2016 Annual Meeting Remarks from Managing Director Christa Hollingsworth

img_0792Year in Review

National Tour 2015

The 2015 national tour of A Christmas Carol traveled 9,500 miles to sixteen different venues along the eastern coast and throughout the Midwest. It was, as you can imagine, a stressful and at times panicked undertaking. For a variety of reasons, we have ended our relationship with the tour bookers and will not be producing a national tour this winter. There is no doubt that the project pushed the boundaries of what we as an organization are capable of, and for that we are grateful for the opportunity, and looking forward to our next holiday production geared specifically for our home community.

New Artistic Leadership

Sharon Paquette joined our team last January as our Producing Artistic Director. I can’t stress enough what a wonderful and strong addition Sharon is to our Jean’s Playhouse family. The transition of artistic leadership was extremely smooth and positive. We did not have to cut any programming last winter, even though we also lost our full-time Technical Director around the same time. And I think that our summer and fall professional season boasted our most consistently strong work since I have been here. Certainly, Sharon’s creative and organic approach to the well-trod Godspell this July was some of my favorite theatre I’ve ever seen! Other highlights for me were Brandon Beaver’s cross-dressing lead in Leading Ladies, some rated-R puppet action in Avenue Q, and universally-lauded On Golden Pond, which happened to star Maggie Bush, meaning we also had the opportunity to welcome her mother-in-law, former First Lady Barbara Bush, to our little theatre. She said our Playhouse was lovely… and very clean.

Jean’s Teens Progress

Our youth development program, Jean’s Teens, produced two shows this year directed by Vicki Etchings. The spring production, The Phantom Tollbooth, played in April with nineteen aspiring local performers. The fall production, The Magic Flute, played just two weekends ago with twenty-one youth participants. I think our kids performances in The Magic Flute may have been the most prepared since we started the program. This is encouraging because it means those who have continued in the program for years are starting to take us seriously when we tell them they need to practice their lines at home! The Jean’s Teens program has been made possible by grants from the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, Dead River Company, the New Hampshire Electric Co-op Foundation, the Bank of New Hampshire, the Parker Nelson Foundation and the Oleonda Jameson Trust. Support for the continuance of the program in 2016 has been pledged from the Billings Trust, the Oleonda Jameson Trust, the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts, and Price Chopper. Jean’s Teens next performance this coming April, A Kidsummer Night’s Dream, will include some music.

PSU Marketing Presentation

Jean’s Playhouse acted as the client for a graduate marketing class at PSU in the spring of 2016. Primary recommendations at the culmination of the semester-long project were to:

  1. Identify the business location in business name or logo; for example, add “Lincoln, NH” to the current logo
  2. Increase Main Street, Lincoln signage, particularly closer to the turn off of Main Street
  3. Improve website and SEO optimization

In reference to the first point of location identification in our name or logo, the organization experienced significant rebranding efforts and challenges with the opening of Jean’s Playhouse in the summer of 2012. A complete rebranding of all organizational activities under the umbrella of “Jean’s Playhouse” was recommended by respected marketing professionals in order to remain a cohesive unit with the new building. Now nearing the five-year mark in the new facility, Jean’s Playhouse is well-known as the performing arts center in Lincoln to those who are already aware that Lincoln has a performing arts center. Internally, we have begun discussions on potentially returning to our founding name as the North Country Center for the Arts at Jean’s Playhouse with an updated logo and/or building signage. Should the organization choose to return to our roots as the North Country Center for the Arts, a significant rebranding campaign would be required to communicate the change throughout the state. Any steps toward rebranding will be slow and measured, first seeking buy-in from our immediate community of Lincoln-Woodstock before making any permanent changes, and then seeking funding for a state-wide rebranding campaign.

In reference to the second point of increasing Main Street signage, the Woodstock Inn & Station recently contributed a third of its new Main Street billboard to advertise Jean’s Playhouse. We are also working with our neighbor and supporter, RiverWalk Resort at Loon Mountain, to renovate existing signage at the Main Street turn to include directional signage for Jean’s Playhouse.

In reference to the third point of improving our website and search-engine optimization, we aim to increase audience participation across the state and the New England region by improving our inbound marketing with regular blog postings in our field of expertise, tied to social media and video marketing, eventually adding another revenue stream through eBooks and online fundraising auctions and raffles. Eventually, a part-time staff position will be required to coordinate and implement wide-ranging inbound marketing strategies while staying abreast of new audience demographic and industry marketing trends. In the meantime, staff plans to launch regular blog postings on our field of expertise- producing theatre in a rural community- this January.

Playhouse Players

Our community theatre program, the Playhouse Players, has two shows in 2016, The Dining Room in May, directed by Manchester artist Amanda Pawlik, and The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, the Musical, playing next month, directed by Sharon Paquette with Assistant Director Vicki Etchings. We decided to pivot on the title of our holiday show this year, which was previously going to be Scrooge The Musical, because we had so many great kids come out to audition and wanted to feature them in a show with 12 leading kids roles. Additionally, we were proud to nominate 2015’s Blithe Spirit for the New Hampshire Theatre Awards in the community theatre division, our first time submitting a production in that division, and were even more proud to win our first award in three years for Barbara Webb’s Supporting Actress performance.

IMPACT Children’s Theatre

Ticket sales for our touring children’s theatre summer season has declined steadily in the past ten years with minimal year-to-year increases. It is difficult to point to concrete reasons for this decline, as the number of participating venues across the state and the total number of performances have remained consistent over the same eight weeks each summer. Venue representatives point to the declining interest of summer camp groups in field trips that require transportation. U.S. theatre trends in the past five years show an overall increase in the number of children’s series performances offered across the country, so a flooded market may be lowering demand for our annual summer children’s theatre series.

Our most successful new initiative with our children’s theatre company has been to offer free-to-the-public performances once a week in Lancaster, NH, performing for children in an economically disadvantaged region where we had not previously traveled due to uncertain ticket sales revenues. This program was partially funded by the Noyes Lecture Fund in 2015 and the Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund in 2016, along with a number of community business sponsors. Lancaster Rialto General Manager Dave Fuller wrote this statement about the free series of IMPACT in summer 2015:

“IMPACT Children’s Theatre ran an amazing 8-week program at the Rialto Theatre. In that 8 weeks we had over 1000 people. Several day cares and Summer Rec programs took advantage of the free shows that gave a lot of children their first taste of live theatre. Three local day cares took advantage of being able to walk, saving on transportation.”

Total attendance at the Lancaster Rialto series in 2016 was just under 1,400 or 25% of total attendance at all children’s theatre venues. Through aggressive funding of performances in rural, economically disadvantaged communities, and increased marketing campaigns to day cares, recreation programs and summer camps around the state, we aim to increase our children’s theatre summer series attendance two-fold back to pre-recession levels.

The IMPACT Children’s Theatre season was sponsored by the Mountain Club on Loon, White Mountain Oil & Propane, and Sage Consulting.

Professional Season

I talked a bit our professional summer and fall season earlier when discussing Sharon’s transition into our family, but I think it’s important to talk a little bit about the numbers. Our summer season averaged 78 people per performance, our highest summer average attendance since 2012, our first summer in Jean’s Playhouse. Our fall season averaged 83 people per performance, our best fall attendance ever, due largely to Vicki Etchings work in group sales outreach. We welcomed 14 groups this summer and fall, and many of them visited our dining partners the Woodstock Inn & Station or Gordi’s Fish & Steak House for the very generous offer those restaurants give us for a Lunch and Show group special. We also partnered with the Eastern Adaptive Sports program out of Holderness for a special performance of On Golden Pond. More than 150 people came from the Lakes Region, many that were visiting Jean’s Playhouse for the first time.

The Lin-Wood High School made their fourth field trip to experience live professional theatre this September. Lin-Wood English Teacher Heather Krill had this to share:

“Taking our high school students across the street to Jean’s Playhouse to see Altar Boyz this fall was an incredible experience. Not only did some of our students return for repeat performances, they also referenced sensitive subject areas. One student shared,

‘It’s a lot easier to talk about teenagers being gay when we are able to watch a play that deals with those same issues, even if it’s a joke that they are coming out Catholic; we know what they are really talking about.’

“For many of our students, these performances at Jean’s Playhouse will be the only musical or theatrical experience they will have in their lifetime. Our students truly appreciate the unique qualities of this experience– to see actresses and actors on stage, “live and in person,” performing, singing, expressing vulnerability, and telling good stories. These are moments our kids won’t ever forget.”

2016 Papermill Theatre Company productions were sponsored by RiverWalk at Loon Mountain, InnSeason Resorts Pollard Brook, BlueGreen Resorts South Mountain, the Coca-Cola Bottling Company of New England, the Woodstock Inn & Station, Loon Mountain Resort, and 98.3 WLNH. The 2016 Broadway Bound Summer Camp was sponsored by the Lincoln-Woodstock Rotary Club.

New Highlights

This May, volunteers led by Karin Martel and Roz Lowen installed a community garden in our north yard. It is a beautiful variety of plants and flowers that were all donated from community members. Longtime patron and supporter, architect Tom Adams pledged shortly before he passed away in the spring of 2015 to donate funds to construct an outdoor patio in memory of his friend Bill Hallager. We are unable to announce a specific start-date for the project, but have hope that it will be in the near future. We are grateful to our departed friend, Tom Adams.

Our volunteer Events Committee pulled together a really great new summer fundraising event, the Lobster Bake at the Pemi Base Camp at Loon Mountain. We had music by the Knucklehedz and food generously sponsored by Gordi’s Fish and Steak House and the Woodstock Inn & Station. We will be looking to build on last year’s attendance with another Lobster Bake, once again on the last Sunday in July.

This has been one of our busiest years for our Lobby & Art Exhibit Committee, chaired by Lynda Sanders! The committee hosted two art shows featuring works by local artists Jeanette Fournier out of Littleton and Robert Gordon out of North Conway, and sponsored the installation of a new lighting track along the art display wall.

Other new events at Jean’s included Clark Trading Post’s hilarious Wolfman Auditions, the Volunteer Round-up and Brainstorming session at the Woodstock Station, an Addiction Open House with invested parties from the community, and Lin Wood High School Baccalaureate from the graduating senior class.

What’s New in 2017

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, the Musical

Our holiday show has a combination of kids, local and professional talent. I’ll let Sharon talk a bit more about that production, which is sponsored by the Dead River Company.

Friday Film Series, Jan-May 2017

With the support of some passionate volunteers, most notably Planning Committee member Rich Gioiosa, we have decided to give films another shot this winter with a “Friday Film Series” on the first Friday of every month from January through May, 2017. See some Old Favorites and more recent movies on our Big Screen. Films from such categories as Classics, Americana and Indie will play the first Friday of every month at 7:30 pm. This new endeavor has been sponsored by Coldwell Bank Lin Wood Real Estate.

Variety of guest performances

I’m very proud of the variety of performances happening this winter. Please take a brochure from your table and put in on your fridge at home. There’s really a lot of high-quality stuff to choose from, from kids shows to Entertainer of the Year SPIDEY, who is bringing his Magic of Your Mind show, a Battle of the Bands with help from the Interact Club, to really well-known comedians like Juston McKinney and Jimmy Dunn, a Beatles tribute band, and a Magic Mike ladies-night-out dance show. Charlie Brown Jazz is coming in just three weeks to play Christmas favorites… yes, it is that time of year already.

Will Power

Jean’s Playhouse is partnering with local arts and civic organizations to administer Will Power, an exciting after-school Juvenile Justice Program that connects youth in need with the works of William Shakespeare. Will Power will serve two populations of young people: offenders who are given the option to complete this program in lieu of community service or jail time; and youth who have been removed from situations that have been deemed unsafe. Four teaching artists will work with up to 12 at-risk youth selected by the Belknap County Juvenile Court system to research and discover specific Shakespearean themes, culminating in a theatrical presentation to the court and associated persons. We are working with Laconia-based lawyer and theatre artist, and new Board member, David Bownes, as court liaison for Will Power. Our aim is to launch our first session in the spring of 2017, evaluate and assess demand, and ultimately build Will Power into a recurring program in the Belknap, Carroll and Grafton County Juvenile Court Systems.

CDFA Capacity Building Grant

Finally, we were recently awarded a $20,000 capacity-building grant from the Community Development Finance Authority to help us build our Working Capital Fundraising Plan. Our goal is to raise $850,000 above our normal operating budget to pay off remaining debt incurred in the construction of Jean’s Playhouse by December 31, 2019.

As for the Long-Term Benefit of this campaign: Jean’s Playhouse currently pays approximately $84,000 in interest and principal obligations owed on construction debt every year. Debt payments began February 2012 on a 20-year payment schedule. With regular payments, Jean’s Playhouse will continue to pay $84,000 every year until February 2032. By raising funds from interested parties on both a local and national level to pay off the debt completely by the end of 2019, the Board, staff and volunteers of Jean’s Playhouse will be able to invest nearly half a million dollars over a five-year period into improving production values, expanding year-round educational programming for local youth, and increasing audience participation in the Lakes and Mountains region of New Hampshire. Al Simensen and I are working together on this project. We are in the beginning stages of writing our case statement, and will be seeking input from interested parties this winter.

Board

As for our Board of Trustees, I am pleased to present our 2017 slate of officers: David Yager as President, Brian Baker as Vice President, Rob Wetherell as Secretary, with Trustees David Bownes, Ken Chapman, Dennis Ducharme, Linda Hartman, Tony Ilacqua, and Scott Rice.

Thank you for your support in 2016, and we look forward to sharing another great year with you in 2017!

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