Sunday, February 22, 2004

Fine Arts Fund Spotlight: Playhouse in the Park

By Jackie Demaline
The Cincinnati Enquirer

What does the Fine Arts Fund mean to one of the nation's top regional theaters? Last year, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park received $1.1 million, approximately one-ninth of its budget.

Without it, says producing artistic director Ed Stern, it could mean producing only nine out of 11 shows on Playhouse's two stages, the Marx Theatre and Thompson Shelterhouse.

"Or, in other terms, we could produce all of our shows, build all of our sets and create all of our costumes - we just couldn't hire any of the actors who appear on our stages each year."

Of course the Fine Arts Fund allocation doesn't go to just one budget item. Stern's personal favorite is that it helps subsidize the theater's student matinee series.

As part of its educational and outreach program (which reaches 80,000 students each year) Playhouse was one of the first regional theaters in the U.S. to offer discounted matinees to area schools.

This year, more than 5,000 junior high and high school students from 50 schools will experience Playhouse's main stage season - My Fair Lady, Metamorphoses, Going, Gone, Blue and Mr. Roberts - at a ticket price of $9.

Nothing matters more, says Stern, than young audiences. "People don't fall in love with the arts when they're middlle-aged. ...We need to do something about (creating arts experiences for students) if we're going to build arts audiences for the future."

The 2004 Fine Arts Fund campaign continues through April 30 with a goal of $10.3 million. The 55th annual campaign provides operating funds to members: Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati Ballet, Cincinnati Opera, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Contemporary Arts Center, May Festival and Taft Museum of Art as well as smaller grants to associate members and project grants to small Tristate arts organizations. The Enquirer will be highlighting recipient organizations during the 10 weeks of the campaign.

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