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Keep on Saving the Englert

David Lewis

Iowa City Press-Citizen

June 21, 2006

[Note: This material is copyright by the Press-Citizen, and is reproduced here as a matter of "fair use" for non-commercial, educational purposes only. Any other use may require the prior approval of the Iowa City Press-Citizen.]

Anyone entertaining the idea of actually making a living in the theater should quickly change his or her vocational choice. The odds of success are frighteningly small. Similarly, the Englert Theatre will not survive without a voracious "save the theater" mentality.

The Englert was established by the community out of a spontaneous and collective expressive need. I don't know if anyone initially thought about the financial black hole that running a theater presents, but that reality is quickly making itself apparent to all involved. The staff is superb, but they cannot operate without community involvement at the highest level.

The Press-Citizen is correct in pointing out the need for continuation of financial support ("Englert moves into post-saved phase, seeks recognition," June 19). The easy part is done. Everyone seems ready to build a building. Contributors can imagine where their dollars are going when they gaze at a building. The tricky part is financing the artists -- a category in which Iowa does not seem to excel. In fact, we wallow at the bottom of the list for states' contribution to the arts.

I have spent my entire career in the performing arts, and I can guarantee that without the spirit of revolution behind the fundraising efforts for the continuation of The Englert the theater will die. The financial fervor that was utilized to keep a football coach from breaking his employment contract needs to be applied to the theater and the arts in general.

David Lewis
Iowa City