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DAN'S PAPERS, September 25, 2009 Page 19

By Aline Reynolds The poor economy has taken its toll on cultural organizations on eastern Long Island as well as nationwide. While some East End arts centers are coping better than others, all have resorted to aggressive marketing tactics and innovative programming to stay alive. The Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor is having great difficulty—so much so that it has issued a public appeal urging the East End community to help it through one of the toughest times in its 18-year history. The theater has spread the word via e-mail, snail mail and in a notice displayed in the entrance of the theater. “If Bay Street is to keep the doors open and continue its tradition of performing arts excellence and supporting eastern Long Island, it needs the community’s help,” reads the appeal. The plea is a desperate attempt at survival by the theater, which has been a venue for quality performances and inclusive community events. While acknowledging the ugly effects of the recession, general manager Tracy Mitchell and her colleagues are baffled by the slow summer season, when the theater was receiving rave reviews in the media for its impressive repertoire of shows. “The word of mouth was great, then nothing,” she said. “It’s 180 degrees different from last summer.” With a budget deficit and only five employees, the theater is now wondering how it will get through the off-season.

Susan Galardi

Bay Street, Guild Hall Struggle, WHBPAC Sighs

Community support might just be Bay Street’s lifeline. This year, due to a considerable drop in ticket sales and donations, the theater has cut its annual budget by nearly 25%— from $3.2 million down to just under $2.5 million. “We went through every expense with a finetooth comb and slashed every non-essential that we could get away with,” Mitchell said. Everything was cut except programs—in fact, the 299-seat, not-for-profit theater has had to handle new shows that its trimmed budget is barely able to finance. “It’s not just a matter of cutting one program and we’re going to be fine,” Mitchell said,

adding that program-cutting would only lessen the theater’s focal presence in the community and discourage people from supporting it during bad times. This fall, Bay Street is introducing “Literature Live!,” in which students recite passages from classic works in front of a live audience. The program, targeting schools’ core curriculums, promises to attract nearly 3,000 students if successful (six Long Island schools have already registered). The theater also began two-week-long workshops, funded by Lucille Lortell Foundation Workshops, which allow writers and directors to develop new screenplays. These new programs seemed affordable during the planning stage, but Bay Street is now dipping into its savings to keep them running, despite contributions from major companies such as Target. The theater has also forged a new partnership with the Parrish Art Museum, transforming one of the museum’s spaces into stages to showcase two of its developmental shows this past summer. “We plan on continuing everything, but we need the money to do it. We really need a pledge from the East End community to help us,” said Mitchell. In addition to the budget cut, the theater has had to reduce its full-time staff from 12 to five in the past two years, forcing Mitchell and the four other employees to assume two or three jobs. The five employees now must work over(continued on next page)

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Dan's Papers Sept. 25, 2009  

Dan's Papers, the 51-year-old bible of the Hamptons, is owned by Manhattan Media, a multi-media publishing company based in New York City,...

Dan's Papers Sept. 25, 2009  

Dan's Papers, the 51-year-old bible of the Hamptons, is owned by Manhattan Media, a multi-media publishing company based in New York City,...