Wednesday, August 13, 2014
It looks like the Flowertown Players should be getting their funding after all.
During the Aug. 11 finance committee meeting, most council members voted in favor of allocating $2,930 to the Flowertown Players. Mayor Bill Collins and Councilman Terry Jenkins were absent from the meeting.
Councilmen Bill McIntosh and Bob Jackson spoke overall positively about the Flowertown Players and why they feel they should receive their $2,930 reserved by the Tax Advisory Committee in June.
“My view is the test should be if the funds are being used in a way that promotes tourism and attracts people,” McIntosh said. “The test ought to be if they are putting feet on the street. It seems like the Flowertown Players have for some odd years, so I feel like they’ve met the test.”
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 Tax Advisory Committee had a total of $71,524.01 available to seven entities making requests, including the Flowertown Players, who requested $20,000 but ended up being reserved $2,930.
On July 7 the finance committee met, during which Jenkins said he saw the Flowertown Players’ production “Rent” and highly disapproved of the language, and did not feel comfortable with them receiving nearly $3,000 in funds. The finance committee voted to hold off on approving the theater’s request for funds until further discussion.
Councilman Walter Bailey has also expressed concern, saying he would like the Flowertown Players to be more family-oriented in its productions.
JC Conway, artistic director for the Flowertown Players, and Monica Shows, board director for the Flowertown Players, attended the Aug. 8 finance committee meeting to discuss their production “Rent” with council members. With Mayor Collins absent from the meeting, Councilman Aaron Brown was elected acting officer.
“McIntosh says they (the Flowertown Players) meet a certain requirement and we are obligated to give them the money,” Brown said, “However, I know I feel an obligation from all standpoints to make sure what is aired and what is viewed in the town of Summerville – and how people perceive the town of Summerville – is very, very important. I think as public officials I do believe an obligation to the public to set a standard for the town of Summerville, and I don’t believe the Flowertown Players or any other group will have an exception to that.
“It’s not that we’re picking on the Flowertown Players,” Brown added. “I think any group that receives funding from the town should expect that from time to time the town has authority to call you in and ask you explain what you’re doing with these funds.”
With that council members engaged in a discussion with Conway and Shows. Brown and Bailey asked the Flowertown Players if they were allowed to change the language to the play or use an alternate version of it.
Conway said by federal copyright law they are not allowed to change the language. There is a high school version of the play, but it can only be used by high schools.
“What an author writes into a show has to be performed as written, so for us to change that would put us in violation of federal law,” Conway said.
Jackson said he felt the same way as McIntosh about the Flowertown Players receiving funds, and only asked that they release good descriptions of their productions so people know what they are about.
“As far as I’ve seen that’s been done in the past,” Jackson said.
Shows said for the past several years she has been the grant-writer for the Flowertown Players and that she very carefully reads what the hospitality tax funding is able to do, and that she makes a sincere effort to bring people into Summerville.
“It’s unfortunate that Councilman Jenkins didn’t come to us after he saw the show and express his displeasure,” she said, adding many people had requested the theater put on the show. “If a few people are upset, I’m deeply sorry for that, but we’re doing what you asked us to do and bring people in.”
Bailey asked if there was any effort made to control the age of the people who attended the play. Shows and Conway said they not only provide descriptions of the play on their website, but also have a box office staff available to answer questions to the public. The box office staff is also told not to sell tickets to anyone under the age of 18 years old – or to get parents’ permission first.
“We’re not trying to upset people,” Conway said.
Bailey also asked if they had any plans, going forward, to be more selective in their productions.
“We’re going to do shows we think are relevant to the tri-county area,” Conway said. “The community here is growing and changing at a quick rate. We have a large membership and it’s continuing to increase. If we thought we were doing a bad job, our finances would show it; people would stop coming to see our shows – but they’re not.”
Bailey said he felt the concerns expressed by himself, Jenkins and Brown over the past month have “fallen on deaf ears,” but Conway and Shows said they are not going to censor their shows.
“The season is not designed to any one particular market,” Shows said, saying members have more variety of shows to choose from. “We do want to be conscious of the various audience members.”
Council members voted four “yes” and one “no” to the Flowertown Players receiving their funds. Bailey was the “no,” saying he felt the town’s concerns did not register with the Flowertown Players.
“I don’t think anything we’ve said has really made a difference in the way you select plays, moving forward,” he said. “You’ve been defensive and that’s fine, that’s your position, but that isn’t what I was looking for.”
Shows disagreed and said she and Conway registered “immediately” with what the council had to say.
“We look at all aspects of the community for selections,” she said.
The report still needs to be approved by Town Council at its meeting Aug. 13 at 7:30 p.m.
Brown said he feels if the Town Council is allocating funds then they have the right to ask how it is being spent, and said he feels the meeting had a positive outcome.
“Not that we’re going to censor you (the Flowertown Players) or tell you what plays to put on,” he said, “but I do think we have the right to ask questions.”
After the meeting, Conway and Shows said the public does have the opportunity to read a production’s script prior to seeing the play.
“There’s multiple ways the public can read it,” Shows said.
Conway said although productions like “Rent” might not be for everybody, the Flowertown Players are obligated to produce a variety of shows.
“We have a whole spectrum we have to appeal to,” he said.