Name: Sharon Maroney
Organization: Broadway Rose Theatre
Annual Operating Budget: $2,543,354
Learn more at broadwayrose.org
Interview originally published on June 10, 2020.
How are the arts playing a role during this critical time?
In an effort to stay engaged with their constituents, arts organizations and theatre companies, including Broadway Rose, are creating online performances and educational opportunities. The first piece BRTC produced was a video performance of the opening number to Ain’t Misbehavin’, the first musical we canceled when the virus hit.
Led by our marketing department, our organization has reinvented itself and has produced several different online outreach pieces. On Wednesdays at 1:00 p.m. we produce a livestreamed Midday Cabaret series, hosted by General Manager Dan Murphy, highlighting music and stories with past performers. We are also sharing
clever interviews with staff, who are usually not in the limelight, and we are creating cast reunion videos with former cast members singing a song virtually. One of our board members recently called our work “a beacon of hope for a better existence in these dark, uncertain and tumultuous times.” I see the arts as vital to sustaining healthy and resilient communities and Broadway Rose intends to continue playing that role in whatever way we can.
What has been the most notable / most unpredictable / most challenging impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on your organization?Biggest financial challenge?
The biggest financial challenge is that there is no ticket revenue coming in the door. We also do not have a solid timeline for when we can open, so consequently, we have projected various scenarios for this fiscal year, and are wrestling with the question, will we lose $400,000 or $600,000? What type of theatre will we be able to afford to produce once we can re-open? Will our audience come back? The most distressing challenge is not knowing when we will be able to start producing again.
To date, what steps have you taken to mitigate that impact?
When we canceled our six spring and summer productions, we asked our ticket holders if they would consider donating the value of their tickets to the company or keep the money on account good toward future purchases. Our patrons were incredibly supportive and interested in the well-being of Broadway Rose! In the end, we only had to refund less than 20% of the ticket sales.
In addition, we have solicited donations from our supporters to help offset the loss of revenue. We continue to incur expenses such as salaries, facilities maintenance, utilities, and the rental of two offsite workspaces. We are so grateful to our patrons who have responded generously to sustain us through this crisis.
What kind of innovation in management has developed for your your organization, and what challenges have you encountered when implementing new innovative ideas?
Because the majority of the staff are working from home, we had to find new ways to keep in communication. We now utilize Microsoft Teams for our regular staff meetings and to manage projects. This platform has proven to be highly effective. With everyone working in different locations, our IT manager has more work to keep everyone connected and updated. However, he’s doing a wonderful job keeping our systems working smoothly.
With the shift to producing online content, many of our staff members have had to dive headfirst into new technology. We are theatre producers, not television producers, and there’s a learning curve. But we’re in good company with just about everyone else experimenting with new ideas as well.
What are the short-term and potential long-term effects of this shut down for your organization and the arts in general?
We are in the middle of a capital campaign, raising money to expand our facility. We still have to raise about $350,000 to hit our goal, but foundations are not taking our capital requests because of the pandemic. Because there is such uncertainly at this time, we feel it is prudent to put our expansion efforts on hold for the time being. Once the health crisis is resolved we will set a date for our groundbreaking and resume fundraising for it. Until then, donations received so far will remain in a restricted bank account designated for the expansion.
It is likely that our programming will change for the next couple of years. We may need to produce shows with smaller casts and lower production expenses, but we are not clear about that in this moment.
What is a positive collaboration or initiative born as a result of this situation within your organization or that you’ve seen from your peers and colleagues in the arts industry?
I have been attending Zoom meetings with all the local artistic directors and artistic directors from around the country, sharing ideas and business information. We are building new relationships because of the pandemic.
At Broadway Rose, staff members have been working hard on learning how to more effectively utilize our robust database system, Tessitura, as a stronger development tool.
What is the biggest lesson learned as a leader during this crisis?
After the recession of 2009, we committed to creating a prudent reserve for Broadway Rose. I am grateful for this prudent reserve. I don’t know how we would survive this crisis without it, and we will use all of it to survive. Then, we will work hard to replenish it after all of this, so that we will be able to weather the next storm.
Understanding that the future is hard to predict, how might the lasting impacts of COVID-19 change your upcoming season? Should the tone of pieces or
While our budgets for producing the shows will be smaller, we will produce lighter fare with smaller casts. I believe people will want to be entertained and return to something familiar. I hope our musicals will help people escape for a couple of hours.
Regarding the creative process, what has been a source of inspiration for you/your organization at this time or how has your creative process changed and evolved? What outlets or channels have you sought out to continue to express your creativity, personally and/or professionally?
Because we are unable to perform right now, our production team has taken advantage of this time to organize our costume, set, and prop stock: cleaning and editing our collections, and photographing our scenic drops and furniture to create a book to share with designers. I personally have been playing the piano and watching lots of inspirational and artistic content on YouTube.
What message do you have for the artists and fellow art leaders in our community today?
Hang in there.
What question do you wish someone would ask?!
When can audiences come back to local theaters, and how many will?
When looking to the future, what brings you hope?
The messages we have gotten from our patrons have been inspiring. They want us to survive.
About Sharon Maroney and Broadway Rose:
Broadway Rose Theatre Company is Oregon’s premier musical theatre company. Under the artistic direction of Sharon Maroney, Broadway Rose has been producing professional musical theatre in the Portland area since 1992 and has earned national recognition for its commitment to artistic excellence and new work development. Working to enrich the region’s cultural life and increase opportunities for Oregonians to participate in the arts, the company presents a variety of mainstage productions throughout the year as well as summer children’s musicals, educational camps for children and teens, and a technical internship program for developing theatre professionals. Average annual attendance at Broadway Rose exceeds 45,000 visits a year. Broadway Rose is a 501(c)3 nonprofit committed to keeping live theatre affordable and making its productions accessible to all members of the community.
Founded by Sharon Maroney and Managing Director Dan Murphy in Tigard, Oregon, the company today employs over 250 full, part-time, and seasonal staff; artists, technicians, and educators, with additional support from over 250 volunteers annually. Funding for Broadway Rose includes grants, corporate sponsorships, and private donations.