Highlands Summer Festival
Annual General Meeting
April 25, 2010
It was a pleasure, once again, to serve as the president of the Highland Summer Festival’s Board of Directors during the 2009 season. This past season was our tenth, an important milestone in a performing arts organization. I am aware of many theatre companies which barely lasted a season.
The anniversary was marked with a Gala evening just about a year ago today at which we reprised some of the outstanding performances of the past nine years and also provided a sneak preview of the 2009 season. For those who have been involved with the Festival since its inception and the many patrons who have been with us from the start, it was an enjoyable journey down memory lane.
The 2009 season was successful in many ways. Artistically the Festival presented some of the best theatre seen on the Northern Lights Performing Arts Pavilion Stage. This was due in no small part to the dedication of our creative team led by Artistic Producer Scot Denton. Working with producers David Mills and Melissa Stephens, they created a delightful six weeks of live theatre and concerts.
Our association with the Highlands Opera Studio continues to grow as does this wonderful program under the guidance of Artistic Directors Richard Margison and Valerie Kuinka. The Opera Studio, in its third year last season, is acquiring a reputation and recognition that will stand it is good stead as it evolves in the future.
Together, the Summer Festival and the Opera Studio attracted over 70% average attendance with many shows in the upper 80% range. We are pleased the attendance remains strong and among our loyal patrons we are encouraged to see many new faces as well.
Financially, the Highlands Summer Festival/Highlands Opera Studio managed to balance its books, barely, borrowing from an earlier surplus to cover a small deficit. As a not for profit, charitable organization, breaking even, to my mind, is a minimal expectation. Quite frankly, I would be more comfortable generating a modest surplus each season to set aside for contingencies or major capital expenditures. I am also very aware of the financial impact the company has on the community, with expenses and income approaching a half million dollars. We are a significant part of the summer economy in the Highlands.
Our strength continues to be the people attracted to Highlands Summer Festival, many of whom volunteer their time. Without their participation it would be difficult to mount as challenging a repertoire as we do each year. Hats off to those individuals, whose many and varied skills ensure the season unfolds as it should each year.
I would be remiss if I didn’t specifically acknowledge the hard work of two other key members of the management team. Business manager Betty Mills, who multi-faceted involvement extends far beyond the parameters of those of a business manager, is key to the organization. As well, box office manager Jim Frost and his wife Marilyn continue to be our first line of contact with patrons. Jim manages tickets for over 40 performances and does a great job of making sure everyone gets the best seat possible.
We have just come throughout our first full year as a registered charitable company. I am fortunate to have a dedicated group of individuals who serve on the board of directors. Their guidance and involvement has helped ensure the success of this past season. My Thanks to Vice Chair Tammy Rea, Secretary Craig Saunders, Treasurer Paul Heffer and Directors Joan Chapple, Rob Eaton and Joan Hawley for their hard work last year and into this season, especially during my extended absence earlier this year.
Our patrons continue to support Highlands Summer Festival and the Highlands Opera Studio, not only by purchasing tickets, but through generous donations. Patron participation in Friends of the Highlands Summer Festival, donations of time and expertise, grants from various sources including Foundations, Businesses, the Haliburton County Development Corporation and the federal department of Human Resources Development helps make this one of the most vibrant summer theatre companies in the province.
Of course, live theatre thrives only when an audience is present. The many people who believe in what we do and attend the dramatic, concert and opera productions validate our efforts and help ensure the viability of the organization. In this digital age, live theatre is still an entrancing form of entertainment that continues to create magical moments that other forms of entertainment can’t seem to duplicate. We are grateful for the enthusiastic response of our audiences and rededicate ourselves to providing the best in live performances this summer and into the future.
Thank you all for another great season and we look forward to doing something dramatic again this summer.
April 25, 2010