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

  • Flannery O’Connor: Georgia Gothic
  • Eighth Annual Gala
  • The Shakespeare Brunch is Back
  • New Board Members and Officers for 2016-17

pic Flannery OConnorSouthern Literary Salon features
Flannery O’Connor: Georgia Gothic on April 21

Tennessee Shakespeare Company continues its popular Southern Literary Salon on April 21 with one of the more shocking American voices of the 20th Century – Flannery O’Connor.

Presented inside and outdoors at the spacious private home of Drew and Melia Murphy in Germantown (the site of previous Salons on Faulkner and Hemingway), Flannery O’Connor: Georgia Gothic runs 6:00–8:00 pm.

The evening features light Southern food, conversation, music, 45 minutes or so of readings from Ms. O’Connor’s works, and a mixed spirit of the author’s dis-liking (she preferred her coca-cola spiked with coffee).

Tickets are only are $55 and include all of the above.  Seating is very limited.

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Sierra Boggess, Broadway’s Original Little Mermaid, to Headline Eighth Annual Gala

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Broadway’s critically-acclaimed, soaring soprano Sierra Boggess (The Little Mermaid, Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables) will headline its Eighth Annual Gala performed at Germantown Performing Arts Center on March 10 at 6:00 pm.

Ms. Boggess will perform her one-hour show, Awakening, as the Gala centerpiece on stage at GPAC.  She will sing from her own Broadway and West End shows, as well as songs from other award-winning musicals.

The Gala benefits TSC’s innovative Education Program.

Sierra Boggess is best known world-wide for re-inventing the role of Christine in The Phantom of the Opera.  Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber calls her “the best Christine certainly.”  She played the role in the Broadway, West End, and the televised 25th Anniversary concert productions of Phantom filmed at London’s Royal Albert Hall (available on DVD).

She made her Broadway debut as Ariel in Disney’s The Little Mermaid, receiving Drama Desk and Drama League nominations, as well as the Broadway.com Audience Award for Favorite Female Breakthrough Performance.  Her additional Broadway credits include the revival of Master Class starring Tyne Daly, It Shoulda Been You, and School of Rock.

In the West End, Ms. Boggess appeared as Fantine in Les Miserables, and she originated the role of Christine in Love Never Dies, the critically-acclaimed sequel to The Phantom of the Opera, receiving an Olivier Award Nomination for her performance.

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pic the winters tale 2016 Photo: Elliot LaPlante. Kelli Radwanski Photography

Back by popular demand:

The Shakespeare Brunch

Join us for an elegant Sunday brunch, drinks, and an abbreviated Shakespeare reading in a beautiful indoor setting. Acted by some of your favorite TSC players, the reading is preceded by a delicious and thematic buffet with cash bar. Your $40 ticket includes the buffet and reading.

title the winters tale

by William Shakespeare

Sunday, November 20

12:30-3:30 pm
directed by Stephanie Shine
at The Memphis Hunt and Polo Club
Host Members: Margaret and Owen Tabor


Shakespeare’s late romance features a Bohemian rhapsody of near-magical redemption and forgiveness, featuring over 20 professional actors, including Carey Urban, Tony Molina, Darius Wallace, Stephanie Shine, and Dan McCleary.

Attire: cocktail/business casual.

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Three New Board Members and Officers Announced for 2016-17

(November 7, 2016) - Tennessee Shakespeare Company today announced its 26-member Board of Directors unanimously approved the elections of three new members and a slate of new Officers to its Executive Committee for FY17.

Melanie
Melanie Stovall Murry

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Michael R. Marshall

Joining the Board for three-year terms are educator Pat Casserly Kelly, lawyer Michael R. Marshall of Evans Petree, and University of Memphis General Counsel Melanie Stovall Murry.

Dr. Owen B. Tabor returns as President. His officers are Ernest G. Kelly, Jr. (Vice President), C. Cato Ealy (Treasurer), and Melia M. Murphy (Secretary). Their terms are renewable after one year.

Rotating to TSC’s Emeritus Founders Board is educator Ruth Dunning, who helped create the Company in 2007-08.

Pat Casserly Kelly, though she still finds herself teaching, is the retired chair of the English and Humanities departments at The Hutchison School and its recipient of the Margaret Wellford Tabor chair for Excellence in Teaching English. In her teaching career, she emphasized the great writers and thinkers of the Western tradition—Shakespeare, Dante, Milton, Austen, Dickens, Hardy—as she encouraged her students to become lovers of literature and independent and creative thinkers. Mrs. Kelly was a president of the Shelby-Memphis Council of Teachers of English and was recognized as a Teacher of Excellence by the National Council Teachers of English. She was a recipient of two National Endowment for the Humanities study grants, and was chosen by the U.S. Department of State for a teacher exchange program in Eurasia. She served two terms on the vestry of St. Elisabeth’s Church in Raleigh and was the Director of Religious Education there for 15 years. Currently a communicant at St. Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral, she serves as a lector, a Lay Eucharistic Minister, a member of the hospitality committee, and is serving her first year of her term on the Chapter of the Cathedral.

Michael R. Marshall is legal counsel at Evans Petree in Memphis. He is the co-leader of the Labor and Employment section and uses his experience in other arenas to reach solutions and resolutions to his clients’ disputes. He has extensive experience in litigating and resolving employment matters and other business-related disputes. He is a frequent speaker on employment-related topics. Mr. Marshall was the lead attorney in a case brought by the Memphis City Schools against the City of Memphis and obtained a $57 million verdict for education funding. Mr. Marshall graduated from the University of California and Southern Methodist University School of Law. He is a member of the American Bar Association Member, Tennessee Bar Association Member, and Memphis Bar Association member. He is admitted to practice law in Tennessee and Texas. Mr. Marshall has also served as the General Counsel for the Memphis City Schools, and is the general counsel for the Shelby County Emergency Communications District and for Lausanne Collegiate School.

Melanie Stovall Murry is General Counsel at the University of Memphis. Mrs. Murry joined the University in December 2002, serving as associate and assistant counsel. She was also an adjunct faculty member for the doctoral program in higher education administration for the College of Education, Health and Human Sciences. She serves as an instructor at the Tennessee Institute for Pre-law. Mrs. Murry graduated from the Tennessee Bar Association’s Leadership Law program and was a 2008 fellow of the New Memphis Institute. She is a graduate of the University of Tennessee College of Law, and has a Bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Saint Louis University.

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Tennessee Shakespeare Company is generously supported by:

Boyle         FedEx         Tennessee Arts Commission

International Paper             University of Memphis  logo-arts-memphis



     First Tenneessee Foundation    

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Individual Season Sponsors:

Barbara B. Apperson Angel Fund; Nancy Copp; Ernest, Pat, Martha, and Marian Kelly; Milton T. Schaeffer; The Family of Owen and Margaret Tabor;
Ann and Wellford Tabor.

Season Partners:

Boyle Investment Company, Dixon Gallery & Gardens, Hutchison School, Shelby County Schools, St. George’s Church, The University of Memphis’ Department of Theatre & Dance

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