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Jobsite Theater increases prices and runs, seeks professional board of directors

TAMPA

People who pay attention to local theater may have already noticed that Jobsite Theater, the resident company at the Straz Center, is doing things a little differently this season.

Ticket prices have gone up a little. Shows open on Friday instead of Thursday, and they run for four weeks instead of three.

But perhaps the most significant change, at least in terms of the 14-year-old company's future, is behind the scenes.

Jobsite is looking to bring on a professional board of directors, instead of having the company's performers, directors and designers do double duty.

"Up to this point the core group of artists has done the work of the board of directors," said David Jenkins, Jobsite's artistic director. "We've done the development and the fundraising, all of that plus making the art. That's truthfully exhausting."

Besides taking a lot of the artists' time, board work or a nonprofit theater company often calls for expertise that most theater people don't have. Jenkins said Jobsite hopes the board will include people like lawyers and accountants and those who simply have strong enough ties to the community to expand Jobsite's audience base.

Of course he also hopes the board can assist in fundraising.

Some theater companies host galas and benefits and dinners throughout the year to raise money. Jobsite's main fundraiser has been Jobsite Rocks, in which local bands play at a bar. It's a popular event, but Jobsite's only income from the event comes through selling raffle tickets.

Jenkins hopes the board will organize fundraisers that will reach a different segment of the community.

One thing the board will not do, he said, is make artistic decisions.

"We're not worried about having people who tell us, 'You've got to do a whole season of Lerner and Loewe,' " he said. "That's not going to happen."

Only one person, longtime local actor Elizabeth Fendrick, has thus far been named to the board. Besides being an actor, Fendrick has the kind of business and community background Jobsite is looking for, Jenkins said.

Other changes are more immediate. Starting with its production of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, which opened the 2012-2013 season over the weekend, Jobsite is raising its ticket prices from $24.50 to $28. (A service change is usually added, but that doesn't go to Jobsite.)

The increase is mostly to help Jobsite keep paying its actors, directors, designers and technicians a decent amount of money for the work they do.

"We've been toward the bottom of the price range for professional theater in this area," Jenkins said. "We want people to be able to afford to come to our shows, but we've felt for a long time that $24.50 was pushing the (lower) limit of what we could charge. Now we're realizing we were being stubborn at the expense of the artists."

Shows have always run for three weeks, Thursday through Sunday. But in the past couple of years, most shows sold out, so Jobsite extended them a week.

There are two problems with that, Jenkins said. By the time the extra weekends are announced, it can be hard to get the word out, so those added shows sometimes don't draw big houses. And on occasion, there another show slated for the Shimberg Playhouse, where Jobsite performs, so a show can't be extended.

Starting with Fahrenheit 451, Jobsite has four-week runs locked in.

The other immediate change is more subtle. The first Thursday show is now considered an extra preview, and the official opening night is Friday of the first week. (Thursday has traditionally been Jobsite's opening night.)

Theoretically, audiences shouldn't notice a difference, Jenkins said. Previews are technically rehearsals, and usually are performed without interruption. But calling that performance an extra "preview" lets the actors run through the show in front of an audience before the jitters of opening night set in on Friday.

"It takes a little bit of the pressure off the actors," Jenkins said.

Jobsite Theater increases prices and runs, seeks professional board of directors 09/08/12 [Last modified: Saturday, September 8, 2012 4:31am]

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