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Wednesday, March 13,2013

Pay for plays

Lansing-area theaters get receive arts grants

by Dylan Sowle

Thursday, Jan. 17 — Last week, three Lansing-area theaters — Riverwalk Theatre, All-of-us Express Children's Theatre and the Williamston Theatre — were named as grant recipients for 2013. The Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs offers a variety of grants for art-oriented organizations that are to be used for everything from general use, to facility improvement and special projects. The groups were chosen from over 400 applicants around the state.

The Williamston Theatre received two separate grants from the MCACA. $15,000 was granted through the operational/project program, which will be used to cover artist salaries and fees for the performance year, running through August. The theater also received a $8,190 capital improvements grant to make ongoing updates to their performance space.

Emily Sutton-Smith, development director for the theater, said that this grant specifically is helping them continue necessary additions to their space, which was not originally designed to be a theater. The Williamston Theatre has been receiving grants from the MCACA since 2006, and that money has assisted them with many of their renovations, including electrical work and the removal of a drop ceiling.

“This support is vital,” said Sutton-Smith. “Without this piece of the pie, there wouldn't be a full pie here.”

In addition to these types of endowments, the MCACA also worked with the Arts Council of Greater Lansing to provide a number of mini-grants to Michigan arts organizations. One such grant was awarded to the Riverwalk Theatre for $4,000 to fund their June production of the musical “My Favorite Year.” The show opens May 30 featuring a cast and crew of over 100 members. Theater manager Michael Siracuse explained that with a musical such as this, the rights and musician fees, as well as the construction of props and sets, requires some additional funding to cover costs and keep prices down.

“We don't know if it will be a sell-out show or not, so we need help on productions like this,” said Siracuse. “If we keep our prices low, we can include everyone in the area.”

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