Thursday, August 19, 2010

WHYY, DE Division of Arts grants, DE Theatre Co

Aisle Say has the August Dog Day blues...the doublewide blues. No theatre to report on the one hand and on the other some wins and losses for Delawareans. But, as Lady Macbeth urged, I will 'screw my courage to the sticking place' and have at it.
At least three dozen Delawareans woke up and took notice several months ago when their televised nightly sleeping pill, Channel 12's “Delaware Tonight” ceased operation. Scintillating reportage it was not. But it was OUR bland reporting! Yes, they were the quintessential talking heads. But they were OUR talking heads. But, in June of 2009, after obtaining millions in grants from the state for the refurbishing of their Wilmington studio and construction of their Dover studio, HYY slinked off in the night as stealthily as Mr. Irsay's Baltimore Colts to Indiana many moons ago.
After protestations from Senator Kaufman and Mayor Baker, Delaware's “coverage” was replaced by an alleged news magazine “First” for an hour each Friday night. “WHYY is not adequately serving the community needs of its city of license, which is Wilmington”, bellowed Mr. Mayor.
Your intrepid Aisle Say investigative reporter tuned in last Friday to determine how “First” was serving tax payers. (Even with this indecent behavior they still received $100,000.00 from the Joint Finance Committee this fiscal year). Last Friday's “news” story featured Balinese dancing. “The sport carries you where you want”, chanted the Balinese dance guru. The aged man covered the dance floor slowly, very slowly. “We would dance if nobody showed up to see us”, he exclaimed. Yup, that says it all.
The second segment was even more compelling: 15 minutes on dehydrating vegetables. “But wait,” exclaimed the dehydrator, “we also do macaroons. Wednesday is macaroon day!”
The FCC denied Wilmington's challenge to WHYY for license renewal. They win. We lose.
Eighty-six organizations throughout the state received 104 grants from $1000.00 to $110,000.00 totaling $1.4 million. (Last year it was $1.47 million to 84 groups). The funding comes from both the Delaware General Assembly and the National Endowment For The Arts.
Last year Aisle Say took to task some of the perceived imbalance of the grants. It appears more reasonable in FY 2011. The way I define this imbalance is 1) number of people employed in the organization 2) number of guests they serve and 3) the positive economic ripple effect it has on the community ( eg. overnight stays, busy restaurants and visits to other venues).
New Candlelight Theatre justifiably was awarded $25K. Their quality and their integrity is high and they are the ONLY surviving dinner theatre in the state...and they are the best theatrical value. On the down side their profit margin has all the profile of a flounder snoozing on the bottom of the bay.
The Grand received $101K; DE Art Museum, $110K; Opera Delaware, $62K; DE Symphony, $101K; - that's all good. The DE Center for the Contemporary Arts – arguably a pioneer on the Riverfront – attracts nowhere near the traffic of The Grand or even New Candlelight, and they received $93K! DE Theatre Company received $101K. (more on that below)
In relation to guests served and economic ripple, it is, however, very difficult to swallow the $43K given to the Yorklyn Center for The Creative Arts. At least that is down from an outrageous $68K in last year's grants!
For the second year running, the Aisle Say Golden Fleece Award goes to DE Dance Company on Elkton Rd. These pre-teens are impossibly cute in their tutus I'll say, but $32K (down from $40K) for a group that is only witnessed by their doting parents and grandparents? We've got to get their lobbyist and send him to DC. That dude has the suave to bring millions in earmarks to Delaware!
Still no news about their schedule. Aisle Say was told by their Marketing Manager that the revised schedule was to be out in 1 week. That was 6 weeks ago. Email and a call to Mary Ann Ehlshager, the Managing Director, was not returned.
Aisle Say commented a few months back that Tim Geithner, US Secretary of the Treasury reminded him of Robert Stack when he played Eliot Ness on “The Untouchables”. Well, dear reader, we have another one. I was watching the evening news with my dear sister Liz. Thad Allen, the Coast Guard Commandant in charge of the oil spill was before the podium. Tell me he is not Oliver Hardy reincarnated!

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