Actors perform in Centerstage Theatre’s production of “Return to the Forbidden Planet” earlier this year. Despite losing its contract to operate the Knutzen Family Theatre, Centerstage hopes to be able to continue offering live theater in Federal Way. Courtesy Michelle Smith-Lewis

Actors perform in Centerstage Theatre’s production of “Return to the Forbidden Planet” earlier this year. Despite losing its contract to operate the Knutzen Family Theatre, Centerstage hopes to be able to continue offering live theater in Federal Way. Courtesy Michelle Smith-Lewis

The show goes on for Centerstage – for now

City extends contract to operate Knutzen Family Theatre for two months

Although the city of Federal Way has extended Centerstage Theatre’s contract to manage the Knutzen Family Theatre by two months, the theater company says it still needs the community’s support to keep operating.

The city and Centerstage have been in negotiations since the city announced in April that it would not renew the three-year contract when it expired June 30. Centerstage has operated the theater at Dumas Bay Centre, 3200 SW Dash Point Road, for the past nine years, and the city has paid Centerstage $100,000 a year.

Managing the theater will save the city money and give more opportunities for additional income, Mayor Jim Ferrell said.

“We had a private organization running a city facility, and we just haven’t had the access to be able to rent this facility,” he said. “We want to run it ourselves, and we believe we can actually generate revenue.”

On Monday, city and Centerstage officials reached an agreement to extend the contract through Aug. 31. The city will pay Centerstage a management fee of $8,333 per month over the next two months.

Ferrell said council member Mark Koppang encouraged the city to consider extending the contract to help Centerstage be successful during the transition.

“I want to say a very special thank you to council member Mark Koppang for his indispensable role in helping us craft a solution,” Ferrell said.

After Sept. 1, Centerstage will be able to rent the facility for $250 per week during its five, five-week runs of shows.

“We’re trying to give them a soft landing and make sure this transition over the next year is as gentle as possible and ensuring their success because their success does matter to us,” Ferrell said. “We want Centerstage there. We just don’t have the money to throw $100,000 at this. We really need to have control over this facility. At the same time, we want the rich history and programming that Centerstage offers at that location.”

Before Centerstage began managing the theater, it paid the city $1,000 a week to rent the facility using an endowment.

The city will also provide Centerstage up to $5,000 through a grant for violence prevention efforts at local schools, according to a city spokesman.

The end of the contract leaves Centerstage without one-third of its approximately $350,000 operating budget and without the office space it occupied in Dumas Bay Centre, said Angela Bayler, Centerstage’s managing director.

While the organization is moving forward with plans for the next season, its future is uncertain.

“It is not going to be easy and it doesn’t mean we are necessarily going to make it through the season,” said Trista Duval, Centerstage’s artistic director. “We have a lot of community support, and we super appreciate it. We do have faith that we are going to figure out how to make it through the season, but that is just because we have to.”

Of the $100,000 Centerstage got from the city each year, about $30,000 covered utilities, janitorial and maintenance. The remaining $70,000 covered salaries of Centerstage’s four employees.

“We are going to try everything we can to not cut staff, but in reality, the management fee is what ensured that we had staff to run the organization,” Bayler said.

Although an exact date has not been set, Centerstage plans to open its 2018-19 season in October with “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged).” The holiday panto tradition continues with “Rapunzel” in December. Other shows for the season are the comedy “The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940” and musicals “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown” and “Bye Bye Birdie.”

Centerstage’s base price for tickets for next season will not be going up, but patrons will pay more because Centerstage will be assessed a 5 percent admission tax by the city and a facility-use fee, Bayler said. Under its contract with the city, Centerstage had not paid those fees previously.

“That will be passed on to the ticket buyer,” Bayler said. “We are trying to keep our tickets as affordable as possible.”

Centerstage needs the community’s support to keep going, Bayler said.

“We have to increase ticket sales,” she said. “We have to increase donations. We have to increase grant funding. We have to increase sponsorships.”

In addition to attending shows at Centerstage, the community can support the theater by volunteering.

“If you volunteer, you can see a show for free,” Duval said.

Volunteer opportunities include serving as an usher during shows and selling concessions along with more behind-the-scenes jobs such as writing grants or prepping sets and costumes.

Centerstage is also looking for office space it can use beginning Sept. 1.

Duval said Centerstage plans to continue its outreach efforts in the community, including its Page to the Stage program – which exposes high school students to live theater – and high school internships.

For more information or to connect with Centerstage, email Duval at Trista@CenterstageTheatre.com.

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