Friends of CTC find success with new events in 2011

Suzi Starheim | Staff Writer

The Friends of Chautauqua Theater Company work hard to provide financial and moral support for the Chautauqua Theater Company each season, and the 2011 Season allowed for continued and new events to help show this support, executive director Gwen Tigner said.

The “Adopt an Actor” program was the first of the Friends events this season, and this program acts as direct support for the 14 conservatory members as the Friends match them with “parents.” While Tigner said the adoptive relationships vary from pair to pair, the program acts as an underlying support system for the conservatory members, even if they just need a place to do a load of laundry.

Other annual events continued this season were technical rehearsal meals, set change buffets and play discussions for CTC’s two major productions — Anton Chekhov’s “Three Sisters” and William Shakespeare’s “Love’s Labour’s Lost.”

The Friends also were able to give an annual scholarship to one of the conservatory members. This year’s recipient of the $2,500 scholarship was Benjamin Mehl.

This season also included two new programs. The first, called “How I Got This Job,” took place June 30 in Fletcher Music Hall and allowed audiences to see conservatory members perform the monologues they originally used to audition for CTC. Prior to this season, these monologues had been featured only in small snippets as part of the Brown Bag lunches.

The second new program, called “Be a Buddy,” was established to create a closer bond between the Friends and technical company members of CTC.

“I guess there was some of that, but what it really transformed into was the theater would call us when they needed stuff,” Tigner said. “It became something other than what we’d intended, but I think the theater department felt it was a really successful program.”

Finishing off the 2011 CTC season, the Friends also surprised the members of CTC and presented them with a $4,500 check at last Thursday’s Brown Bag lunch.

Alice O’Grady, vice president of the Friends, said this season’s success can be partially attributed to the organization of tasks.

“I think that one of the reasons things are successful is because there are people who are in charge of individual events, and that’s all they do, and that seems to work,” O’Grady said.

While the 2011 Season was successful for the Friends overall, Tigner said one challenge the group faced was bringing in new blood.

“The main challenge that we always have is getting volunteers,” Tigner said. “People come here for vacation, and they don’t necessarily want to volunteer or work, and in reality, most of the leadership that we have comes from people who are here all season.”

She said that this challenge is something the organization seems to battle every season and that there are several factors that contribute to it.

“We’re all getting older, and we’ve been there, done that, and we’d love to have new people step up to the plate, but quite frankly, they’re not doing it and that’s because — and I think this represents a trend that the Institution is noticing — the younger people are here for a shorter period of time; they’re devoted to their families; and they’re probably coming for shorter periods of time because of the economy,” she said.

In looking forward to the 2012 Season, Tigner said the Friends plan to continue all the annual events and new programs they started this season. They also will be starting another new program called “Producers Circle.”

Tigner said this will be “a group of the most active Friends members who will self-identify themselves, and they will serve as an advisory board.”

They also will serve as a pool from which the organization can pull leaders, she added.