Theatre Funding in America Essay

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The theatres for the performing arts in the United States of America greatly vary in terms of age composition and specialties on theatric performances. As a result, the theatres found across America derive their funding from different sources, ranging from private individuals who share the same passion to companies and other organizations that seek to establish beneficiaries from their financial capabilities to support groups for the arts. It is not surprising, therefore, that theatre groups for children may have funding sources quite differently from theatre groups composed of more mature, if not adult, members.

In general, the patrons for the theatre arts include but are not limited to local and national politicians, non-government organizations that primarily promote the preservation and the wider appreciation of theatre arts, and private entities and corporations. Basically, it is a widely held fact that membership in theatre groups do not essentially come for free although there are exceptions to this. Setting aside these exceptions, the initial source of funding for theatre groups to operate are the membership fees paid for by the members of the theatre groups themselves.

There are also many other fees that may be collected from the members of theatre groups depending on their discretion, and some of these fees may include monthly contributions and other miscellaneous fees. However, it can be said that the funds derived from the contributions of the members will hardly sustain the more resource-demanding activities of the theatre groups. For instance, a major performance in an auditorium with a large seating capacity and with complete amenities will require more than the members contributions accumulated during a certain period.

In a case like this, it is often the prerequisite of theatre groups to seek major sponsors. External sponsorships play a significant role in funding the major activities of theatres inasmuch as they play an equally important role in securing the preparations for the event such as booking an auditorium a few weeks or months before the actual event, and selling tickets, if applicable, with the aid of creating a team that will handle such role. These two things, at the least, require funding, the source of which can practically come from the financial aid provided by private and public entities willing to stand as sponsors.

For the most part, the government also contributes to the funding of theatres, one of which is through the creation of several agencies that promote the culture and the arts as a whole. Perhaps the primary arm of the government in sustaining the assistance to the art projects from various groups in America is the National Endowment for the Arts or NEA. Since the public agency was established by Congress in 1965, it has continued to provide grants to deserving applicants to this day.

In 2007 alone, the agency has provided approximately $144 million to its beneficiaries from the different states of the country, both rural and urban (National Endowment for the Arts Appropriation History). NEA provides a fragment of its general funding appropriations to theatre companies of different genres, sizes and membership composition. A potential organization applying for NEA funding can request for up to $150,000 to a minimum of $5,000 depending on the needs of the theatre organization.

Moreover, NEA also provides financing assistance to underserved populations, allotting them a grant for up to $10,000 as part of the agencys mission of reaching every community in America with the artistic inclinations for the theatre arts. NEA also encourages the participation of children in the theatre arts through its provision of financial grants reaching up to $150,000 to deserving theatre organizations composed primarily of young students (National Endowment for the Arts Theatre Grants).

One important aspect with regard to the collaborative efforts of private corporations to sponsor several activities of theatre organizations in the United States is the fact that the government provides indirect subsidies to corporations doing so through tax expenditures that allow both individuals and corporations to make tax deductible donations to cultural organizations (Mulcahy and Wyszomirski, p. 121).

It is not surprising, therefore, that private enterprises engage in sponsorships for the activities of theatre groups precisely because its a win-win solution for both the sponsoring corporation and the receiving theatre organization: the theatre group receives the financial support it needs in order to materialize their stage performances and the sponsoring corporation gets tax deductions, which means more profit for the latter. Suffice it to say that there are several examples which can be cited that supports this observation.

For example, Paper Mill Playhouse, a musical theatre group established during the 18th century in America, has conducted several theatre performances in the past which were sponsored by American Airlines, one of the leading companies in the American airline industry (Paper Mill Playhouse: Shows on Our Stage). Another example is that of Orpheum Theatre located in Memphis, Tennessee where at least a series of nine Broadway plays were sponsored in part by Harrahs Tunica Hotel and Casinos which is a private corporation (Orpheum Theatre Broadway Series).

There are still countless other theatre organizations that have been receiving funding from private corporations through sponsorships either in part or in full, which brings us to the differences in sponsorship packages. Funding from private corporations usually comes through sponsorship packages, depending on the internal arrangements made between the theatre organization and the private corporation. For example, the sponsoring corporation may prefer to finance the overall theatre performance of the organization, including the expenses for the stage set-up and the payment for the location where the theatre performance will be held.

The package deal may also be limited to an inclusion of the companys name in the billing or in the tickets as an advertisement bargain. The important thing to note is that corporate sponsorships of any theatre groups activities greatly vary depending on the agreement made between the performing theatre group and the corporation itself. These variations, in turn, affect the funding which will be received by the theatre organization. The bigger the share of the sponsoring corporation in the payment of expenses for, say, a specific stage play, the lesser the finances the theatre organization will handle at the end of the day.

The bigger the share of the sponsoring corporation could also mean the bigger tax deductions from the tax payments for the corporation. There is also another way for theatre groups to receive funding from private corporations, which is to solicit directly from these corporations a certain amount. A theatre organization can, for instance, make solicitation letters and personally deliver them to the corporation that they seem fit to sponsor their stage play. In return, the organization can provide advertisement deals with the corporation before and until the day of the stage performance.

The primary difference between soliciting from the previous funding example provided is that the former necessitates the organization to directly engage prospective sponsors through the organizations initiatives. On the other hand, private corporations who are attracted to sponsor a certain theatre activity are usually the ones who make the first step in contacting the theatre organization and in laying down their sponsorship deals. Another source of funding for theatre organizations is personal donation from private individuals who do not represent either the government or any private corporation.

Philanthropists, among others, provide a big push for theatre organizations in pursuing their activities especially when philanthropists donate a huge sum of money without expecting anything in return such as exposure in the form of advertisements from posters to tickets. Although the instances when such persons give financial donations to theatre groups are not always present or are not the usual order of things, it can hardly be denied that personal donations from such people can stand at par with, if not more than, the financial backing provided by private corporations and government agencies such as the NEA.

There are also private individuals who, although their contributions through monetary donations may not equal those from the corporations and the NEA, can provide additional funding. Establishing theatre organizations and, more importantly, sustaining activities for such groups are hefty tasks which involve funding in many ways. Although funding is a challenging task for theatre groups to handle especially for those who are new in theatre arts, there are several private corporations and individuals as well government agencies who can provide help in financial terms.

Works Cited

Mulcahy, Kevin V. , and Margaret Jane Wyszomirski. The Organization of Public Support for the Arts. Americas Commitment to Culture: Government and the Arts. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1995. 121. National Endowment for the Arts Appropriations History. 2008. National Endowment for the Arts. August 7, 2008. . National Endowment for the Arts Theatre Grants.

2008. National Endowment for the Arts. August 7, 2008. . Orpheum Theatre Broadway Series. Memphis, TN. Orpheum Theatre. August 7, 2008. . Paper Mill Playhouse: Shows on Our Stage. Millburn, NJ, 2006. Paper Mill Playhouse. August 7, 2008. .

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