|Scott RC Levy. Used with permission.|
The ink is dry on the paper; the merger of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center (FAC) and Colorado College (CC) is a done deal. There are changes coming, although it’s too early in the process to know precisely what those changes will be. The only thing that is certain is that the merger will result in changes to the Fine Arts Center and to its theatre company.
I sat down with Scott RC Levy on Tuesday, September 20, to discuss the future of the the FAC theatre company. Mr. Levy has been the Producing Artistic Director at the FAC since 2011, and has an extensive background as a Producer/Director/Actor. Levy has a M.A. degree in Educational Theater (a very appropriate subject under the circumstances) and a BFA in acting, both from New York University. He has no crystal ball, but Levy does have some pertinent thoughts on how the merger may (or may not) impact the shows at the FAC SaGaJi Theatre.
Levy is on the theater program subcommittee for the new organization, which will be renamed “The Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College" (CSFAC@CC) on July 1, 2017. That subcommittee must have a strategic plan for the theater program ready by June, 2017. Once the three transition plans (one for the museum, one for the Bemis School, and one for the theatre company) are finalized, the FAC organizations will be incorporated into Colorado College over a period of three years (the theater program is scheduled to transition in the 2019-20 season).
As Levy described it, the FAC and its theatre company will still have its own identity, just as it does today. He compared it to being a stand alone unit of CC. Much like KRCC, a CC radio station with it’s own identity in the Colorado Springs radio market, the FAC theater company will be a unique part of CC.
There are already local models for the arts/academics collaboration, and Levy mentioned two of them. Theatreworks is a program of the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. The Colorado Shakespeare Festival is operated by the University of Colorado in Boulder. Both of those performing arts programs are very successful, demonstrating the value of an academic partner. Nationally, the collaboration between academic institutions and performing arts organizations is relatively common.
The relationship between the FAC and CC has always been cordial, and at times, very strong. According to Levy, there was a period in the 1940s and 1950s during which the FAC and CC collaborated on some productions. The merger makes future collaboration on CC student productions a very real possibility.
While the long term impact on the FAC theatre company budget is far from clear, Levy pointed out that CC has transferred $20,000,000.00 to the FAC endowment. That additional endowment may benefit the FAC and the theater company in the future, as financial risks have made some programming out of reach in the past. Levy does not expect any increase to ticket prices at this time, and one price has already gone down. The FAC has implemented “a Student Rush ticket policy for Colorado College students (with proper ID), giving them free admission on the same day for unsold seats.”
Unfortunately for those Colorado College students, the rush program may still be a tough ticket to get. The FAC theater program is very successful. There are nearly 2,000 season subscribers for the 400 seat theater, and about 25% of the shows sell out. With total ticket sales nearing 40,000 per season, unsold seats could be difficult to find.
As for benefits, Levy believes that the merger will produce some opportunities for innovative programming, as well as opportunities for a higher profile in the Pikes Peak region. As an example, Levy envisions the possibility of bringing in an “A list actor,” who could combine a role in an FAC production with a Master Class presentation at Colorado College. Could Meryl Streep or Denzel Washington appear on the SaGaJi stage some day? It’s not as crazy as it sounds.
For Colorado College, the benefits are also significant. Students working on a major or minor in theater could get work experience in a professional theater on campus (OK...a block away). The FAC addition may help CC recruit talented theater students nationwide, thus expanding that part of the CC curriculum. The addition of the FAC theatre company will unquestionably enhance the CC reputation in the national theater community.
If there is concern in the local theater community, and I think there is, Levy says it’s “justified.” The anxiety that accompanies any major change is expected, but Levy thinks the theater community will be happy with the results. The FAC theatre company will stay committed to developing local talent, presenting a vibrant children’s program, and staging the high quality productions that keep people coming back to the SaGaJi theater.
As Levy sees it, “the potential for excellence is strong, and the potential for failure is small.” The promise is for a better and stronger community presence for both institutions, along with additional value for students, artists, and all residents of Colorado Springs. That’s a big promise, but one that is backed up with a big commitment from both institutions.
You can still have input on the future plans for the FAC theatre company (and on the future plans for the museum and the Bemis School). You can provide your thoughts to the leadership online here (see the red box on the right labeled “Questions and Comments”), or you can attend one of the two remaining “Listening Sessions” here:
1. Monday, Sept. 26, 7:00-8:30 PM, in the Fine Arts Center Music Room.
2. Monday, October 3, 5:00-6:30 PM, at Colorado College's Gaylord Hall, 902 N. Cascade Avenue.