Live performances to remain top priority on Barton’s agenda
May 19, 2009
Randy Barton’s No. 1 goal as the stage manager of the Egyptian Theatre is to keep live, locally produced shows on the bill. But before the Egyptian can produce another professional-caliber musical, such as "Music Man" or "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum," it will need to begin to pay off its debt, he said Monday.
While receiving praise from critics and audiences, recent Egyptian Theatre Company shows have lost thousands of dollars. Conversely, visiting acts such as "Defending the Caveman" have turned profits.
After one week officially on the job, Barton recommended "putting a hold" on producing main-stage events for the next six to nine months to give the Board of Trustees time begin unloading about $150,000 in debt.
Instead, he would like the see the Egyptian host outside acting companies.
The summer schedule seems to endorse Barton’s vision. The Air Force Falconaires come to town June 5 and The Dark Horse Theatre Company will stage "Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" July 6-17.
"We need to identify and nurture user groups for the Egyptian" such as the Sundance Film Festival and the popular YouTheatre program, Barton said. "Everywhere, the performing arts are having a hard time in this recession. We have to stop trying to pay past invoices with current receipts."
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Season ticket holders will likely receive a refund or gift card that can be used for any show in the next year, Barton said.
And to raise money, one of Barton’s responsibilities, he envisions hosting a series of events tentatively called Heroes of the Egyptian that honors past and present donors and volunteers and turns the searchlight on the community to broaden support.
Barton brings considerable institutional knowledge to his post. A resident of Park City since 1975, Barton has performed with local acting troupes, such as the Park City Players, that predate the modern Egyptian Theatre Company. He recalls acting inside the Carl Winters Building before it was turned into the Park City Library and Education Center. He and his cohorts used the gym and cafeteria for costume changes and performed on the Jim Santy stage.
Barton’s first starring role came as a hapless LDS missionary sent up the mountain to convert unruly Parkites in a lampoon called "This Is The Place." He wants to encourage small shows at the Egyptian similar to "This is the Place" or "Park City Follies." But he hopes to again stage big-budget musicals, especially over winter holidays. "The Egyptian has set a high level of production values, and we don’t wan to go back. We want to keep getting better."
Money will be spent on a case-by-case basis, he said.
The founder and former executive director of Mountain Town Stages, Barton frequently staged 10 shows a day for the nonprofit. He said the success comes from careful preparation. "It’s all about putting on a good show," added Barton, who will work 30 to 36 hours a week in the post.
After taking the job, Barton met with former artistic directors, including Terence Goodman, who left the Egyptian in March. Barton also attended a public meeting May 4 at the stage to hear feedback and suggestions. "I knew, personally, 80 percent of the people there," Barton said. "Those are the people who really care." About the Egyptian’s future, he added, "My personal goal is to bring positivity and wonder to the theater. When you’re operating under a cloud of debt, it become almost drudgery. It’s all about the enjoyment. When people come here, they’re going to feel welcome."