‘We are not opposed to helping the Flowertown Players’

  • Wednesday, July 23, 2014

It appears Summerville Town Council members are leaning toward giving the Flowertown Players the $2,930 the State Accommodations Tax Advisory Committee recommended.

Council members said the Flowertown Players have been invited to present a case at the next Finance Committee meeting, which is scheduled for Aug. 11.

Mayor Bill Collins said he and Councilman Terry Jenkins will not be present at that meeting because they were already scheduled to be out of town.

“I think they (Flowertown Players) are going to get the money,” Collins said. “I guess anything can happen but as far as I know they’re going to get the money.

“I think they’ll get it and I think they deserve it,” Collins added. “I think it’s a good request.”

The State Accommodations Tax Advisory Committee recently met and recommended distributing money to support seven tourism entities in the area, one of which was the Flowertown Players. Because of a shortfall in funding, the Flowertown Players’ original request for $20,000 was whittled down to $2,930.

However, on July 7, Summerville Town Council’s finance committee voted to hold off on allocating the funds because of the production “Rent,” which Jenkins described as “raunchy” during discussion.

The decision set off a firestorm amongst the theater group’s supporters.

The Flowertown Players were hoping to use that money to upgrade its sound system to better accommodate the musical performances it’s been putting on in the theater.

In fact, according to Artistic Director J.C. Conway, the musical hit “Rent” blew out the theater’s speakers back in January.

“We’ve been doing bigger and bigger musicals and we need to upgrade our sound system,” he said.

In addition, the theater would like to upgrade the lighting system to LED lights, which would help save power. That is why the group applied for funds from the Sate Accommodations Tax Advisory Committee.

Councilwoman Kima Garten-Schmidt wrote in an e-mail to The Summerville Journal Scene that the Flowertown Players have been invited to speak at the next finance committee meeting.

“I cannot with certain say if they will receive the funding or not,” she said. “If by chance we were to vote not to give them the funds, there would be a great chance we would disperse the funding to the other organizations that also receive funding.”

With their production “Rent” being questioned, Conway is not sure how the Aug. 11 meeting is going to go.

“Currently we’re enjoying the amount of support that not just the community within Summerville, but the community throughout South Carolina have given us,” Conway said. “A lot of people have asked what they can do, how they can support us, and right now we’re just saying, ‘Making your voice heard’ is what we’re really asking for.”

Conway said the Flowertown Players believes the majority of people in the area approved of “Rent” and thought it was a good show to produce. Conway said close to 2,000 people showed up for the show, and probably fewer than 20 walked out at intermission.

“So 1 percent is certainly a minority in regards to that,” he said. “I had the fortune to sit down with a couple of people who didn’t approve of the show – or had walked out at intermission. They contacted me immediately after the show and expressed their opinion and their concern, and I was able to sit down with them and talk to them and while some of them said, ‘It’s just not my cup of tea,’ a couple of them said ‘I wish I had stuck around and seen the second half.’”

Jenkins had said he did not approve of the language in “Rent.” Conway said he would like to explain to council members that it’s actually illegal to edit out language from a performance, saying it contravenes copyright law.

“In any published copywritten work it is illegal to add, cut or edit – period,” he said.

Councilman Walter Bailey said he thinks the council will vote to reinstate the funds, but he himself would like the Flowertown Players to be more family-oriented in its productions.

“We need to get the best bang for the bucks we distribute,” he said. “If they don’t want to cooperate with where we think they should be focusing, which is a family-type focus, then I think they should lose the money.”

Conway said “Rent” cost the theater about $15,000 to produce – money that had to be paid before the show even opened.

“If we put $15,000 into a show like ‘Rent’ and they find out that we omitted language, or changed language, or cut language, they’re going to shut us down and say ‘you can’t do this performance’ and they’re going to revoke our license,” he said. “And then we’ve lost not only the $15,000 we already paid out, we also have to return all the ticket sales we’ve already brought in. So it’s just not worth the risk.

“And it’s also, to a large degree, unethical to change an authors’ week,” Conway added. “They put as much time, if not more, into the words that they write than we do in putting on the production.”

Conway said this past January was the first time Flowertown Players performed “Rent;” however, the theater has produced “Rocky Horror Picture Show” twice and “nobody said anything about that.”

Conway thinks their chances of getting their funds are about “50/50.”

“I understand that Councilman Jenkins did not care for the language in the show – I understand that language is not for everyone,” he said. “But it’s part of the show and it’s not something where you can take one, and leave the other. Authors use language to create character. When someone speaks a certain way, you make an assumption and decision in your mind about that person. If someone uses that kind of language, you’re going to think that person grew up in this kind of way, lives this kind of life, and that’s the reason that that language is there – because that does show that very quickly.”

Councilman Aaron Brown said he is not opposed to the Flowertown Players receiving funds, and believes most of the council members “appear inclined” to give them that money.

“We want to help them,” he said. “We are not opposed to helping the Flowertown Players. They need us and we need them. We need to work out a way forward.”

Councilman Bob Jackson said he plans to vote to fund the Flowertown Players, and feels a majority of the council will vote in favor as well.

“I think we talk to them and tell them what we like and maybe they’ll respect that,” he said, adding that since apparently a lot of people liked the production, there will likely be a lot of people at that meeting.

“Somehow I think we’ll have a crowd,” he said.

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