Message from the Board President
A Message from the Actors' NET Board President, Marco Newton
STATE OF THE NET
As we approach 2012 and the mid-point of our 16th season, it is a time to celebrate and renew. We celebrate the amazing productions our company has produced under the guidance and inspiration of our Co-Founders, Artistic Director Cheryl Doyle and her husband, General Manager Joe Doyle. Since they started the company in 1996, The NET has earned a reputation as one of the area's top theatre companies. Discerning theatre-goers and actors seeking artistic challenge alike agree that what we produce on our "postage stamp-size" stage is live theatre at its best.
We could simply coast and rest on our laurels. But that isn't The Actors' NET Way. Let's look back on what we've accomplished to date and what we intend to do in the future.
In recent years, The NET has been able to right its financial ship. Back in 2006, The NET showed a net loss of just over $2,000. Since then, we acquired our 501(c)(3) status as a nonprofit tax-exempt corporation from the federal government, which makes donations to The NET tax-deductible. In 2011, from January through October, we are presently operating in the black (with any surpluses already earmarked for upcoming show expenses) -- despite producing such towering and expensive shows as Cabaret and Once Upon a Mattress, to name but two musicals. And, we haven't stinted on production values - costumes, sets, lighting and sound - for our stunning array of comedies and dramas, either.
More amazingly, we have managed - thanks in no small part to the leadership of the Board's Past President Ted Fletcher from whom I inherited my position earlier this year - to accomplish this financial feat without any raising of ticket prices since 2007. Tickets are still $20 for adults, $17 for seniors and $10 for children aged 12 and younger.
We have been fortunate over recent years to secure modest grants from the Bucks County Commissioners, but what has made the difference the most has been the unwavering support of our patrons and supporters who have generously made donations to our company in times of special need. Many have given without regard to their donation being tax-deductible, which it is. They have done so because they love what we do - and, to tell the truth, we love what we do as well. We hope it shows in each and every performance.
In the past year, we were able to raise the funds to acquire a new digital keyboard to replace our old one which had died, thus ensuring that our upcoming musicals and variety shows will continue to ear-pleasing as ever. With the musical blockbuster Gypsy slated to close Season 16, the keyboard will doubtless get a melodic workout.
We have 77 permanent seats in our Heritage Center, a converted garage that we lease from the borough's Economic Development Corporation (EDC). We have just begun a capital campaign to improve the look of the facility - taking out a small loan to cover renovations and improvements to the office/lobby area and the rest rooms.
Last year, we began to beautify our site by planting shrubs along the side of the staff/tech parking area and relocated our marquee to the front of the Heritage Center. But the heart of the matter is our facility's interior.
We intend to upgrade appearance to make visits to the Heritage Center more pleasant. Regular patrons (and performers) join us because they know the excellence of the shows onstage. But some sadly pass up the opportunity to see our quality work because they believe the ambiance is less than appealing. Hence, the capital campaign.
Much-needed renovations are underway. Over the coming months, each new production will be staged in a theatre that is ever-improving itself cosmetically. We hope that word of mouth will spread -- to paraphrase a song lyric -- that "the old Heritage Center just ain't what it used to be." Once more, our supporters are assisting in this cause and we are relying upon numerous volunteers to provide the labor necessary to make the upgrades. In these troubled and cynical times, isn't it terrific that people can still band together - as did Mickey and Judy in the old-time musicals - and echo that show biz war cry of, "Hey, gang - let's put on a show!"?
Like other nonprofits, we are heavily dependent upon volunteers for set construction and painting, costuming, maintenance, lighting and sound design and operation, and ushering. Keeping our tiny theatre as clean as we'd like has perhaps been our greatest challenge.
Counting an eight-show regular season, two Summer Stars show, acting class productions and a summer NETStock production, we average producing a show a month. With all the bodies of performers, staff, technicians and patrons coming in and out (and leaving behind litter, etc.), we know we will never be able to pass a "white glove inspection." But we are determined to improve!
Beginning with the December run of My Three Angels, we are paying a very modest stipend to a cleaning person to assist in keeping the facility as spotless as possible - which is especially challenging since its always in a state of frenzied activity: One show opens, the next one goes into immediate rehearsal. We hope the condition of our facility will show marked improvement over the coming months and look forward to all comments of encouragement and suggestions for further improvements we can make to add to everyone's theatre-going experience.
When I assumed the Board presidency earlier this year, I reflected on how far both the company and I have progressed since I took a bit part in The NET's fourth season production of Shaw's The Devil's Disciple. I've grown so much, personally and artistically, as an actor - all because there is such a company as The Actors' NET. I've learned under strong and patient directors how to improve in my craft onstage. More importantly, I've worked alongside amazingly talented individuals who have become as close as family to me.
It's hard for me to believe sometimes that I have appeared onstage here in more than 90 shows! Not all shows have been easy, but all have been special.
Here at the Heritage Center, we have what I call "The Actors' NET mystique." We do the impossible - mounting fully realized productions in just over a month's time, each and every month. The week before a show opens is universally known as "hell week."
Often, the week before a show opens, it is organized chaos - dialogue hasn't quite been nailed down (and sometimes, neither have the sets and there is a mad dash to finish painting), costumes are still being acquired and altered, lights are being adjusted and focused, sound cues are being mixed, and the sense of urgency becomes palpable. "Will it all come together?" one may wonder. "Can we do it?"
The answer thus far has been, and I expect always will be, "Yes." Because of "the mystique." Our Co-Founders are theatre professionals who have surrounded themselves with some of the best theatrical minds in the area. They demand the best out of us all, not by haranguing, but by example. No one works harder or puts in longer hours than they do. They lead by example.
As General Manager, Joe is the face of Actors' NET: Handling publicity, writing the programs, often writing some of our productions, and manning the box office 24/7. On call at all times, day and night, he puts in at least 60 hours of work a week - and that's on a slow week.
Cheryl, our intrepid Artistic Director, holds down a full-time "civilian" job and then goes right to work on shows. As they get ready to go into production, both Doyles burn the midnight oil. And they have been doing so for almost 16 straight years - with just one three-day vacation, some ten years ago, in all that time.
Season 16 is a transition year. This season, for the first time, Cheryl and Joe are only directing one show each. Between them, they've directed at least 90 percent of the 190-plus shows The NET has presented - serving as co-producers for most of them. Both, now in their 60s, are determined to make sure The NET continues long after they no longer have the vigor to keep up that pace. Together with the Board of Directors, they are coordinating efforts to cross-train other company members to be able to assume all their responsibilities for that eventual time when age necessitates their handing the reins over to others.
We look forward to many more years of their inspirational guidance. And we pledge to them - and you -- to preserve the integrity and artistic vision of the company as we move on together to continue making "quality theatre at an affordable price."
I look forward to seeing you all at the shows.
ActorsNET Board of Directors