Turnage is part of cultural fabric

Published 12:43 am Tuesday, December 6, 2011

To the Editor:

It is with a degree of sadness that I read about the decision to suspend operations at the Turnage Theater.  Given the current economic challenges facing the City of Washington, Beaufort County, and the state of North Carolina it is not surprising but still nothing to cheer about. The fact that this is occurring just as the management of the theater is beginning to find the right mix of entertainment to allow the theater to cover its operating expenses is even more tragic.

Of greater concern are the comments of some local politicians. I am struck by their lack of appreciation relative to what we have in the Turnage and what a wonderful cultural asset it is to the community. A tremendous amount of time, effort and expense went into the restoration of this facility and it would be a shame to see it sold off at a fire sale price to be used for heaven knows what due to a bank foreclosure. Additionally, one should not discount the secondary financial impacts the theater has on our local economy for people coming to shows and taking the opportunity to eat at one of our local restaurants or to patronize one of our retail establishments.

Hopefully, our local city and county politicians will wake up and see that the Turnage is part of the cultural fabric that makes our community a desirable place to live for current and prospective residents. The Turnage along with the waterfront, the parks, the libraries, the boat ramps, the civic center, and the local athletic facilities are all part of the collectively owned infrastructure that adds to the quality of everyone’s life. No one expects these other amenities to be self funding so why is this criterion being applied to the Turnage? If the theater can cover its operating expenses and make a contribution to its maintenance, that is all that one should reasonably expect of a cultural amenity. Demanding that it be totally self funding is not realistic. Instead, it should be looked upon as a museum to live entertainment before the days when electronic media began to dominate the entertainment universe and maintained as such.

Sadly, in the hubbub of day-to-day life we often do not appreciate what we have until it’s gone. The Turnage is a major cultural addition to our community and hopefully a way will be found to return it to financial viability before we lose it for good.