A meeting between community members and the Waldo Theatre’s board of directors shed some light on the landmark venue’s current situation as well as two paths for its future.
The meeting, held at Old Number Nine in Waldoboro April 1, drew about 35 to 40 people including the four member theater board.
According to board members and a hand-out, the theater has been closed for the last year, producing no income during that time; has $9,000 in outstanding bills, and needs roughly an additional $10,000 just to open the doors for the 2015 season, including a $6,000 upfront cost for insurance.
Whether or not the theater will in fact open this year is yet to be determined, according to board President Melissa Hearth. The board is also facing a decision of whether to remain a community theater or partner with investors, she said.
The board has been recently in contact with people willing to put a large amount of money into the Waldo, but the theater would also change to one more along the lines of the Strand in Rockland, Hearth said.
The Strand has a focus on films and live performances of musicians and comedians; the Waldo has offered all those as well in past years, but also had an emphasis on live youth and adult dramatic performances.
The Waldo’s board has yet to discuss the investors’ option, but plans to soon, Hearth said. The other parties have discussed timing for the possible changes in 2016, she said.
Youth theater and family shows have primarily supported the theater for the last eight years, Hearth said. The question has been posed as to whether the Waldo needs to up its ante and bring in bigger acts, she said, but there are complications.
“We have to guarantee ticket sales,” she said. “We can’t sell $15 tickets for something that costs us $5,000.”
The theater has the potential to seat up to about 290 people.
A “community guided season,” as outlined in the handout, could include the youth and family shows, concerts, comedians, art exhibition, open mic nights, competitive performances such as one-acts, or jam sessions.
Board members repeatedly pointed to a need for people to put time and effort in to the theater to make it work, and encouraged participation in a number of committees such as fundraising or season development.
“It really takes an army to run a theater, not a small group of people,” Melissa Hearth said. The board wants to reopen the building this year, but will be contingent on participation and support, she said.
The board is most interested at this point in hearing from the community on what people are interested in doing and how much they are willing to participate in the process, Hearth said.
Several people did volunteer at the meeting to serve on a fundraising committee, and many of those in attendance expressed an interest and willingness to participate with the theater in one fashion or another.
A substantial portion of the discussion focused on the structure of the theater’s board, organization and membership.
After the repeated plugs by board members for others to participate and contribute, suggestions from the public to bring on additional board members sooner rather than later were met with some reluctance by the board.
Oren Robinson, of Waldoboro, asked if the board would accept the vote of people in attendance to elect some new board members, but board member Chrys Hearth said it wasn’t something he would accept “on the spot.”
The strengths or commitment of those people wouldn’t be known to the current board, and the group could vote the current four members out, which wouldn’t make sense, Hearth said.
According to board member Tod Widdecombe, the current four board members are the only members of the Waldo Theatre organization.
“We’re the only people who’ve stuck it out with this theater,” Widdecombe said.
The “worker bees” who contribute to the effort are those who should be on the board, Chrys Hearth said.
Hearth did say, however, the board is drafting new bylaws to replace its current ones, which have gone missing, to establish an ideal range for the number of board members, to establish a process for the organization’s members to elect the board annually, and to define exactly what qualifies someone as a organizational member.
The goal for the definition of a member is to base it on people’s efforts rather than solely on monetary contributions, he said.
According to Hearth, there is no reason a draft of the bylaws could not be shared with the public for input once they are a little further along, and said the theater’s Facebook page, and website, www.thewaldo.org, once it is updated in coming weeks, would be a source for such information.
“We want to be fully transparent,” Melissa Hearth said, adding that the board will reach out to contact people who filled out contact cards at the meeting.
Former Waldo board member Steve Cartwright encouraged the current board to make its meetings open to the general public, but received no commitment from the board.
According to a post on the Waldo’s Facebook page after the meeting, “more people WILL be added to the board, and committees will be set up and put in motion in accordance with the goals set by the governing parties and associates.”
The post goes on, saying the direction the theater will take will be decided in the coming weeks and made public at another meeting in a month.
“The direction will be decided in conjunction with a cross section of the community who were both present and productive at tonight’s meeting, and have had a part in both the history and a vested and active interest in the future of the Waldo and its surroundings,” the post reads.