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FLAT ROCK — The Flat Rock Playhouse survived.
Playhouse officials announced in a news conference today that the theater had met its $250,000 fundraising goal to finish this season, was on the way toward a goal of $500,000 by the end of the year and would launch the 2013 season as planned with performances in Flat Rock and at the Playhouse Downtown.
"We got a lot more work to do but the good news is we're pushing hard into 2013," McKibbin said.
Lynn Penny, the development director, said that the Playhouse has raised $253,000 in cash not pledges. The goal was met through a combination of the Playhouse effort plus community support and a crucial $100,000 gift from an unnamed donor, which Penny said the Playhouse had fully matched.
"We are definitely not out of the woods," she said. "We have a ways to go. We are hopeful that as we start 2013 we will continue very strongly with this momentum."
Box office receipts for upcoming benefit concerts at Elon University, on Broadway and at the Playhouse are not included in the total announced today, she said.
"I think it's been extremely overwhelming and validating and gratifying that there has been so much nationwide support," Penny said.
Marini added: "In terms of what's going to happen in New York City and what's going to happen here is really hard to say. We've always thought of that money as extra money."
The Playhouse still wants to get all the way to $1 million, the amount that McKibbin and Marini say is needed to stabilize the Playhouse finances.
"We've only had less than a month to raise $250,000," Marini said. "Ultimately to get to a million we're just going to need a little more time. The fact that we may be close to a half million dollars by the end of the year would be an incredible achievement by the Playhouse and its supporters and everyone involved."
During an hour-long news conference, Marini went over the financial losses of 2010 by higher cost, an unprecedented drop in ticket sales and a lack of donations and described the efforts toward recovery. The Playhouse's 2013 budget projects revenue over expenses of $58,000.
The Playhouse officials also said:
• The Playhouse has set two public meetings next week to present the business plan and ask questions. The meetings are noon Wednesday, Dec. 19, at the Playhouse Downtown and 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the main stage in Flat Rock. "We have to replace the cash we lost in 2010, and me and Lynn and Bill are going to work tirelessly toward that. We need the community's support. We want them to know that we have a plan, it's a good plan, a lot of external organizations have looked at it, and we feel like we're moving in the right direction," Marini said.
• With a strong finish, the Playhouse could break even this year, Marini said. "We won't know the reality until the end of December but we certainly have the opportunity to get close to that break even point, which would be quite an achievement for the Playhouse, having lost so much money in 2010."
• The theater does not plan to open a separate facility outside Henderson County. "This is perhaps the biggest misconception that I want to deal with today, that the Playhouse ever considered opening a venue outside of Flat Rock Hendersonville area. That is not accurate. We were always looking toward the possibility of actually getting paid money to tour our productions at venues run by other people, so we would have a prod that someone in another city would pay the theater a fee to bring that show, when it closes here. We'd get a fee that made a profit. I don't see how anybody in their right mind would turn that down. Most theaters around the country already do that ... There's absolutely no way the Playhouse should not find a way to monetize its existing product."
Even if the 2013 season is saved, many people still blame Marini for the financial crisis and say he should resign. A reporter asked for a response to that.
"The board in 2008 and 2009 was dealing with the tragedy of the loss of Robin (Farquhar), pressure from the community," McKibbin said. "The board's the one that came up with the objectives (to expand revenue sources and YouTheatre). All those objectives were identified and laid out to the candidates that applied for the job. The board selected Vincent for the job. He's worked constantly over the last couple of years to achieve those goals. Hindsight being what it is, there's things I would have changed in 2010. ... In hindsight we probably should not have moved so quickly, we're sorry for that. ... The fact that in 2011 we got all of the ticket sales back, plus, just shows what an incredible job the staff did and Vincent has done."
Vincent said, "From my perspective, it's certainly not easy. I didn't come to the Flat Rock Playhouse to be in the paper every day. I certainly didn't come to the Playhouse to have my wife written about and mentioned and written about on comments boards. That being said, I love the Playhouse very deeply, I care very deeply about the people who work here. I care very deeply about the audience. ..
"I think that ultimately, if we were moving in the other direction, if we had lost nothing in 2010 and we had lost $1.4 million this year then I'd be resigning. That's not the direction we're moving in. We take responsibility and will continue to apologize for that year and wish that it had been done differently. That being said, since then, to make a $1.4 million improvement in two years, throughout all this turmoil, shows the dedication of the staff and the board. I love the people here and I want it to be successful and I don't want to walk away until I'm sure it's going to be here for the next 10 years."
For more on this story return to the Hendersonville Lightning and see this week's print edition.