By: Linda Armstrong
Special to the AmNews
The economic crisis is affecting Black theatre in New York City in many ways. It does not matter is a theater has been around for decades or for a fairly short time. Up next in this series, in the spotlight: Take Wing And Soar Productions, which has been around for five years is now in its sixth season. The NYS 501c3 Theatre Arts Corporation is dedicated to supporting women, youth and especially classically trained actors of color. It was started by Debra Ann Byrd.
“Our mission is to help classically trained actors of color to reach their highest potential. In the past five years we have given center stage opportunities to over 250 artists.” Byrd shared.
What follows is the AmNews’ Q&A with Byrd.
AmNews: How is Take Wing And Soar being affected by this current economic crisis?
Byrd: Take Wing And Soar Productions is a volunteer organization. Our volunteers account for approximately 60 percent of our budget. We are seeing the affects of this current economic crisis in the form of shortage of volunteer staff. It seems that many of the volunteers that we rely on to assist with the many obligations of running a professional organization are not as available as they were in times past because their individual lives have been affected and they have to devote their time and attention to making ends meet. This means we have to work harder and smarter with our happy few.
AmNews: What funders do you have and which ones did you have that you lost or that were cut?
Byrd: Take Wing projects and productions are funded by New York State Council on the Arts, Department of Cultural Affairs, City Council, City Council, foundations, corporations, ticket sales, individual donors and special gifts from its Board of directors. There have indeed been some cuts. One of our faithful foundations announced its closing. Fortunately, we only received a 2.5% cut in our government funding. Our saving grace is that we receive several tens of thousands of dollars of in kind donations in the form of goods and services.
AmNews: How is the reduced funding affecting the type of productions that you mount, if it is at all? What cost cutting are you doing?
Byrd: The reduced funding does make mounting productions quite difficult. Nonetheless, we work diligently not to waiver from our commitment to excellence. Is excellence harder to deliver in these times?
January 29 – February 4, 2009
The economic crisis and black theater
Spotlight: Take Wing And Soar Productions
You bet. Still we are committed to do the work it takes because we strongly believe in the artists we serve and we are devoted to delivering the very best to our patrons.
When dollars are short, it's time to get more prudent. We trim production weeks, which reduces the number of shows we present. We cut out some paid advertising. What that means is that we have to make our grass roots marketing efforts work double time. More word of mouth is needed, so we offer specials for the first couple of shows. We barter with radio stations. We ask for media sponsors... we work to do whatever is needed to continue to do well.
AmNews: What production are you currently presenting and what types of incentives are you utilizing to get the audience to come and see the show?
Byrd: We are currently working on “KING LEAR,” directed by Timothy D. Stickney, starring Trezana Beverley. Take Wing And Soar's “KING LEAR” will be presented at the National Black Theatre from February 20th thru March 1st. We will utilize several incentives to bring in audiences. To begin with, we offer very low ticket prices. We offer early bird specials, we offer discount tickets to students and seniors, we also have a two-for-one special show coupled with a talk back.
AmNews: What are the best ways to make the public aware of your shows?
Byrd: We have found that the best ways to make the public aware of our shows is to first create a marketing plan and then roll it out over time. Our plan includes distributing two sets of flyers, several eblasts, news paper ads, radio interviews, and enrolling the entire company in a word-of-mouth campaign.
AmNews: They say it takes a village to raise a child, but what does it take from our community to keep black theatre alive and growing?
Byrd: In order to keep Black Theatre alive and growing, we must all find partners and collaborators. We need to reach out to each other and partner on projects and productions. We will need to be open to sharing the workload, we must be willing to share the title page credits, we must be willing to share resources, time and talent, without fear, but in love. Love for theatre. Love for the work we do. Love for the people we serve. Love for our culture. Love for the community. We must find suitable partners, take their hand and walk in Love if we are to survive this storm.
If you want to learn more about Take Wing And Soar Productions, visit the organization online.