Travolta appeals to theater subscribers - Coeur d'Alene Press: Local News

Travolta appeals to theater subscribers

Actress says summer theater must raise $150,000 to continue

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Posted: Saturday, August 17, 2013 12:00 am

COEUR d'ALENE - The fate of Coeur d'Alene Summer Theatre rests in the performing arts organization's ability to raise $150,000.

And it has to be done quickly.

"We need support now," said actress Ellen Travolta, of Coeur d'Alene. Travolta's acting resume includes roles on several hit television sitcoms. She has been a staple on the Coeur d'Alene Summer Theatre stage since 1990, and formerly served on the nonprofit's board.

Earlier this week, season ticket subscribers and the public learned that financial woes may force the cancellation of the 46-year-old theater group's 2014 season. The situation is more dire and urgent than many people realize, Travolta told The Press on Friday.

Lackluster ticket sales, in recent years and during this summer's four shows, leave the organization in need of $150,000 to break even.

The amount sounds "daunting," Travolta said, but it can be raised quickly, if each of CST's 3,000 season ticket holders pitches in.

"If each of those subscribers would give $50, they would have enough to finish out the year," Travolta said.

The decline of ticket sales isn't exclusive to CST, Travolta said.

"The trend is all over in theater, opera, ballet, the symphonies," she said. "They're all hurting, and it's all across the country."

Michelle Mendez, CST's executive director, said most people don't realize that the theater is a 501c3 nonprofit, relying almost entirely on ticket sales. They also receive grants and donations.

CST receives no government funding and is not associated in any way with the city of Coeur d'Alene.

"I also want people to know that we are not a part of North Idaho College," Mendez told The Press. "We rent the facility and employ many of their staff."

CST produces its summer shows in the college's Schuler Performing Arts Center.

The $70,000 cost of the theater rental each summer is one of the group's major expenses.

The rental fee alone is $18,570. In addition, there is a community use fee of 50 cents per seat filled during the season. The community use fee averages $12,000 each year. Technical staff costs $23,000 and ushers cost $16,000.

Donations can be made on CST's website,; by phone, 769-7780; or mail a check payable to Coeur d'Alene Summer Theatre to P.O. Box 1119, Coeur d'Alene, ID 83816.

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  • spudman1 posted at 11:36 am on Fri, Aug 23, 2013.

    spudman1 Posts: 445

    Another failed enterprise run by liberals. If the market place liked the program there would be no need for subsidy. No different than solynndra or any other scheme cooked up by those that think they know what's best for the masses. No demand here for their agenda. Entertainment turned into a message for the bleeding hearts doesn't sell well here. We see it daily in our media and the results are evident.

  • IdahoNative posted at 5:46 pm on Thu, Aug 22, 2013.

    IdahoNative Posts: 43

    That's not the point. The point is this. Travolta clearly has the money. Her brother has enough money to buy the whole state of Idaho and then some. If Patty Duke had money like the Travolta's, she wouldn't be working in local theater for beans. And she wouldn't be touring the USA talking about the same subject of Bipolar Disorder. Not to mention how she continually says the same thing like a robot at each speech she gives. Instead of explaining how it feels and what it actually is like to have Bipolar, she insists on rehashing the same stories that we've read in her books, and have heard with EVERY interview.

  • katiesmom posted at 8:42 am on Wed, Aug 21, 2013.

    katiesmom Posts: 19

    I can't believe some of you. First of all, how do you know they haven't already donated? Where is it said, if you are rich & famous, you carry the burden for the community? What needs to be done, is to look for more sponsors, have fund raisers. Despite what was previously mentioned, this is a community project. This isn't in anyway comparable to 47 million in food stamps.

  • Rationale posted at 1:36 pm on Tue, Aug 20, 2013.

    Rationale Posts: 1974


    Of course the theatre has failed in its marketing.

    However, instead of having a rich Hollywood actress beg for money from the community, perhaps she should beg from the ACTING community first!

    How much has SHE donated? How about Patti Duke? Besides, she has money on her own.

    Sorry if I feel no sympathy toward her.

  • Mahiun posted at 9:02 am on Tue, Aug 20, 2013.

    Mahiun Posts: 4860

    Why? What connection does John have to the Coeur d'Alene Summer Theatre, other than his sister Ellen? He wouldn't be bailing out the theatre, he'd be bailing out his sister. And that would be pretty shaky financial ground for the theatre to be on, don't you think? If Ellen left, so would the funding....

    I don't think she's asking for anything unreasonable, in making a pleas to the community to support an arts organization that was established in, by, and for the local community. It's not unreasonable at all, it's just probably impractical and too late.

    I kind of suspect that, like many not-for-profit arts organizations, CST was too slow in recognizing the writing on the wall, in terms of season tix sales as a funding source. It's becoming an obsolete way of funding arts organizations, and that's likely to only increase in the future.

    I was very heavily involved in the GALA Choruses movement for many, many years. And I remember going to a GALA Choruses leadership conference a few years back, in which one very effective session dealt with this need to let go of season ticket sales as a primary funding source, in favour of diversifying funding sources and especially corporate sponsorships and partnerships. For example, several choruses in northern California have formed strategic partnerships with large wineries; the winery publicizes the chorus events and provides wine at chorus fundraisers, and in exchange the chorus features the winery prominently in marketing materials and programs, and provides "mini-performances" at winery events. It's a true win-win.

    One of the other take-aways from that GALA Choruses session was that budgeting per season may also be an obsolete model. Younger audiences, in particular, are reluctant to make that kind of commitment, when there are so many entertainment options quickly searchable on the 'net, and entertainment choices are increasingly not made until the last minute, not months ahead (except "headliner" performers, of course). The recommendation was to budget per production, not per season, and keep projections to a rock-bottom level based on diversified funding sources --- then, ticket sales become "gravy".

    Now granted, CST is hamstrung by not having any really huge corporations in the area to serve as sponsors. But I still have to wonder if they've really aggressively pursued sponsorships and partnerships. Have they approached the resort, to create a "weekend package" kind of thing with a couple of nights at the resort and a pair of tix to a show, as a Romantic Getaway kind of thing that might appeal to the tourist trade? Have they approached any Yakima Valley wineries for partnership? Have they spoken with Starbucks, which tends to be very receptive to "sponsor the community" kinds of proposals? Where are they advertising and marketing --- do they have any kind of presence in the Spokane Airport, for example? Have they advertised in any airline in-flight mags? What kind of demographic research have they done, other than noticing that their local audience is aging --- do they know where their out-of-town audiences are coming from, for example?

    They've done a really pretty excellent job of knowing where to pull their cast members from, but I'm not convinced that they've done such a great job of marketing and knowing where to pull their audience members from.

    Or, it could simply be that in this day & age, the area simply lacks the critical mass to support a professional theatre company....

  • Rationale posted at 4:29 pm on Mon, Aug 19, 2013.

    Rationale Posts: 1974

    The point was that the whining by people like Travolta and Patti Duke is getting old. They have MILLIONS...or their family members do...let THEM foot the bill.

  • Mahiun posted at 7:28 am on Mon, Aug 19, 2013.

    Mahiun Posts: 4860

    Well, there is that little issue about actually being able to get performance rights....

    How about asking your multi-millionaire brother...?
    Who says she hasn't?

  • area man posted at 8:30 pm on Sun, Aug 18, 2013.

    area man Posts: 82

    Maybe if they produced better shows like RENT, Book of Morman, Lion King, Motown, Wickid, and so on maybey they would get more butts in them seats.

  • area man posted at 8:28 pm on Sun, Aug 18, 2013.

    area man Posts: 82

    Scientology forbids it! Maybe...I don't know. Who knows?

  • Rationale posted at 10:51 pm on Sat, Aug 17, 2013.

    Rationale Posts: 1974

    Geee...last name TRAVOLTA...

    How about asking your multi-millionaire brother...?

  • Sheeken Hunter posted at 1:08 pm on Sat, Aug 17, 2013.

    Sheeken Hunter Posts: 178

    My guesstimate is that if every area resident who doesn't go to the CST kicked in a dime, the amount necessary to keep it open would be easily exceeded. On the other hand, instead of asking each of the season ticket holders to kick in $50, why doesn't CST just raise the price of a season ticket by that amount?

  • SKGOP posted at 8:40 am on Sat, Aug 17, 2013.

    SKGOP Posts: 286

    It is admirable to want to save something you love and have out your heart and soul into. It's sad to wake up one morning and realize "it's over". In business, and make NO mistake, CST is a business money plays an important part. A VERY important part. IF, CST fails and comes to an end lessons will be learned from this. One which i learned 50 years ago is that in business, you keep a close eye on your monet situation and when trouble arises you punn intended. CST acted and acted, but too late where money was concerned....punn intended. If CST is no more, my bet is that someone will begin a new CST and it will be profitable. My guess

  • will-- posted at 8:30 am on Sat, Aug 17, 2013.

    will-- Posts: 908

    47 million on food stamps and we're worried about keeping the theater afloat?

  • voxpop posted at 5:20 am on Sat, Aug 17, 2013.

    voxpop Posts: 738

    "CST receives no government funding and is not associated in any way with the city of Coeur d'Alene."

    And never should ...

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