Seattle’s Taproot Theatre Needs Prayer

I received the following last night from Scott Nolte and knew supporters of the arts everywhere would want to know about this. Dick Staub

Dear TTC friends and family,

You may have noticed Taproot Theatre Company in the newspapers and on television in the last two weeks; more so than usual and not in the performance listings. I want to‚ explain the current events.

Like many non-profit arts organizations across the region and nation, we’ve used the “Independent Contractor” model for compensating guest artists such as actors, musicians, designers, technicians and acting studio teachers. This model lets us pay as much as possible within the limits of our combined earned and donated incomes.‚  Within the last few months, following correspondence and an audit by the Unemployment Security office, we learned that this practice is not in accordance with Washington State regulations. In effect, all of these individuals, likely 60-80 per year, need to be treated as full employees with obligations for minimum wage and all employment related taxes.

In practical terms, what does this mean? It means that each Mainstage actor could cost us nearly twice our former budgeted amount.‚ The rehearsal costs alone for‚ Mainstage and Road Company actors could triple.‚ We still need to compute the administrative cost of tracking timecards for 15-20 actors, technicians and teachers each week. Overall, the estimated‚ financial‚ increase is enormous.

In terms of impact on TTC’s mission, we’ve been sent back to the table to carefully and prayerfully reconsider every program and play for the remainder of the year. Do we trim rehearsal hours? Do we cut a staff position? Are there other savings?‚  Are there foundations, companies and supporters who can rally to our side?

I’ve told TTC’s story to two non-profit arts service organizations (as well as the media), and there’s a new statewide effort to lobby the legislature in 2006 to rectify the situation. Not by choice, Taproot has become the poster child for the implications of this rule on the state’s non-profit theatres, music, dance, and film scene.‚  But for the remainder of 2005 and in our planning for 2006, we’re under the gun.

On behalf of Taproot Theatre Company’s staff, artists and board of directors, I ask for your prayers, patience and extra financial generosity while we reflect and adjust. It is a difficult and challenging moment. We’re not quite halfway through our season or fiscal year: It’s as if‚ someone changed the rules of Monopoly after the properties had been purchased and the hotels had been built. ‚ We’re looking at every possible angle in hopes that‚ our services to you, to kids in schools, and to the larger community aren’t compromised.

There are two immediate‚ ways you can help.‚ 

1) Spread the word to your friends and associates.‚  This doesn’t just affect Taproot.‚  It has the potential to affect most small to mid-size theatre, music and dance‚ organizations.‚  Some have already said in private they will have to close their doors if they are required‚ to come into compliance.

2) Make a donation to help TTC through this difficult time.‚  Although we plan to appeal, it’s a matter of integrity that we comply with the law at this time.‚  The cost is enormous.

Thanks for your friendship, attendance and support of Taproot Theatre Company. We appreciate your trust and concern.

With a grateful heart for your support through the years,

Scott Nolte,
Founding Member & Producing Artistic Director‚ 
Taproot Theatre Company
P.O. Box 30946, Seattle, WA‚  98113
Admin: (206) 781-9705‚ ‚ ‚  Box Office: (206) 781-9707

Taproot exists to create theatre that explores the beauty and questions of life while bringing hope to our search for meaning.‚ 
We Value Faith‚ – We Respect People‚ – We Celebrate Theatre

Posted in Staublog in June 9, 2005 by | No Comments »

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