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Wednesday, May 19,2010

BoarsHead Theater faces final curtain

LCC trustees reject proposed partnership

by James Sanford
The curtains closed on BoarsHead Theater Monday night as the Lansing Community College Board of Trustees voted not to pursue a proposed partnership with the now-bankrupt company.

“We’re dead,” said BoarsHead interim director George Orban after the vote.


By a vote of 4-2 the LCC trustees rejected a union with BoarsHead, which closed its doors last December in the face of declining ticket sales and high-profile personnel shake-ups.


LCC Dean of Liberal Studies Michael Nealon presented the findings of his feasibility study to establish a residency for the theater company. A post-presentation discussion showed both support and skepticism among the trustees.


LCC board Chairwoman Deb Canja saw the possible benefits, although she wondered if it would be absolutely necessary for BoarsHead to mount four shows in its first season at LCC. “Could we do two?” she asked.


Nealson responded that because BoarsHead is an Actors Equity theater, it might be “hard to be recognized” by the theater union with only two productions.


LCC President Brent Knight spoke in defense of BoarsHead, which would have had to generate approximately $112,000 in ticket sales and $150,000 in grants and gifts to sustain the partnership.


“Currently, BoarsHead is defunct, they are bankrupt. We’re not rescuing anyone,” he said. “The BoarsHead people are working hard to reconstitute themselves to once again be a viable theater company in Lansing. Without us, they’d have to go back to the drawing board.”


Questioning the presentation’s suggestion that LCC theater students would benefit from working alongside professional actors, directors and technicians in BoarsHead shows, LCC board Vice Chairman Edward Woods III asked pointedly, “If BoarsHead was still viable, would these same opportunities be presented to our students?”


Woods expressed concern about the $15,000 LCC would be paying for what Nealon termed “assets that BoarsHead would still need to hand off,” as well as the estimated $86,000 per year LCC would supply in in-kind contributions to house the theater and provide support for its shows. He added he had not heard from any students who saw the partnership as an opportunity.


“I’m sorry about what happened to BoarsHead,” Woods said. “I think it’s an outstanding community treasure. But as much as I’m sympathetic to their condition, I’m having a hard time supporting this proposal.”


LCC Board Secretary Robin M. Smith, who was monitoring the meeting by phone, also said she saw possibilities in the partnership, although she worried that “it seems we are bailing out mismanagement at BoarsHead.”


Trustee Jerry Hollister — whose father, David Hollister, is a BoarsHead board trustee — asked when LCC would need to purchase the $15,000 of BoarsHead assets. “Why do we need to take action on this now?” Hollister asked.


Orban responded BoarsHead has three off-site storage units in which a substantial amount of costumes, props and equipment are being stored. The rental fees on the units are past due. “If somebody doesn’t pay within the week, those items will be sold at public auction,” Orban said.


The rent is 60 days past due, Orban said after the meeting.


Trustee Robert E. Proctor said Nealon’s presentation wasn’t persuading him. “I’m not here to talk you into or out of it,” Nealon replied.


LCC Board Treasurer Larry Meyer, acknowledging he has a seat on the BoarsHead that predates his joining the LCC board, recused himself from the vote. Woods praised Meyer for “dealing with integrity” throughout the entire process of the BoarsHead discussion.


In the end, the vote came down to two yeas — from Canja and trustee Thomas Rasmussen — and four nays — from Woods, Hollister, Smith and Proctor.


“I’m heartbroken,” Orban said as he left the meeting. “But we move on.”

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