Support for Shakespeare
Editor's note: The following letter is reprinted from last month's issue, this time with a response from OLNC Chair Dick Callaway.
One night this past summer, a member of our acting company met a young family. The mother, a native Louisvillian, has been coming to our free productions since her father introduced her to the world of Mr. Shakespeare at the tender age of eight. As a parent, she wanted her children to have the same childhood experience, but there is no free summer Shakespeare in St. Louis. And so each year the family drives four hours to enjoy our free performances in Old Louisville's Central Park. Thus a family tradition is born, nurtured and carried on to the next generation. It has been that way for 40 years.
I am proud to announce that our 40th anniversary season was a huge public success. Gorgeous weather and wonderful productions of Romeo and Juliet, and Twelfth Night combined to bring 42% more audience members to the heart of Old Louisville's Preservation District.
That's the good news. The bad news is that we have a financial crisis on our hands. We are nearing the end of our fiscal year and still must raise $25,000. Each year, 90% of the summer operating budget must be raised through donations. We exist only through the generosity and support of organizations like yours. Our 2000 summer season cost $150,000 to produce. If we had charged a ticket price, it would have been $12.37 per person.
We need your help. Funding from the Old Louisville Neighborhood Associations has dwindled from an all time height of $5,051 in 1996 to this season's $1,125. That's almost a 500% decrease over the past five years. We can't sustain such financial hits.
Of this year's $1,125, Garvin Gate, Second Street, and Third Street matched their previous donations-thank you. 1300 South Third Street matched their previous donation thank you. 1300 South Third Street increased its previous donation by 67%---a hearty thank you. St. James Court reduced its previous donations by 1200% and the Old Louisville Council, Belgravia, Central Park West, Fourth Street, Limerick, and Toonerville, all of whom have previously donated, gave nothing.
Our commitment to Old Louisville has not diminished. Why has your support?
I hope that this is simply an oversight on your part and that you will send us your donation immediately. If this is not an oversight, and you have issues and/or concerns about our festival, I welcome your contacting me directly. I would be delighted to attend one of your monthly meetings.
I know money is tight and there is no easy way to support all the deserving causes that must come to your attention. I ask you to please remember that the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival makes a significant contribution to the quality of life in Old Louisville. Over the past forty years, we have provided free Shakespeare to over 500,000 people. Your dollars will help keep our Festival alive into the next millennium.
Ask yourself: What other summer event brought 12,126 people to Old Louisville?
Thank you for your time and consideration. Please help us continue the gift of free Shakespeare. Your support will make all the difference.
Curt L. Tofteland
Producing Director, Shakespeare in Central Park
(Webmaster note: the Shakespeare in Central Park Web Site may be found at http://www.kyshakes.org. The reply follows:)
The Old Louisville Neighborhood Council is gratified that Curt Tofteland has taken the time to bring KSF's concerns to our attention. Certainly, we want to see Shakespeare continue in Central Park for another 40 years - and beyond. Since Mr. Tofteland addressed us in an open letter, I felt that was the fairest way to respond, and that the fairest format would be to reprint his letter, so that it and my response could stand side-by-side. The following remarks are intended in a spirit of friendship and comity and in the hope that we can have a stronger relationship than ever. I sincerely hope they will be accepted in that spirit.
My first thought is that other contributions must have dropped as well, if there is a $25,000 shortfall. Using Mr. Tofteland's own figures, our contributions have declined by $4,000 over the last four years. To be sure that is a precipitous drop, particularly since it does represent a 500% decrease. But it would suggest to me that other contributors may have followed a similar path. I'm mentioning this not to point fingers at other donors, but to suggest that a marketing problem might be involved. No one asked me for a contribution.
I hope that doesn't sound disingenuous. Of course, I know Shakespeare is going on right out side our doors. Of course, I know it takes money to keep it going, but, sometimes I am too busy (or just too dense) to put two and two together without others' help. I am new in this job this year and so is my staff - (I believe, incidentally, that this is the first time since OLNC's beginning, twenty-five years ago, that this has been the case.) I did have this job fifteen years ago, but I do not remember making any philanthropic decisions without staff help at that time.
By the same token, several of the neighborhood associations you mention have new leadership. Some of these also have very little money on hand - probably less than the Council has. This is not to say they couldn't spare something for a good cause, but I'm sure you would agree with me that even well-heeled organizations (and individuals) seldom offer contributions with no encouragement at all. If I have learned anything in over thirty years of raising funds and working with volunteers, it is that people not only need to be asked, they like to be asked. There have been times that I had very little money, yet made a donation, because I was flattered that someone thought I could help.
If I may continue a bit further in this vein, it seems to me that any organization that is a good steward of its finances should always ask, "Of what benefit is this to our organization or our neighborhood?" You may think the answer to this is obvious, but it may not be to everyone. Again, it goes back to marketing. And to understanding that everyone has demands on their time and money, and that no one likes to be taken for granted.
You say your commitment to Old Louisville has not diminished. Perhaps not. But perhaps that commitment does need to be redefined. How many years have we heard that you might be leaving our neighborhood? Your board has talked for a number of years about other locations, e.g. the grounds of the Louisville Visual Art Association. When Steve Henry was "A" District County Commissioner, he wanted you, if I recall correctly, to move your performances to a quarry in his district. I do understand that if you don't watch your bottom line, no one else will. And I do appreciate that you haven't moved, that you are still here. But it would be understandable - to my mind at least - if some associations or individuals felt they had been held hostage. And I know you will agree that no one finds that a comfortable feeling.
We do appreciate the fact that Shakespeare brings people into our neighborhood. It's wonderful that your attendance was up 42% this year. I dare say Old Louisvillians accounted for at least their fair share of this. But I wonder: Have you ever included anything in your program or your curtain speech about the "special" neighborhood in which you are performing? What "press" are we getting for our "bucks?" Or are we expected to be satisfied with "feel good" contributions?
I would welcome your contacting us directly. Had this been done in the first place, this letter writing exchange might not have been necessary. However, this may have been for the best. More people have been exposed to the needs and desires of each of our organizations than ever would have been otherwise. So, I'm sure it's been healthy. That said, we would like you to come to one of our meetings so we can meet and talk with you personally. Regular communication would eventually, I think, obviate these concerns.
Again, I hope this is received in the spirit in which it is intended. We would like to see you remain in Old Louisville. We will listen to any ideas you have about how we might better support you.
Dick Callaway, OLNC Chair
Making A DifferenceBy Deborah Stewart
Some say good neighbors are hard to come by, but those of us who live in Old Louisville know better. Good neighbors and the sense of community they engender are one of Old Louisvilles strongest attributes. We look out for one another around here.
Take Jo Ann and Arnold Celentano. Nearly seven years ago, they moved into a house in the 1000 block of South Third St. What they found was not pretty.
Arnold witnessed a drug deal outside our kitchen window, Jo Ann recalled. We had a back yard full of huge trees that were old and rotten on the inside. There was a parking lot almost to our back door and everywhere there was garbage. Whatever certain people didnt want, they threw it out in the alley. Syringes, liquor bottles, cigarette butts, garbage, garbage, everywhere.
Seven years later, all of that has changed. The garbage-infested alley is clean and was recently named in honor of Howard Poole, who has owned and operated Dizzy Whiz restaurant on the south end of the alley for the past 53 years.
The Celentanos back yard that once provided the setting for drug deals and loitering is now a reservoir of natural beauty. Arnold and Jo Ann had the rotten trees removed and planted a flower garden.
We let the sunshine in and the bad people just left, Jo Ann said. You cant improve the quality of life when you live in garbage. Arnold started picking up garbage and it was contagious. Others started doing the same thing. Then the Second Street Liquor Store closed and that was a big help. Plus, we have great neighbors. Baptist Towers, they are just fantastic neighbors. They keep an eye on the alley and call if anything suspicious is going on.
While things were improving in the alley out back of their home, a different situation was festering out front and across the street. A former boarding house was converted to housing for men who were on medication and suffered from various physical and emotional problems. There was no one qualified to supervise the distribution of medication and when things got out of hand, the sheriff would show up and some of these men would be taken to Central State, according to Jo Ann.
It was so sad, she said. These men would come out carrying a Kroger bag which held everything they owned and the Sheriff would haul them off.
Jo Ann thought there had to be a better way to treat these men. They were housed in 8x8 rooms. Without proper medication, some of the men became irrational and violent. So, she wrote the Kentucky Cabinet for Health Services and requested an investigation. The day she mailed her letter requesting the investigation, a body was found in the basement.
That was somebodys son, she said. He was found dead of three gun shot wounds to the chest and it was the smell that led them to the body. He had been dead for two weeks.
Three weeks later, another man died on the premises. He died of natural causes, but drugs were not ruled out. I wrote another letter after that, Jo Ann said, and by that time the State Health Department had gone into the property and found in the words of their report, roaches, feces, and mounds of debris evidence of neglect under guardianship.
The owner was given until August 31 to clear the building of all occupants. No one knows quite what the next step will be, but one thing is for sure, the Celentanos are the ones we should thank for their perseverance and courage. Good neighbors can and do make a difference.
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