Options abound to keep theater open

The glass is half-empty at the Ricks theater in Greenfield. Because there are no guaranteed funds coming from Hancock County for 2018, Dave Scott, the current theater manager, will cautiously book dates for 2018.

Scott deserves kudos for being the driving force that got the theater renovated both long ago and recently, and the arts community in particular is waiting with bated breath to see if his contacts and grant-writing skills will keep the theater open.

Not booking dates for 2018, which was his earlier position, ensures the failure of the theater, as it will sit empty while regular renters seek other venues they might find they like better.

Leadership from the Hancock County Visitor’s Bureau and a “not on my watch” attitude could keep this theater afloat.

Following are suggestions for the board and Scott to consider:

For grant-funding success, the Visitor’s Bureau could partner with other nonprofits who use the theater. Grantors generally require partnerships before granting funds, and these partnerships are ready-made in the form of the theater companies and music and dance ensembles that currently book the theater.

To keep the theater open, I’m sure many of these nonprofits would assist with the heavy lifting for the grant writing.

Elanco needs large venues for delivering training to visiting employees. This venue could provide the vehicle and ensure Greenfield is the place Elanco houses their over-night trainees (hotel guests).

The library stays booked for their conference rooms; could they send over-flow requests to the theater? Has anyone coordinated?

Regional night-spots like Richmond’s The Firehouse or Indianapolis’ The Slippery Noodle book bands that are en route from east to west or west to east and would love another opportunity to perform along the I-70 corridor.

As a fundraiser for the Hope House, the former executive director, Carl Denny, booked a band in 2016 that drew people from out of state. Some of them booked hotels in Greenfield as they didn’t want to drive home long distances at night.

The theater has a cozy bar upstairs and could serve alcohol, another great revenue generator.

There is always the public ask. The theater has the advertising space via the marquee and its underutilized but over-sized windows for such an ask. Imagine the progress thermometer rising every week as the generosity of Hancock County citizens overflows to keep the theater open.

There is precedence for this, as the public was part of the funding for the renovations of the theater back in 2005 after the Strahl family generously donated the building to the county.

And Dave Scott led the way.

Can he and the Visitor’s Bureau rekindle this passion now instead allowing the theater to go dark?

There are social media funding sites like GoFundMe. I assume there are niche sites for public/private concerns. The Visitor’s Bureau could start an online capital campaign at the very least.

Failure is not an option for the theater. This situation requires every ounce of energy the Visitor’s Bureau and Dave Scott can muster to make it work. It is time for big thinking and all hands on deck to keep this jewel of Hancock County alive.

This brings me to the final suggestion: Could a firm that specializes in booking talent be hired to bring in more revenue? I jokingly instruct my husband “you have to spend money to save money.”

Although the future of the Rick theater is not a joking matter, this wisdom might hold true in these circumstances.

It boils down to hiring the right people for the right job at the right time.

Donna Steele, a retired educator, hails from Alabama and made Hancock County her home in 2011. She can be reached at dr-editorial@greenfieldreporter.com.