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Fifteen Frequently-Asked Questions About TSC's Education Program Civic Funding Loss and the Termination of its Office Lease by the City of Germantown

In June, the City of Germantown's Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted not to fund Tennessee Shakespeare Company's thriving education program for what would have been its sixth year. In September, the City served notice to TSC that its office lease would not be renewed on June 30, 2013, and that the company had until then to vacate its City-owned train depot, which TSC has used as its administrative office for over five years.

Many questions have been asked of TSC's Board of Directors and staff over the past several weeks regarding the City's recent actions. We thought it would be helpful to collect the 15 most frequently asked questions and share TSC's responses with you.

"Why is the City of Germantown removing Tennessee Shakespeare Company from the train depot office?"

TSC's depot lease with the City ends on June 30, 2014, and the City has let us know far in advance that they will not renew the lease.

"Has the City said why it won't renew the lease?"

The City says it wants to return the depot to its former use as a train museum. However, the depot currently is a train museum filled with the same items that were in it when TSC moved into the depot in 2008. TSC's contract with the City stipulates that TSC should continue to operate the depot as a museum and provide touring docent service, which TSC has provided 5-7 days per week, from 9am-5pm, at considerable cost.

"Who was operating the depot before TSC moved in?"

It was vacant and locked.

"What is the City's strategic plan to staff the building and sustain the upgrades as TSC has done?"

An Alderman confirms for TSC that there is no plan in place currently, nor has there been during the last five years.

"This doesn't make sense. Is there another reason the City would end its lease with TSC?"

Multiple Aldermen have stated that the City's ending of the lease is a political consequence for TSC (and its supporters) speaking out publicly about the potential loss of education funding from the City and for TSC responding to media requests for information in the wake of the City's unanimous decision not to fund TSC for FY14.

"That sounds like an infringement of our right to free speech. Is it?"

TSC strongly believes that elected officials in a democratic society should welcome free and open debate without the threat of negative financial or political consequences.

"What are you going to do about it?"

TSC will continue to support classical education programming in our community and continue to be transparent in our call for support and open debate. A function of theatre is to ensure free speech, support multiple views, and to speak truth to power with respect. We are emboldened to continue our work in the classrooms and on the stage.

"The Germantown Mayor was quoted in The Commercial Appeal several weeks ago as saying she was unsure on which municipalities' students the civic funds were being spent. That sounded like she was calling your spending criteria into question. Is that how you took it?"

We did. The quote was baseless. For five consecutive years, the City funded TSC's education programs. Part of the criteria for continued funding was the submission of quarterly and annual reports. All of these reports were submitted by TSC and accepted by the City, and each reflected a growing program for Germantown students that exceeded its programmatic goals for which civic funding was made available.

"Did you see any of this coming?"

We were informed in April of this year that the City administration would recommend zero education funding to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen to pass. But before this, TSC invested substantial funds and the City invested over $53,000 in collaborative designwork on an outdoor amphitheatre in Germantown. We worked on that for over three years, but the City eventually decided that the project was not "green" enough. There is now a large telecommunications tower on the site, near Morgan Woods Park.

"Don't the Mayor and the Aldermen want to create their own education system in Germantown that will ensure quality education, beginning next year?"

Yes, as do the citizens. That vote passed.

"Since Germantown is unique, in part, because of its professional and educational cultural arts programming, wouldn't they want professional Shakespeare on its stages and in its classrooms to help drive enrollment?"

TSC will remain open to future conversations with the municipal school system administration, and we will remain hopeful of a partnership that will continue to enhance our students' education and our citizens' cultural lives. We believe there is extraordinary opportunity for our arts organizations to collaborate on an initial municipal schools' arts curriculum that would earn national attention for replication.

"The City made substantial civic funds available to TSC. Cuts needed to be made. That's a fact of life. What did the City get as a return on its investment?"

More than $2 million in economic impact, according to an "Economic Development Report" created by David Ciscel of Christian Brothers University. More importantly, TSC helped positively develop our community's young people through Shakespeare.

"You performed a benefit in September to help restore education funding. How did that go?"

Very well. We greatly modified our performance season to make that happen, with many people contributing their talents to raise $10,000 toward modified education restoration. This means we will be able to say "yes" when Germantown children, parents, or teachers call us and want us in their classrooms or want to attend special morning matinees at a steep discount. However, we have had to eliminate all long-term residencies, prelude scenes, curriculum-building, and the Romeo and Juliet Project due to the funding loss.

"Didn't you receive a National Endowment for the Arts grant for the Romeo and Juliet Project?"

We did, we are proud to say. TSC was one of only 40 regional theatres in the United States to receive the Shakespeare in American Communities grant, and we were also the youngest. The grant is for $25,000, which our supporters quickly matched, to take the Project, which was piloted in Germantown two years ago, into Memphis schools. The NEA funds may not be used to replace lost City of Germantown civic funds.

"Where are you going to go now? I want you to stay."

Thank you. We have received hundreds of supportive letters and calls asking us to stay in Germantown or nearby. Too many of our patrons, supporters, Board members, students, and volunteers are citizens of Germantown. TSC respects their voices and desires, and we will continue to make every effort to serve our community. We are in the midst of making multiple site visits, and we look forward to providing you with an update on the search soon.

It is important to note that TSC remains deeply grateful to those Aldermen and officials who helped establish a professional, classical theatre company in Germantown beginning in 2006. TSC would not be of service to others were it not for the City's collaboration and support. It has been an investment on which TSC promised it would provide substantial return – and has. Even this year, the City is making nearly $13,000 of in-kind services available to TSC to perform at the City-owned Germantown Performing Arts Center. And though this figure is not the $30,000 that several elected officials described to our supporters in return emails in May and June, still it is meaningful and does not go unacknowledged. This five-year investment warrants long-term care and cultivation, and we are hopeful that the City's Board of Mayor and Aldermen will acknowledge that in the future. The benefits to our City are clear, as are the voices of the citizens.

As Sicinius, a Roman representative of the middle-class citizenry, says in a public forum in William Shakespeare's political tragedy, Coriolanus:

"What is the City but the People?!"

News

  • The Oliver Experiment
  • Midsummer Night
  • AC Wharton, Jr. Visits R&J Project in Action
  • Romeo and Juliet Project - 4th Year

Sponsored by Theatrical Rights Worldwide (NYC)

Presents its Third Musical in Development August 15 on the University of Memphis mainstage:

The Oliver Experiment

What if your entire life were a Broadway musical…and you had no clue?

Featuring Broadway’s Brightest Stars

Memphis, TN (July 27, 2015) – Tennessee Shakespeare Company, in partnership with the University of Memphis’ Department of Theatre & Dance, presents its third and final developing musical reading on the U of M mainstage with The Oliver Experiment by Jeremy Desmon and Jeff Thomson on August 15 at 7:00 pm.

Read More

Midsummer Night

Live music, glow sticks, and power chords!
Featuring Broadway’s Katrina Lenk and Eric B. Anthony

Memphis, TN (June 15, 2015) – Tennessee Shakespeare Company, in partnership with the University of Memphis’ Department of Theatre & Dance, presents its second developing musical reading on the U of M mainstage with Midsummer Night by Valerie Vigoda and Brendan Milburn on June 27 at 7:00 pm.

Tickets for the reading are just $15, or $10 for Students and Seniors.

Midsummer Night, directed by Janet Roston, is the second of three developing musicals in TSC’s inaugural Showplace Memphis: Musical Works in Progress.

Broadway's Katrina Lenk

 Eric B. Anthony

Broadway's Katrina Lenk and Eric B. Anthony 

Sponsored by one of Broadway’s elite musical licensing companies, Theatrical Rights Worldwide (TRW) and President/CEO Steve Spiegel, based in New York City, Showplace Memphis has been devised as the next creative stage for three musicals en route to full productions in New York and on the regional theatre circuit across the U.S.  The first musical in Showplace Memphis last month was a very successful reading of Tenderly: The Rosemary Clooney Musical.  The final musical will be a charming and surprising new piece, The Oliver Experiment (August 15).

TRW has selected the musicals, and the Actors’ Equity casts and directors are coming from all around the country and Memphis.

The cast includes Broadway’s Katrina Lenk (Once; Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark; The Miracle Worker) as Titania and Eric B. Anthony (The Lion King; Hairspray; Mary Poppins) as Puck.

Songwriters Brendan Milburn and Valerie Vigoda join with co-creator/director Janet Roston (Artistic Director of The Los Angeles Rock Opera Company) for this new take on William Shakespeare’s beloved comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  The musical is set within a modern-day rock festival.  It’s a rollicking collision of rock music, iambic pentameter, and hipsters – where rock stars Titania and Oberon quarrel, festival assistant Puck creates havoc, and roadie Bottom gets a chance to shine.  

Keyboardist Milburn and electric violinist Vigoda have been singing and writing songs together for over 20 years, first for their band GrooveLily, and more recently for musical theatre and film.  Theatre:  Striking Twelve, Sleeping Beauty Wakes, Beautiful Poison, Wheelhouse, Toy Story: The Musical, Long Short Story, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, its complete reworking as the rock musical Midsummer Night, and Ernest Shackleton Loves Me.  Film: many songs for Tinker Bell for Disney animated movies.  Additional music is provided by Gene Lewin.   

The Midsummer Night creators and cast will collaborate and rehearse at the U of M for ten days leading up to its reading.  Though it will be going through both script and music changes, Midsummer Night will be played and sung in its entirety and with musical accompaniment on the U of M’s mainstage.  No other design elements (scenic/costumes/lights) will be integrated.

Audiences will have an opportunity to speak with the actors and creators of Midsummer Night immediately following its reading.  Audiences also will inform the production by completing an audience survey that will help the creative team in future development phases.

Read More

Memphis Mayor AC Wharton, Jr. to Visit Tennessee Shakespeare Company’s Romeo and Juliet Project in Action at East High School Monday, March 23

March 17, 2015 – Memphis Mayor AC Wharton, Jr. announced today he will observe first-hand Tennessee Shakespeare Company teaching and playing its Romeo and Juliet Project with 100 ninth graders in four simultaneous sessions at East High School on Monday, March 23 at 9:00 am.

“On behalf of TSC and our Board of Directors, I am so proud and honored to have Mayor Wharton joining our teachers in the classroom,” said Project creator and TSC Education Director Stephanie Shine.  “It was at the Mayor’s urging we created this Project, and I am excited for him to see his challenge come to positive life.”

pic-romeo-and-juliet-castTennessee Shakespeare Company began its nationally-recognized, four-part performance and in-school residency in the Memphis area in January.  The Project, now in its fourth year, brings a cast of eight professional actor-teachers into each Language Arts classroom at a participating school.  Students are guided by the actors to live the play’s urgent tragedy of young love amidst rage, experiencing its relevant story while ensuring that participating freshmen have a first exposure to Shakespeare that is active, rich, and rewarding.

As the teenagers in the play face armed violence, students discover positive actions available to them in their own lives in the face of real conflict.  Student post-Project assessments have recorded a 20% increase in students’ compassion as a result of their inclusion in The Romeo and Juliet Project, as well as a full letter grade increase, on average, in Language Arts classes.

The Residency concludes with an intimate performance by the actor-teachers of Romeo and Juliet, which encourages student participation.

By the end of March, The Romeo and Juliet Project will have performed the play 44 times in 27 Memphis area schools, and will have taught the Residency in 342 classroom visits in 11 schools.  At least 4,360 high school Freshmen will be reached and positively affected by The Romeo and Juliet Project.  That figure represents 34% of all freshmen in the Shelby County Schools system.

Read More

pic-romeo-and-juliet-castTennessee Shakespeare Company Kicks Off Fourth Year of Nationally-Recognized ROMEO AND JULIET PROJECT

  • 27 Schools
  • 44 Performances
  • 342 Classroom Visits
  • 4,360 High School Freshmen


(January 15, 2015) -- Tennessee Shakespeare Company has begun its nationally-recognized, four-part performance and in-school residency The Romeo and Juliet Project in the Memphis area this week, starting with Germantown High School and all of its 530 Freshmen.

The Project, now in its fourth year, brings a cast of eight professional actor-teachers into each Language Arts classroom at a participating school. Students are guided by the actors to live the play's urgent tragedy of young love amidst rage, experiencing its relevant story while ensuring that participating Freshmen have a first exposure to Shakespeare that is active, rich, and rewarding.

As the teenagers in the play face armed violence, students discover positive actions available to them in their own lives in the face of real conflict. The Residency concludes with an intimate performance by the actor-teachers of Romeo and Juliet, which encourages student participation.

By the end of March, The Romeo and Juliet Project will have performed the play 44 times in 27 Memphis area schools, and will have taught the Residency in 342 classroom visits in 11 schools. At least 4,360 high school Freshmen will be reached and positively affected by The Romeo and Juliet Project. That figure represents 34% of all Freshmen in the Shelby County Schools system.

Student post-Project assessments have recorded a 20% increase in students' compassion as a result of their inclusion in The Romeo and Juliet Project, as well as a full letter grade increase, on average, in Language Arts classes.

Read More

Tennessee Shakespeare Company is generously supported by:

Boyle         FedEx         logo-arts-memphis

International Paper            University of Memphis

logo-ibank

Theatrical Rights Worldwide

First Tenneessee Foundation

Tennessee Arts Commission


Season Sponsors:
Arts Memphis, Barbara B. Apperson Angel Fund, Nancy and Dan Copp, FedEx Corporation, Independent Bank, Ernest and Pat Kelly, Jr., National Endowment for the Arts/Arts Midwest, Milton T. Schaeffer, The Family of Margaret and Owen Tabor, Ann and Wellford Tabor, and Tennessee Arts Commission.

Season Partners:
Boyle Investment Company, Dixon Gallery & Gardens, St. George’s Episcopal Church, Theatrical Rights Worldwide,
and The University of Memphis.

Tennessee Shakespeare Company is a proud member of:
Alliance for Nonprofit Excellence       ArtsMemphis    logo-gacc          Tennesseans for the Arts     Tennessee Theatre Association