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December 22, 2008

A newly published NEA survey of the U.S. theatre landscape between 1990 and 2005 entitled "All America's A Stage" shows theatre companies to be remarkably resilient in troubled economic times. The ability of many performing arts organizations to keep going during periods of recession partially stems from the fact that they're often run on shoestring budgets anyway so are at one level slightly more impervious to the yo-yoing economy. It also stems from the support that they get from their communities.

I'm always heartened by the way in which local communities come to the aid of their arts organizations in times of trouble, even when money might be scarce all around. Ten days ago, Shakespeare Santa Cruz (SSC), one the country's most high profile Shakespeare festivals, announced that unless it could raise $300,000 by lunchtime today, December 22, it would have to cease operations.

The community rallied around the company and I'm happy to report that SSC has managed to exceed its target. At 1.25 p.m. PST, the company's marketing officer confirmed an official figure of $416,417 received from more than 2,000 individual donors. As a result, the non-profit company, with its core staff of seven, can now move ahead with planning its 2009 summer season.

Over the week, the company's website was bolstered by messages of support and sadness from members of the theater community. Playwrights Tom Stoppard and Donald Margulies, comedian Gene Gillette and actor Olympia Dukakis all sent empathetic words.

SSC has proposed a reduced 2009 budget of $1.45 million (down from $2 million in 2008). The new season, which runs from mid-July through August, includes Bardic stalwarts A Midsummer Night's Dream and Julius Caesar and Margulies' Shipwrecked!

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