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time to keep the theater from sinking—they do everything from fixing the heating system to painting and, in the off-season when summer interns are unavailable, maintaining the bathrooms. Meanwhile, more money has been taken out of their salaries to cover their healthcare premiums. Actors performing at Bay Street have suffered as well: the usual 3% annual increase in their salaries did not happen this year, Mitchell said. Bay Street isn’t the only East End arts center that is struggling. Both Guild Hall and the Parrish Art Museum have trimmed their annual budgets due to falling donations. Opera of the Hamptons is also soliciting community support after a drop in ticket sales for two of its three summer shows and a 25% decrease in town funding this year. The only way that the company will be able to continue its shows is if it can come up with $10,000-15,000 for each show, says artistic director Barbara Giancola. Guild Hall has slashed approximately $100,000 from last year’s $3.2 million operating budget due to a projected $250,000 decline in ticket sales and in private and corporate contributions this year. While avoiding show cancellations and layoffs, the theater has had to reduce supply, staff training and shipping expenses, according to director Ruth Appelhof. “We’re not quite sure that that [budget cuts] will be enough—we’re still adjusting to the economy,” she said. She and her colleagues will present the 2009 budget to the finance committee in October, which will most likely trim it further for the coming calendar year.

To increase ticket sales, the theater is considering lowering entrance fees to next summer’s pricier events. “Even Hamptonites aren’t able to spend frivolously these days,” Appelhof said. “People who normally pay $100 to go to a garden event are now hesitant. They just don’t have the discretionary income.” With its long history, Guild Hall is experienced in enduring hard financial times. It was founded during the Great Depression with limited resources and staff. “Even through that, it stayed open and provided programming,” Appelhof said, adding she has been inspired by the perseverance and vision of Guild Hall’s founders, Mary and Lorenzo Woodhouse. Due to a $92,000 drop in ticket sales and $150,000 decline in donations this year, Guild Hall is also mailing an appeal to its alreadyexisting donors, asking them to contribute anything they can in the final months of the year. “We have serious shortfall here and want to be sure that we can provide the programming that we always have,” Appelhof said. The Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center (WHBPAC), by contrast, is weathering the recession relatively well, said Clare Bisceglia, executive director. Having celebrated its tenth anniversary year in 2008, the center, which runs on a $2.5-3 million annual operational budget, has seen a 20% decline in ticket sales this year—negligible, Bisceglia said, since last year consisted of banner earnings. The center has not had to modify its annual operational budget.

“It’s not like, ‘oh my gosh, the sky is falling.’ We’re doing fine, we’re making our numbers,” she said. However, each of WHBPAC’s 10 employees has to wear many hats to keep the place running seven days a week in the summer. And without corporate backing, the center is stepping up its fundraising efforts to weather the storm, Bisceglia said. She and her nine colleagues develop new fundraising initiatives every year and work at renewing relationships with previous donors. “Even in a good year you can’t rely on the exact same people,” she said. “We’re always looking to expand our base.” The recipe for success, Bisceglia said, is active promotion and creative programming. “We just keep looking for innovative and new ways to engage patrons,” Bisceglia said. “We don’t rest on our laurels—we don’t have the right to. We’re only 10 years old.” Shows featuring performers such as Tonywinning Broadway baritone Brian Stokes Mitchell and the multitalented singer/songwriter Loudon Wainwright III have attracted fans from all over the tri-state area. Evidently, star power still packs the house. Meanwhile, over at Bay Street, Mitchell and her crew forge ahead despite uncertainty about their beloved theater’s future, fearing an even bleaker off-season than the disappointing summer season. “It was a really tough year and now we’re staring at winter with our space not full,” Mitchell said. “We’re either going to make it through this or we’re not.”

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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,...

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