Saturday, August 01, 2009

Black Hills Playhouse

They asked for it, and so they're now going to get it.

I went to a play today at the Black Hills Playhouse, a theater located in the Black Hills.

Because of their decrepit and aging buildings (they were built during the CCC days) they are facing some repair troubles, to which the governor of South Dakota has recommended moving the playhouse elsewhere in Custer State Park.

Now if you read this article here, it seems that South Dakota governor, Mike Rounds is more than willing to have the Black Hills Playhouse continue on and stay in the Black Hills, preferably in facilities that are not falling apart (and TRUST ME they ARE falling apart, I just saw it 7 hours ago). To which you would think those at the Black Hills Playhouse would feel great about.


Before the play started, up come the manager of the playhouse to make a "cute" announcement about how long the Black Hills Playhouse had been around. A 20 something young lady, standing on her veritable soap box saying;

It had been around longer than the Guthrie in Minneapolis

Some place in Kansas City.

Outlasting the Steppenwolf (I don't care how it's spelled)

Outlasting 12 presidents


15 governors.

The entire crowd laughed and clapped, which suggested to me something of a local politics was at hand (and that I was in about the only liberal crowd in South Dakota...though that was tipped off by the only Obama bumper stickers and effeminate men I saw there).

Regardless, sure enough she told us that Governor Rounds wanted to move the playhouse and that if we liked theater we should call him up and protest, and then triumphantly marched off stage to applause.

Originally, I thought perhaps Governor Rounds was planning on axing the Black Hills Playhouse, but upon doing my research and finding out he just wanted them moved from their tetanus-infested facilities, I got angry. Not because this was another group of leftists begging for more money for something nobody wants and therefore needs to be subsidized by the taxpayer, but just the outright lie I was delivered.

Ergo, let me tell you about the Black Hill's Playhouse.

1. The play was not that good. It was downright awful. Sure some funny parts, but nothing great. It was a musical. I don't blame the actors, I blame the writers. Robert DeNiro couldn't have made that one fly.

2. The arrogance of these people to be so damn pouty and DEMAND those decrepit facilities be upgraded when it's obvious they should be torn down and moved to a new location (if for anything for their own damn safety) angers me. They're on the government's dime (not to mention charity of many donators) and they act like they're choosers when they are beggars.

3. The larger point, understand that the "arts" and "theater" are inexorably intertwined with government financing because IT COULD NOT EXIST ON IT'S OWN. And the reason why is that NOBODY WANTS IT. If it was in demand like I-Pods or Harry Potter movies, they wouldn't need to go to the South Dakota taxpayer like a bum with a cup in their hand. People would willingly pay an adequate price to not only repair/buy new facilities, but generate a profit for its owners and benefactors. However (and now it's time once again boys and girls to break out a pencil and a piece of paper for the Captain is about to make a very important point) all this is, is a group of adult children who want to be paid for their hobby instead of getting a real job like the rest of us and making something the rest of society wants. You see, you morons, you schmucks who go in and work those jobs like programmers, or burger flippers or plumbers, you're idiots. You should get jobs you like, like being an actor, a singer, a writer, an ice cream taster, or a beer judge or a professional video game player. And if society won't pay for it, then DEMAND the government subsidize you. And not only subsidize you, complain when the government offers you new facilities instead of upgrading your un-upgradable, old Chernobyl-esque facilities.

However, also understand it is not just the actors, board members and other people who want a government financed hobby, but those that attend the theater and demand the price be subsidized for them that are to blame. I'll give kudos to those who donate thousands of dollars, they are not only willing to bear the full costs it would take to successfully operate the facilities, but subsidize those who won't. But for those that complain, but don't donate, but rather insist the taxpayer subsidize their evening out to a horrible musical, shame on you.

In the meantime, given cut backs and the recession I think those at the Black Hills Playhouse are going to (SHOCK AND HORROR) have to accept the NEW facilities instead of having the old crumbling ones refurnished. And imagine that, some 6 million...have lost their jobs, but they complain about having to move. I think a better thing would be to contact Governor Rounds and demand these spoiled brats become grown ups and either sink or swim without any subsidies and face the cold hard realities of life us normal adults do every day.


Milton Hayek said...

Here, here. This kind of selfishness is bad enough in normal times but during a recession it's just downright evil. People are getting laid off and you want to squeeze a shrinking economy even further so you can have your hobby. Like many things liberals complain about, this is partially of their own making--i.e. the enormous cost of putting on a show could be somewhat tempered if the labor weren't unionized.

I'm a film fanatic, that means I watch and own a lot of old, foreign, silent, black and white, etc. films that aren't always in the best shape and need extensive restoration and mastering. That costs money. Yet I don't demand that tax-payers subsidize my hobby, no sir, I pay $40 or more for a Criterion Collection DVD. I pay extra for the best translations of Dostoevsky, I don't make others do it for me. When I bought Super Mario Galaxy, I, and I alone, paid for my copy.

What makes symphonies or plays or musicals so much more important that they deserve tax-payer money? Rarely do any of these whiners try to make an argument to justify their theft, rather they simply go on about whatever benefits they offer to "the community" by merely existing, how they make up the character of the state/city/neighborhood/whatever, blah blah blah you've heard all the crappy arguments I'm sure.

Hot Sam said...

Liberal economic policy explained:

"If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. If it stops moving, subsidize it." - Ronald Reagan

Anonymous said...

You, know other that "royal" (or equivalent) patronage, it used to be that most art WAS popular.

To wit: Shakespear, Mozart's Enchanted Flute (outdoor summer beer hall entertainment!)

Now when governments started taxing everything that they could stick their mitts on and rich patrons of the arts pretty well dried up, suddenly guvmint stepped in to protect culture or something.

The obvious improverisement that has resulted in resolves right back to not more government interferences, but LESS.

Kinda like health care.

Anonymous said...

Burn it down. It is the only way. Fire. Fire. Fire.

Geoarrge said...

What would Ragnar Danneskjold do?

Anonymous said...

Here is a link that the captain will find amusing.

Dr Bob said...

Damned if we have the same mentality for the arts in Minnesota - lots of outstate taxpayer subsidies for arts that only the wealthy in the Twin Cities attend.

Anonymous said...

Nothing brings out the stark outline of this foolishness like a theater. If you look around at the audience of a typical tax-supported theater, you won't see many waitresses, plumbers or farmers. You'll see a bunch of well-dressed folks with six-figure incomes "patronizing the arts." They buy their subsidized tickets and never think about the true cost of it, and delude themselves into thinking the theater is "doing something good for the community" when it is in fact merely subsidizing their taste for anachronistic entertainment.

Bread and circuses for the masses is bad enough, but b&c for the patricians? That's disgraceful.

Anonymous said...

While the idea of theatre and what it does/can do still remains, the fact is that it has become a bloated, disfigured version of its former self. The theatre that existed a hundred years ago has all but been replaced by money-"starved," attention seeking idiots who will put anything up on a stage. (The same thing happened with television, Reality TV anyone?) In the past, audiences were able to see great works of not only theatre but of human potential, now we're reduced to seeing every Disney movie made into a Broadway musical. The filter has been turned off. What's worse is that when these projects fail, the aforementioned "idiots" turn to the public, and sometimes the government, for aid, contributing to this idea that theatre and the Arts have become a superfluous expense (one that in this economy, can be cut).

These "idiots" are creating a negative image so dense that it's making it nearly impossible to see the brilliant work that still exists (some of which is being ignored or overshadowed, and some of which is currently raking in the dough).

Perhaps what the theatre business, community, whatever, needs is (dare I say it) a Reform. Simply put: Get rid of the crap, focus on what's good (which sometimes won't be the most profitable), and stop whining. Forget Grease and High School Musical and start showing us, the public, that there is more out there than watching some hack sing a terrible song about how much they want to go to the prom (perhaps something Worth paying 80 bucks to see). Stop stealing my money, and start earning it. Prove that you're a valid profession and that you're interested in far more than profiting from your so called "hobby."

It's not going to be easy, and survival of the fittest will most likely factor in (please), but when the dust settles won't we all just be better people for it...

To make a somewhat out there comparison, theatre and the Arts are in a recession of their own. They need to change or they'll plummet into a huge, maybe even Great Depression and eventually everyone will die horrible, nasty deaths. The change will not be easy, and will not be instantaneous, but, when they finally come out of that recession, much like the economy, things will be better (we hope).

Anonymous said...

I would like nothing more than to sit down and have a chat with you, and straighten out your rather misguided facts. Being one of the actors in the horrible show you saw, I feel its my duty to enlighten you as to the real facts. And since this is being moderated I'll trust that if this comment does not appear your a faceless coward who likes nothing more to hear himself talk. I invite you to grow up and have a real discussion about what you so ignorantly blasted.

Miles Brindley
AKA - Actor/Head Cook/Snack Bar Manager for the Black Hills Playhouse

Anonymous said...

What I would like to know is, does anyone replying to this post watch and enjoy movies or television? Music videos? etc.? Because I would like you to tell me who creates those worlds that the American people spend billions to see through costumes, sets, lights, music etc. And where do you think all of those medium originated? (theatre perhaps?!) I know everyone wants to think it's just clothing or something and that anyone could do it, but the fact is that anyone can't. Try designing a set or costumes based on a few small character or setting descriptions (sometimes none at all other than what you find in a text) and tell me how easy it is to tell who a person is through what they're wearing or where they live.

Without those of us whom participate in this "hobby," as you call it, I would call it a profession (no different from any other, and we probably work longer and harder) you wouldn't have half of the media you have today. Maybe that would be a good thing in your minds, but next time you want something to do on a night off think about what your life would be like if you didn't have such opportunities for entertainment available to you.

Joan St.Germain said...

Oh Captain, my captain...I dare you to print this in its entirety...

I'm so glad you went to see the show - whether you enjoyed it or not, your support of new works onstage is laudable, although it sounds like you were dragged there kicking and screaming against your will.

Regarding the announcements prior to the show - obviously, you remembered only the one made by Laura Krouse, Stage Manager, and not the ones made by Michael Burgraff, Executive Director, prior to her appeal, thanking the SPONSORS of the 2009 season. Grant Writing and fund-raising are a year round job, and THAT is how theatre is produced at the BHP, not on handouts from the state.
The fact that any arts institution has existed for 65 years and weathered the ups and downs of the 20th century's economic recessions and mini depressions is astounding.
Like any corporation of its age, the Playhouse has undergone several changes in leadership over the years, and not all administrations handled the mantle of stewardship for the former CCC camp equally well. Yes, the buildings are crumbling and no longer suitable for occupancy - but recall that they were temporary structures in the first place, and intended to last for 5 years, not 65! Of the several thousand camps built across the US, the Playhouse is one of three camps still somewhat intact in the nation.

You assume that the Governor's choice to rescind the BHP's lease in order to relocate the company elsewhere in the park INCLUDES new infrastructure like a performing space, a rehearsal space, scenic, property and costume shops, storage for each of those areas, housing for the entire company, cooking and dining facilities.
The BHP has no such guarantees from Governor Rounds or from Dick Miller, superintendent of Custer State Park.

Let me clarify the situation for you...

Custer State Park needs a new septic and sewerage system for Center Lake, the campground adjacent to the BHP. They would also like the BHP to tie its faltering sewer system into the new Center Lake system - all of this seems reasonable. The State Park Authority went to the legislature for 1 million dollars to accomplish the project, and they received $700,000 (approx.). Mr. Miller would like the BHP to pay $300,000 to tie into the new septic lines, but bids from independent contractors estimate the job at $35,000...

IF the BHP comes up with the $300,000, THEN the Park will look at extending the BHP's lease on a year to year basis, as opposed to the 10 year lease that had served for the last 60+ years. Captain Capitalism, since you are fond of comparing theatrical companies with "real world" ventures, can you imagine any other corporate entity agreeing to this type of financial commitment with so little return? Would you spend $10,000 to renovate the bathroom in your apartment and agree to a month to month lease with your landlord? You'd be a fool if you did, and while the BHP may be "artsy-fartsy", they are not fools!

So I ask you, Captain, does it seem unreasonable for a group to request that its supporters contact the Governor to assure fair dealing and open negotiation as they try to continue operations with a 65 year legacy?
If you feel that you must criticize, then what alternative solutions do you offer?

Joan St.Germain
Costume Supervisor, BHP 2009

mister137 said...

I'm a businessman/capitalist/engineer and a 35+ year patron of the Black Hills Playhouse. There are a few things that the Captain didn't mention:

1. The Playhouse get's very little money from government grants. None from Custer State Park. Most income is from ticket sales. A little from the snack bar.

2. The Playhouse has about 20,000 attendees each year. Not bad for a theatre in the middle of nowhere. These people stay at state-owned resorts, eat at state-owned restaurants, pay park entrance fees, yet the Playhouse gets no cut of these revenues.

3. In 1979, the Playhouse gave money to the state to rebuild the sewer system. The state-hired engineer designed system that never worked. Lawsuits were filed, but the engineering firm filed for bankruptcy.

4. Take a day and spend it with a company member. They commonly work 18 hour days for minimal pay.

5. The Governor created a task force to study the problem, yet after 3 years, hasn't implemented a single recommendation.

6. Why is the Playhouse responsible for building maintenance. The state is the landlord; the Playhouse pays rent. The theatre building was paid for 20 years ago. What is the rent money going to know.

7. The Governor requested a business plan from the Playhouse. Since when does a landlord need to know this?

8. The Governor is causing 60+ people to lose their jobs because he is concerned about their health and safety.

9. Speaking about health and safety, is the Governor going to do something about other park dangers such as free-roaming buffalo and other decrepit park buildings, such as the Harney Peak ranger station?

10. Is the Governor really concerned about the well being of the individual when he lords over the South Dakota predatory lending industry and the only state in the U.S. with no usuary limits.

10. 60 years ago, Custer State Park asked the Playhouse to bring in and entertain park visitors. The Playhouse held up their end of the bargain and have every expectation of a lease renewal. They have acted in good faith and fair dealing. The Governor hasn't.

11. Because of the history of good faith, the Playhouse can also sue the state for tortious interference with business relationships and prospective economic advantage.

12. Many insider sources state that the Governor wishes to evict the Playhouse so that he can develop the land for personal gain.

12. I've seen a few bad plays at the Playhouse, but most have been good and a few have been exceptional. 20,000 patrons a year think they are worthwhile.

13. Like you, I hate stage speeches too.