dream a reality, our heartfelt thanks.