Thank you to everyone who was able to attend our Community Meeting on Tuesday. For those who were unable to come, please read the letter below as a summary of what you missed. While we have received some amazing commitments so far, we are still a ways from reaching our goal and are reaching out again for immediate support from you and your family/friend/business networks.

Hello, my name is Bill Watson and I have been lucky enough to be a part of Desert Stages Theatre for nearly twenty years now. Currently I serve as the Vice President of the board of directors, but in the past I have been an actor, a director and the Box Office Manager.

I want to start by thanking you for being a part of Desert Stages Theatre, because each of you have played a part in helping the theatre reach this year, our 25 th Anniversary Season. Desert Stages Theatre is one of the oldest community theatres in the Valley of the Sun. Each year, DST touch the lives of up to 30,000 patrons and 800 actor and 35-40 teen volunteers, directors and other crew members. You are reading this because you are care about Desert Stages Theatre and that makes you part of our community.

I want to share a bit about Desert Stages Theatre’s history, current state, lessons learned and how we plan to reboot in order to move forward. On Tuesday, October 22 nd two meetings were held to discuss these same items, but I wanted to share this message, opportunity and call to action with as many members of our community as possible.

Though Desert Stages Theatre has been in Scottsdale for 25 years, DST has been a tenant of Scottsdale Fashion Square for the last 13 years; 11 years in our previous space exterior to the mall and now 2 years within the food court. When the theatre made the move into our new space we are required to move out of our previous space as the landlord has other plans for the space. In order to make the move, we had to spend $750,000. We were able to fundraise for some of the funds, but the board was forced to obtain a low-interest loan for $450,000.

The result is the beautiful new home Desert Stages Theatre equipped with a larger Cullity Hall with 219-seats compared with 136-seats and Actor’s Café with 56 permanent seats compared with only 28 permanent seats. The move though has also presented a unique set of challenges including an increase in monthly expenses including rent ($1,000 more), utilities and a loan payment ($6,000). There were also some unexpected circumstances including two floods from the sewage lines causing Desert Stages Theatre to incur cleaning and repair costs. The theatre also experienced issues with the air conditioning which we were taken care of by our landlord, but still caused some lost revenue until resolved. This year our summer camp, which is our largest source of income, brought in lower numbers than in previous years.

Recently, the Board of Desert Stages recently sent out a survey to the actors and families in our community to understand what is going well and what opportunities exist.

    • First, 41% of respondents positively identified with DST’s sense of community
      • “I love the warm community feeling. I love that performers of all ages are welcomed to come and learn and grow in a safe and positive environment. Making relationships with everyone at DST is one of my favorite parts.”
    • Secondly, 25% of responses highlighted the theatre’s high-quality shows;
      • “I love the location, the shows for a variety of ages, double casting, opportunities for all kids to be in a show, summer camp, the kids, high quality shows and high-quality directors. I love the mission of being a community for kids and teens.”
    • Learning opportunities were highlighted in 21% of response. DST has more shows and opportunities than any other local theatre. With the model of double and quadruple casting shows, DST has more performance opportunities for kids to experiment with different parts. DST also hosts more arts teen volunteers than any other theatre.
      • “Watching the kids’ confidence grow with each performance, seeing and hearing the fruition of their hard work and dedication, knowing that lifelong friendships and memories are being made. That’s pretty magical.”

There were some opportunities identified also and we are beginning with being more transparent and DST’s board will host Town Halls with the community on a quarterly basis to discuss current finances, operations and gather feedback. We used your feedback to come up with the “Reboot Plan” for the theatre:

      • The number of weekends for which the teen shows are produced is too long and have caused us cash-flow issues due to lower ticket sales per show. For this reason, the runs of our teen shows will be changed to three to allow for the smaller casts to sell out more shows. This is also expected to draw more teens to the theatre, and will allow us to add more children’s shows.
      • We need to return to our roots and focus on children’s shows to maximize the opportunities for our core contingency. As our children’s shows sell more tickets this will help us to increase cash flow, and will encourage more kids to attend DST classes and camps. In 2020, we will:
        • Extend the runs of our children’s shows to five weekends
        • Add one more large children’s show to the schedule
      • Future directors will also be encouraged to increase audience interaction with the cast during shows through creative use of all our spaces, such as the use of the theatre aisles in Lion King
      • The theatre is also working to improve the consistency of our technical crews from show to show and bringing them in earlier to learn the show alongside the actors
      • New direction staff members are being brought in including Chris Chavez for Chicago High School Edition and A Christmas Story the Play, Janis Webb for our Actor’s Café and Torrie Bennet who is choreographing Annie

Financial challenges are not new to Desert Stages, as we are always working to balance a budget of nearly $900,000 per year which is only 70% covered by ticket sales and education program tuition. The other 30% has always been funded through fundraising and grants. Many years this has only left the theatre with relatively small gaps which a few key donors were able to help us fill in previous years. This year, however, the financial gap Desert Stages Theatre finds itself in this year is much higher than previous years at $60,000. Though this is a large challenge, the DST Board does not believe it to be insurmountable, but YOUR help is needed. You may have read the email written by a concerned parent which asks for your support toward the goal of $60,000. This is a dire need for Desert Stages Theatre to continue to operate and we have already met some of our goal, but your help is still needed.The impact Desert Stages Theatre has had on the community is great and can be witnessed in the lives of the actors who have been a part of our community. Jordan Yampolsky, a proud DST alum, hearing of the current challenges DST was facing organized, edited and produced the following video above showing the impact of the theatre on the lives of some of our alumni.

Are you ready to take a chance on Desert Stages Theatre to ensure the magic can continue? For in the words of our late founder, Gerry Cullity, “This place is magic; this place has wonders not yet told; magic food for your soul; calm your fears, lift your eyes; feel it grow, a great surprise!”Please click here to support our reboot campaign today! We also thank this who have already donated toward saving DST!

Donate Today!

Thank you,
Bill Watson
Vice President, Desert Stages Theatre Board of Directors

Financials – 2019 Profit and Loss Statement Through October
Financials – 2019 Balance Sheet Through October
Financials – 2019 Pro Forma November to December
Financials – 2020 Pro Forma