Monday, October 31, 2011

So Far

I'm conducting an ongoing social media experiment over on my Twitter account. How absurd can tweets be and yet people don't resign from your feed en-masse?
So far the amount seems to be "infinite".

Sunday, October 30, 2011

More Than Once

Here is a conversation I had more than once today. 
We: Hey, don't you want to be on the Board of Theatresource -- and pay $5000 a year to be on it?
They: I'm not going to pay to be on this Board. 
We: Well what if it were a Board of different people?
They: Oh yeah. Then talk to me.
+++++
But that's not what I'm here to talk about.
Today we screened Earthkiller. I had much fun. I drank too much but not sickeningly so. Probably because Joe Chapman ran out and bought pizza (which, again, is probably because he is some sort of angel from heaven).
+++++
The Frogman explains how God created the platypus.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

How To Take Over 177 MacDougal Street

[A furtherance of two conversations (see below for more) that took place today.]

They: How would a new organization take over the property at 177 MacDougal Street?
We: If (and that's a big "if") you should have an organization registered as a 501C(3) (or, you know, if you know someone who does) and you go to the landlord of 177 MacDougal Street (A J Clarke) you might be able to negotiate a lease beginning January 1, 2012.
They: But when we started Theatresource we didn't have a 501C(3) for... a year I think.
We: Yes. Yes you're right. But I strongly advise against operating without one, at least as an umbrella organization. That being said, the landlord would, if willing to rent to you, probably require that an individual put the space in his/her name. For a 7-year lease. Which will start at (likely) around $9,700 a month and go up from there.
They: What about all the stuff in the theater? The lights? The dimmers? The board? What's the deal with it?
We: That's a good question. Now, the landlord might decide if Theatresource is behind on rent, that he might be able to seize all of the assets.
They: If he should seize all the assets then he'd just rent them to a new tenant?
We: Yes. If that's what he's planning to do. It's difficult to know because we don't know what sort of deal the Board is striking with the landlord. But yes, just like the restaurant business, it's nominally better to be the second tenant in the building than the first.
They: What do you mean?
We: Well typically in a commercial lease you get the first two, sometimes three, months free on a lease. If, and as the Board is cancelling shows after the 1st that's a big "if", you can get rentals in the first month and you have the gear (lights, grid, dimmers, etc.) because the landlord seized the property inside the building, the theater becomes a "turnkey" operation. Then this is what happens financially:

  • You're paying a month-and-a-half rent up-front ($15,000?)
  • You can start renting out the space to theater companies immediately
  • You have zero debt load. 

Which is a relatively cheap way to get into the theater business.

They: Do you think the landlord would be amenable to renting to somebody else?
We: Landlords are a tad arbitrary. Maybe he just doesn't want to. And he's trying to sell the building (and the adjacent buildings). That being said, the market for rentals right now sucks. So yeah, they should be. It sounded to me like the landlord was tired of dealing with the Theatresource Board, but who knows?
They: What if Theatresource strips the theater before moving out?
We: There's a couple issues with that. One is logistical. Where are you going to put all the lights and the dimmers? Plus, who is going to help you?
The second issue may be legal. Depending on the deal the landlord has, that stuff might be his. I don't know the answer.
They: How much is the stuff -- the lights and sound gear -- worth? 
We: The dimmers are very beat up. That being said, they actually work (or, at least a majority of dimmers in each pack work). Replacing them is going to be a few thousand dollars at the very least. The light board itself would cost a few thousand dollars to replace (even used). We just had the light board overhauled.
We can spend any amount of money on lighting instruments. But fresnels (which our LD's complain we don't have enough of) are relatively cheap to rent.
Sound gear? You can spend any amount of money you like on sound. We have four JBL speakers, a couple cheap amplifiers, some tiny Behringer mixer, and a Mac Mini to run Qlab with. That's, uh, whatever that is.

So Wait, Why is Theatresource Closing?

This is an amalgam of six different conversations.
+++++
Q. So really, why would you be on the Board of Theatresource if you think the theater itself should close?
A. I dunno. Why wouldn't you just resign? Well, unless you wanted to keep the tax-exempt corporation for whatever you want to do with it.
Q. I feel kind of snookered having come in for a couple days of loading out deep storage only to have the Board of Directors of Theatresource close the theater.
A. Uh. Yeah.
Q. I mean, they had to have known that's what they were going to do by then, right?
A. In retrospect it seems they had a pretty good idea that we were going to be closing the doors by the time we were pulling everything out of deep storage. But they didn't say anything.
Q. So, explain to me again why would people be on the Board of Directors of an organization they want to close?
A. Well, the 501C(3) is valuable. And they're certainly trying to salvage that. That's the only rational reason I can think of.
Q. I ran into one of the former General Managers of Theatresource on the street last night. The GM said "I hear you're going to close." I said "yeah". GM: "They told me they were going to close about two weeks after hiring me, too."
A. Ha! Yes. Indeed. We have been in exactly this same place before.
Q. So, I've spoken to three members of the Board of Directors and gotten four different answers about the financials.
A. Welcome to the club. I'm only two for three though. So you win.
Q. Now Drew, you're actually there six days a week. And although I've seen the pathetic state of your financials [editor's note -- "Ahem"], you do know something about reading a balance sheet. So what's going on?
A. The financials are such that we owe about $50,000 and we have additional revenue needs of between $25,000 and $35,000 per year over what we make in rentals, ticket sales, donations, and grants. Well, that was the number offered by the Board President. Honestly, I think we need an additional $50,000 to $100,000 a year to really run smoothly.
Q. Uh. That, in the greater scheme of things, doesn't sound like that much money.
A. No, it doesn't.
Q. So why don't we just raise the money and come up with a plan to stay open?
A. Because even if someone were to come up with that money. the Board would close Theatresource and just be a producing organization without a theater.
Q. No way, really? People have offered to come up with money and were turned down?
A. Yup. This has been stated explicitly by the President of the Board of Directors, Courtney Birnbaum ( cbirnbaum@ctswlaw.com ).
Q. So. Uh. Wait. Why?
A. I haven't gotten a rational explanation from anyone. I can't find an actual rational reason to deliberately close Theatresource (note that the Board will claim that they're not closing "Theatresouce" because they intend to use the 501C(3) in order to produce at other theaters.)
Q. What. The...?
A. A little history is perhaps in order. A long long time ago, two regimes ago in fact, Lanie and Jim were paid by 1099. Actually, knowing the people who where on the Board at the time I'm surprised that didn't raise any red flags. That, honestly, was incredibly, incredibly, stupid. After Lanie and Jim were pushed out, Jim filed for Unemployment.
Q. Uh oh.
A. So the State came down on Theatresouce. Theatresource wasn't paying into S.U.I. for the employees.
Q. Oops. How much was that?
A. Somewhere in the realm of $50,000 in fines. I believe that got negotiated down but we did have to pay off a big chunk of money for S.U.I.
Q. OK, so that adventure with malfeasance is over with?
A. That's probably just misfeasance. But yes, it is. In the meantime, however, we ended up being a few months behind on the rent.
Q. And that's when the New York City Marshal showed up? 
A. Yeah. That wasn't quite as romantic as you'd think. He just handed me some papers and left.
Q. You got served?
A. But it wasn't nearly as much fun as they used to show on Simon and Simon...
Q. So now what? A dude on Facebook said something about filing an Appeal to the Board...
A. Yes. That was interesting. I haven't seen the Bylaws of Theatresource. I've been looking. We'll see what's possible that way too.
Q. Too? Wait. What do you have up your sleeve?
A. Have you seen these bunnies?
Q. Seriously.
A. Well, provided that there's no viable way to take over the board before they close the space, there's another alternative if we want to keep the space.
Q. You're teasing me. Stop it.
A. Next post. This one is getting too long.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Ways to Save Theatresource

The financial reality of Theatresource is that we've always been in a deficit. If you ask three different Board members you'll get four different answers of how much a deficit we run every year.
I actually think it's more expensive to run than any of the numbers I've heard from Board members. My number of additional revenue (above and beyond what we normally get from rentals and present donations) is that we need an extra $50,000 a year.

But that doesn't matter.

Why? Because the Board is committed to closing the space.
+++++
People have stepped forward, offering to help find money, etc. But the Board is only interested in bringing in money for the "virtual" Theatresource 501c(3) that will exist after January 1, 2012. Don't believe me? Ask me to forward an email from the President, Courtney Birnbaum.
+++++
So although the Board would like you to believe that there's just no way Theatresouce could make enough money to cover this deficit, there are a lot of ideas of how would we raise revenue to become and remain solvent. Note that none of these are my own ideas. I can't take credit for them. I mean, except for the one.
  • Get 7 more Board members who would each donate $5000 a year. It's New York City. We haven't been actively looking for people. We could start.
  • Start a Theatresource company. Charge $300/year to be a member of the company. Do whatever it is that theater companies do. There are a number of people at Theatresouce, long-time volunteers, who are chomping at the bit to do this.
  • Do the Horsetrade model of theater rental. That is, rent out the space for upwards of three different shows a night. It's like being in the Fringe Festival all the time. (Or just do certain months this way.) This will be tiring. But you can also triple revenue.
  • Sell more liquor. Selling liquor does indeed bring in a lot of cash. The trick is the liquor license. We have actually been visited by vice cops (this seems more exciting than it actually was.) So the Theater has to partner with a restaurant or bar that has a liquor license. This has become a bigger pain in the tuchus over the last couple years, so we haven't been doing it as much.
  • Rent rehearsal space. $20/hour, 40 hours/week, 50 weeks/year? That's $40,000! Ha! About 6 years ago this was our big plan for becoming permanently financially solvent. And what happened? We built a rehearsal space and we ended up with huge noise issues with our neighbors. Essentially the wall built for the rehearsal space has acoustically coupled the floor to the ceiling (and the neighbor's bedroom) above. What could we do? Well, we could float the floor and the ceiling -- essentially acoustically isolating the room from the surrounding building. How much would that cost? Brrr... $20,000? Which is kinda low-balling it. And yeah, that would be on top of the roughly $12,000 we spent 6 years ago. 
  • Rent rehearsal space II or, we could rent out the window box as rehearsal space. Would anyone rent it? Would that work? I don't know. This, incidentally, is actually an idea I just thought of. Which is why it's the lamest idea on this list.
  • Rent the rehearsal studio as production office space to theater companies. Right now Blair, Maduka, and I share a 12' by 13' (I used to know, I should measure it again) space with no window and no HVAC at the back of the building for $500 a month. Upstairs with those beautiful windows looking out onto MacDougal Street? We should be able to get some companies to time-share that as offices. A total rent of a thousand a month? $1200? That's $24K/month of regular income coming into the building.
  • Partner with other theaters, work to attract new producers, etc. etc. Which is, you know, what we haven't been doing for a while. 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Derelict Board

  • So we just got this email from Jennifer Thatcher, signed by the board, to the Source email list. My points are bulleted.

"To the Tribe of ManhattanTheatreSource:

It is with heavy sadness, yet also with deep gratitude, that we must inform you that The Source will officially close its doors on January 1st, 2012.  Despite many heroic efforts to save The Source over the past months and years, we have finally reached a point where we can no longer sustain the running of our space at 177 Macdougal Street.  Our deficits have grown too high, and the terrible economy has badly hurt small theatre companies in NYC, not only The Source itself, but even more significantly the companies that we depend on to rent our theater all year long.  These harsh realities have left us no choice but to leave the space."


  • Gratitude that we'll closing? 
  • And what heroic efforts have they gone to over the past few months? I certainly haven't seen any. I haven't spoken to anyone on the Advisory Board who was even informed of this.
  • Note that our deficits are about the same as they've always been.
  • The economy hasn't hurt small theaters. The fact that we haven't been bringing in new companies over the last two years has been hurting us.
  • There are lots of choices other than leaving the space. Spend 8 hours actually at Theatresource and you'll hear lots of them.

"While we will be closing our physical doors at 177 Macdougal Street, we do not intend to stop producing our fine work, nor do we intend to break up this incredible community we have built together over 12 years.  Instead, we are looking at this as an opportunity to transition our community into a new era.  We will still produce EstroGenius and our Writers Forum, and will be excited to discover new opportunities in new venues throughout New York City.  We look forward to your energy, enthusiasm, and generosity of spirit in creating the next version of “The Source,” and as our community adapts to changing conditions in our ever-changing world, we hope we continue to dream and thrive and grow."

  • So essentially what's happening here is the Source is being broken up so that the 501C3 can be taken and used for other purposes. You're tired of running a theater but you like running a festival and this is how you can make that happen?

"Clearly, there are no words that could possibly express our thankfulness for the 12-year magic carpet ride we have all taken together at 177 Macdougal."

  • Certainly there are no words like: "Hey, does anyone have any ideas how we can do something about our $25,000 to $35,000/year deficit?" Because the Board never bothered to do that.

"We will soon provide details of our closing activities and productions, and we hope you are all able to come join us in our final weeks to help us go out in grand style."

  • Instead of going out in grand style, why don't we work to keep Theatresource going? 
  • Oh, it's because the people who run the Source are too tired of doing the hard work it takes to run a theater. 

"Sincerely,
The Board of Manhattan Theatre Source
Courtney Birnbaum, Andrew Frank, Eric Laufer, Matthew Quint, Melissa Riker, Doug Silver, and Jennifer Thatcher"

Scuttling Theatresource

So the Board of Directors at Manhattan TheatreSource has decided to close Theatresource on January 1, 2012
Wait. Why? Don't they decide that once every few years?
Yes. The official reason is that we're about $50,000 in debt and we'll need about $25,000 to $35,000 more in donations per year than we're getting right now. And the Board is tired of trying to raise money.
So they're bored of being on the Board?
That's what I've been told.
Why don't they just resign and let someone else do it?
You got me.
Aren't we always about $50,000 in debt? 
We've been as much as $100,000 in debt.
So this is exactly like the last three times the Board has said we have to close down Theatresource?
Yes, except that this time they've ordered that we cancel all bookings after January 1st, 2012.
Oh. So they're actually scuttling Theatresource.
Yep.
They're making sure the theater can't possibly survive. How far ahead do we have bookings?
There are bookings up until May.
OK, let me get this straight. This time we're actually far less in debt and we have far more bookings than the last time there was an "emergency" and we had to close. 
Yup. That was two years ago.
So it doesn't matter what anybody does in order to come up with cash to meet our deficit and to bring in more revenue next year, the board is guaranteeing that we close.
That describes it very well.
Why are they even on the Board of Directors? If you don't want to do the job of being on the Board (which is mostly the job of raising cash) why even do it?
I dunno, why don't you ask them?
How can we make another $30K or so a year?
Well, we could charge people $300/year to be a "member" of the Theatresource company. If we had 100 members, that would do it.
There are a bunch of theaters that work that way, aren't there?
Yes.
So what's being planned for the 501c3? 
As far as I can tell, there are a number of members of the Board who are very interested in losing the brick-and-mortar Theatresource and are interested in just being a producing organization.
Oh, so they're scuttling the Source so they can start their little empire?
I didn't say that.
Is it ironic that this closing is happening right when we've gotten a new General Manager?
It certainly is. We spent two years chasing away theater companies and now we're surprised that we don't have a lot of theater companies chomping at the bit to get in here.
What's your take on the Board's decision?
It seems that they've gotten tired of running Theatresource. The problems are the same as they've always been, there's nothing new here.
So, again, why don't the members of the Board who want to close the theater simply resign rather than scuttling the theater?
Again, you got me.
Who is on the Board?
Courtney Birnbaum, cbirnbaum@ctswlaw.com
Andrew Frank, andrewifrank@gmail.com
Eric Laufer, elaufer@gmail.com
Melissa Riker,
Doug Silver.
Executive Director Jennifer Thatcher, jenthat@gmail.com

Just wait for the choruses of "That's not true!" without actually saying, you know, what is it about this post that isn't true.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Fame of the Internet

Halloween or Williamsburg? You decide.
Channel 101. Kim Vasilakis stopped by the other day and turned me onto them. They're the dudes from the TV show Community. It's kinda interesting and I kinda dig it. You submit pilots to them.

Lookit me! I'm Internet famous!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

To Do List

This is the world's most boring blog post.

Bricks:
I have to bring the TCM5000 back to the shop and store it. Maybe if I pull some cards on it it'll just work again? Sigh. You know, if it worked it would be worth at least $1200.
I have to bring Scott's Mackie back to... somewhere and store it.

Pick up the DigiTech DDL from the warehouse.

Drop off and re-hang the costumes we aren't using.
Segregate the costumes we are using.

Electric piano goes to Jersey City and then to Metuchen.

Schedule photo call.

Buy another big Sony battery (after Jewish holidays are over.)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Dorqus McGillicutty

That's me, 4th from the left on top. Collar buttoned all the way up. The tall guy to my right is Todd, whom I have known since I was 4 years old. A classmate put this picture up on the Facebooks and I have stolen it. I'm guessing that I'm in 4th grade here and that it's the latter part of the year.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Twenty Palaces

I'm not done saying how awesome the 20 Palaces series is. Nope. Not done.
It's what I think they in the book world call an "urban fantasy" novel. Which basically means fantasy elements (in this case, magic) in a modern world.
And the world is set up very strongly. Like what I call a "you can kick it" world where the reality holds up even later when you're thinking about it while taking a shower or whatever.
The characters are really fun and interesting. Our protagonist is a dude who just got out of jail for stealing cars. That makes him a former car thief. And that's quite useful skill-wise, actually, for a dude who does what he needs to do.
But the thing that's most groovy is that structurally the books do not let up. There's no room for a breath. We slam right into the story and keep going.
Seriously, this should be a TV series. You shoot it Law&Order style in New York.

In the criminal justice system the People are represented by two separate yet equally important groups, the Wooden Men who investigate crimes and the Peers who destroy the offenders.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Thank You III

Baby monkey yawningDeer runningEagleBaby elephant eatingGroup of elephantsLeopard
A view from CharminarSafety first!Bailarina en el BornInti-IllimaniWarning!Vaca Lacaniana
Depeche Mode en Barcelona 2009Blackberry cemeteryVengel Crimson made a beautiful picture using a CC photo I took in JapanNew logo proposed for TSAPlay Child-Free Bingo!Felipe
Animals prepared for taxidermyHanging catSurveilance cameraEsqueleto de BallenaBackboneDesert

And this is Carlos Castillo. See? We put this on the blog and then we'll remember as we're creating the end-title crawl.

Thank You II

Frieze Art Fair 2011Dale Chihuly - San FranciscoDale Chihuly - San FranciscoDale Chihuly - San FranciscoDale Chihuly - San FranciscoDale Chihuly - San Francisco
Dale Chihuly - San FranciscoDale Chihuly - San FranciscoDale Chihuly - San FranciscoDale Chihuly - San FranciscoFrieze Art Fair 2011Frieze Art Fair 2011
Frieze Art Fair 2011Frieze Art Fair 2011Frieze Art Fair 2011Frieze Art Fair 2011Frieze Art Fair 2011Frieze Art Fair 2011
Frieze Art Fair 2011Frieze Art Fair 2011L1000133Frieze Art Fair 2011Frieze Art Fair 2011Frieze Art Fair 2011

This one is for Ndecam. We're using a desert picture in Android Insurrection.