The Winthrop Playmakers held a membership meeting on Feb. 6 to discuss the future of the organization, which is considering closing due to lack of funds and a building in need of much repair. There are no returning board members for the 2014/2015 season; but members’ strong will to continue the organization and produce quality theatre trumps all matters.
The Board of Directors is a vital team who represents the Playmakers and serves as producers for the season. Several days a week, they meet to take on the responsibilities of production staff, designers, and stage managers. The board serves as the foundation of the Playmakers, who are in search of a new group of individuals to operate the organization.
“The ultimate goal is to have the board be the producers and have the general membership as the supporting staff,” said Michael Lacey, Vice President.
Before members volunteer for the board, there are concerns for the welfare of the building as a structure, which is in a state of decline. The rising price of utilities over the past ten years has made the building difficult to sustain and make renovations such as a new sewer line, chimney, and heating system.
Members discussed options of continuing the organization, whether it is in the best interest or not to keep the building, or renting venues and rehearsal spaces throughout the town. The ultimate decision will be made by the Board of Directors once they are established.
Members voted to create a Transitional Committee that will determine if the organization can sustain itself in the building, or if the life of the Playmakers will continue elsewhere.
Kathleen Coates, who suggested the Transitional Committee and was voted as the Chairperson, recommended meeting “over the next 6-8 weeks to determine the feasibility of whether or not it makes sense to keep the building as an organization from a financial perspective and a man-power perspective.”
Member, Louis Picciuolo, made a preliminary cost estimate for continuing the organization in the current building at 60 Hermon Street. Picciuolo concluded that the Playmakers owe $27,000 in outstanding bills, and that required repairs would cost $22,000. He projected that long-range upgrades would amount to $93,000, which includes sprinkler, fire alarm, air conditioning, and electrical systems.
“When I heard about what was happening, my immediate thought turned to money because money makes the organization no matter what you feel spiritually,” Picciuolo said. “A realistic budget for the building is $40,000 yearly. There is a huge disconnect between the revenues and what it takes to run the building.”
Having a building of their own, to practice until 4 in the morning if they so please, is a luxury, and not something most theatre companies have.
“The Winthrop Playmakers was established in 1938. It was all about putting on quality theatre, not where it was,” asserted Nick Raponi. “I have grown attached to this building. I love the people who are associated with this building. To be able to succeed without a building is possible. The goal of the Winthrop Playmakers is to entertain.”
Members suggested using Winthrop Public School venues, and the Winthrop Cultural Council to maintain the Playmakers. The Winthrop School Committee has a policy that non-profit organizations are not required to pay a rental fee (they only have to pay the custodian), and the schools have ample seating, offering more space for larger audiences.
“This is my 43rd year at the Winthrop Playmakers,” said Pam Racicot. “When I joined, we utilized every available space – church halls, and any public building – and we were welcomed into them. That can happen again.”
The general consensus among members is that the Winthrop Playmakers is their home. It is their creative haven; not the building structure itself, but the family and comradery that have developed. Building or not, the Playmakers will surely continue.
“To come into a room to see people you haven’t seen in a long time, and the support that’s been outpouring,” President Grace Meidanis concluded with glistening eyes. “To see the amount of care and love in this room…it’s overwhelming and a glorious sight.”