Greenwood Little Theatre prefers to downsize, rather than ramp up.
Recently, Harvard- and Princeton-trained architect John Gewalt showed off plans for relocating the GLT. He proposed creating a 450-seat auditorium for performances and three other 100-seat theaters where movies could be shown.
He later said he had no estimate on what such a project would cost — and, though the proposal was ambitious and pleasing to the eye, Will Perkins, vice president of the theater, called it a “pipe dream.”
He and Nichole Henry, president of the theater, said that in a perfect world, they would love to have all the money they needed to both make repairs and entertain in a new venue. However, they’re struggling to scrape up the funds to repair the roof in their current building, which they both said was the most urgent and immediate concern.
“After searching carefully and balancing our finances for the past two years, the best bid puts us at double our available operating budget,” Perkins said.
“It would be irresponsible of us not to be brainstorming these far-out decisions that will become inevitable,” Perkins said. “But we need to secure our current structure to get us through, I would guess, at least another five years’ worth of seasons.”
“Yeah, absolutely,” Henry agreed.
They both stressed that they would like to work with a separate group of officers to discuss possibly relocating, just to cover all bases, but they want to be secure where they are so they wouldn’t have to “go dark” for a season during a big move.
“It’s a far-off plan,” Perkins said. “We’re planning for at least half a decade into the future before any major, major changes are made, and it will likely take us beyond even our membership meeting this summer to even finalize the plan that can be voted on for relocation.”
Nothing has been set in stone, and they haven’t had a chance to approve or introduce these potential plans to their members. Both Henry and Perkins said that being transparent and honest with their members and volunteers is a top priority.
“We want to focus more on the quality than quantity, and that would also help us make better use of our finances,” Perkins said. He mentioned the decline in Greenwood’s population over the years and said the theater hasn’t been any more immune to that than other businesses in town.
“It would be ideal to slightly reduce our number of seats. It’s very rare anymore that we have a total sellout of a show — but if we do we’re always prepared for that as well — and to make sure that what we do have is a much better version than what currently exists,” Perkins said. “Again, relying on that volunteer pool to make it all happen, so a slight downsize has always been our most popular option so far.”
“It’s what’s based on years and years and years of activity out there that we’ve seen that’s most plausible,” he added.
Perkins stressed that downsizing wouldn’t be a “defeat” or “a harbinger of the end times or anything.” Rather, he said, “it would actually allow us — our current volunteer pool and our current membership numbers and patron numbers, ticket sales — to utilize the funds that do come in in a much better manner, I think. It would go a lot further.”
They both agreed that they didn’t want to do a dramatic downsizing but something a little more fitting for the average number of ticket sales they’ve had over the last five or 10 years.
Gewalt said that since it’s so early in the process, the subject of funding the potential centers for relocation has not been overtly discussed. He said he has spoken to a couple of attorneys in the area and has concluded that there is “money in the community” that could help fund this. He also said that funding burden wouldn’t be placed solely upon the theater but that other entities in the community would need to help make this a reality.
“A good, big idea finds the money, not the other way around,” Gewalt said. “It has to be a community effort.”
“We apologize that these plans were exposed prematurely, and we don’t want any of our patrons or members to have confusion over what the future of the GLT is,” Perkins said. “We’ve been here since before a lot of us were born, and hopefully we will still be here after a lot of us are no longer alive, so hopefully we’ve set the record straight.”
Additionally, the GLT will be suspending the rest of its season until further notice due to the coronavirus.
“Keep a look out on social media platforms because we will still be entertaining the public,” Henry said.
•Contact Kerrigan Herret at 581-7233 or email@example.com.