Wednesday, July 9, 2014
The musical performance “Rent” might have been too controversial for some people’s taste; the recent performance selection might cost the Flowertown Players nearly $3,000 in tourism funding.
During its July 7 meeting, Summerville Town Council’s finance committee voted to hold off on allocating funds reserved by the Tax Advisory Committee to the Flowertown Players because of its recent production “Rent,” which Councilman Terry Jenkins cited as a “poor” choice for what is supposed to a be a community-oriented program.
“It was one of the raunchiest things I’d ever seen in my life – and I’m far from being a prude,” he said. “I just thought it was totally inappropriate for a neighborhood community.”
On June 24 Summerville’s State Accommodations Tax Advisory Committee recommended distributing money to support seven tourism entities. Every year a portion of the state hotel tax is returned to Summerville for local use, and the Tax Advisory Committee makes recommendations to council on how to allocate the funds.
This year the committee did not have a lot of money to distribute because last year the state overpaid the town and the state decided not to call it in. The committee had a total of $71,524.01 available and seven entities making requests, including the Flowertown Players, who requested $20,000 but ended up being reserved $2,930 by the Tax Advisory Committee.
Jenkins said he saw the play and disapproved of the language and subject matter. “Rent” is a musical that tells the story of a group of impoverished young artists and musicians struggling to survive in New York City, while a couple of them are living with HIV/AIDS. It’s based on the opera La Boheme and won four Tony awards.
Jenkins added if that is the sort of thing Flowertown Players is going to show to the public then he is not comfortable with them receiving nearly $3,000 in funds.
Councilman Aaron Brown said he heard negative things about the play from the public, though he has not seen it.
Brown agreed it needs to be a family-oriented entity but did not have enough information to deem it unworthy of receiving funds. Brown proposed having a Flowertown Players representative give a presentation to council members to give the group a chance to explain itself.
“Maybe at the next finance committee meeting we could get some kind of explanation…and let them know what our feelings are about this being a family-type thing that we are trying to fund,” he said.
The committee voted to approve the list of the Tax Advisory Committee’s recommendations, with the exception of the funds allocated for Flowertown Players – until further discussion.
After the vote, meeting attendee Dora Ann Reaves requested to speak, and vouched for the Flowertown Players.
“My family did go and see ‘Rent’ and it’s considered a classic,” she said. “I was very moved by the production, despite its language.”
Reaves called it a “period play,” covering the time period when squatters were taking over vacant buildings in New York City.
“I enjoyed other plays more,” she said. “I consider the Flowertown Players an opportunity for this community to see newer type plays that we can’t get to New York to see.
“I would hate that the Flowertown Players be penalized – to lose $2,000 which are extremely vital to a small-town organization,” she said. “I would hate for them to lose a few thousand dollars in the bigger picture of what they are trying to present.”