Evita-28

Tracy Webber played Eva Perón in "Evita," which was a hot ticket for the Majestic Theatre in the last fiscal year.

Anibal Ortiz, The E (File)

Shakespeare in Love: Scene 23. Daylight. Rose Theater interior. London. 1593

Philip Henslowe: Mr. Fennyman, allow me to explain about the theater business. The natural condition is one of insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster.

Hugh Fennyman: So what do we do?

Philip Henslowe: Nothing. Strangely enough, it all turns out well.

Hugh Fennyman: How?

Philip Henslowe: I don't know. It's a mystery.

Different times require different measures. Henslowe, the beleaguered Elizabethan-era theater impresario, tended to just throw his hands in the air and hope for the best.

That wouldn’t cut it for Jimbo Ivy and his crew at the Majestic. You see, they work for the city’s Parks and Recreation Department. Which means annoying things like quarterly financial reports.

Except when those annoying quarterly reports bear good news. In year one in which the Majestic was part of the city, the theater operation lost $175,000 and had to dip into its reserves to make up the difference. This past fiscal year after some severe belt-tightening and structural shifts, the Majestic came within $4,000 of breaking even on a budget of $526,000.

Which had theater supervisor Ivy uncorking a series of exclamation points in a website note to patrons and volunteers with the title "YOU DID IT!"

“The real story of this turnaround is our staff, donors and volunteers who stepped up to the challenge,” Ivy told the Gazette-Times.

So how did Ivy and the Majestic avoid “imminent disaster”?

• Last fall Ivy laid off five staffers and announced a plan to replace them with volunteers. The theater had benefited from 68,000 hours of volunteer time in the 2015-16 fiscal year. Ivy thought there still was room for growth. He was right. Last year the volunteer hours total grew 25 percent to 85,000.

“Our volunteers … became the house managers, cashiers, technicians, street team members and other workers that are needed to make the Majestic work,” Ivy wrote in his note to the Majestic community.

• Donations increased more than 50 percent from $75,000 in 2015-16 to $114,000 last year. Ivy and his crew created the Majestic Ambassadors and put them in charge of the “networking, planning and workload of our fundraising efforts.” Also added was the Majestic STAR program, which recognizes donors with stars in the lobby.

And the Majestic has added a Dec. 16 fundraising Majestic Holiday Spectacular, which is designed to expand on the previous Majestic Follies concept. Also, Ivy has begun collaborating with the department’s fundraising arm, the Friends of Corvallis Parks and Recreation.

• Musicals, musicals and more musicals. Ticket revenue soared more than 30 percent from approximately $250,000 in the 2015-16 season to $334,000 last year, with musicals “Evita” and “The Full Monty” exceeding expectations by selling more than 70 percent of their seats. “In a community with as many excellent live performances we have, that is pretty outstanding,” Ivy said.

The Majestic is planning two more musicals this season: “The Little Mermaid” opens Nov. 3, with “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” set for May.

In fact, Ivy is so enthused about the way things are going that he’s planning to appear before the City Council in November to request that the Majestic’s association with Parks & Rec be made permanent.

“With all that we’ve learned in the past two-and-three-quarter years, we’re excited to end our trial period,” Ivy said.

Contact reporter James Day at jim.day@gazettetimes.com or 541-758-9542. Follow at Twitter.com/jameshday or gazettetimes.com/blogs/jim-day.

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