Everett’s Village Theater will run shows longer

EVERETT — They say in theater that the show must go on.

For Village Theatre in Everett, the shows are going to go on and on a little bit longer.

Village Theatre has decided to increase the run length of its main stage productions up to four weeks per show from three weeks per show.

That four-week run schedule will begin with Village Theatre’s new 2008-09 season, which kicks off with the new musical “St. Heaven” Oct. 31. That show will run through Nov. 23.

Village Theatre produces shows in downtown Everett out of the Everett Performing Arts Center and out of the Francis J. Gaudette Theatre in Issaquah. Village prides itself on being a leader in musical theater and in its youth educational programs and boasts about being one of the region’s largest professional theater programs.

Village just added a new benchmark to bolster that claim.

At the end of its fiscal year in August, Village Theatre leaders realized that Village had its best year ever in ticket sales — and not just for Everett but for the organization overall, executive producer Robb Hunt said.

In terms of season ticket holders locally, Everett hit a record number for its 2007-08 season at 6,346, up from 4,360 in 2002-03, a jump of 46 percent.

“We were at 6,300 at the end of the year so we made the call to put another week on the calendar,” Hunt said. “And we’re ahead of last year for our season tickets for the coming year so we are excited. We think we’re on a really good path.”

With all five of Village Theatre main stage productions this year running for four weeks, that means Village can offer patrons increased seating options.

“What’s really great for people who are thinking about subscribing is that this extra week opens up all these excellent seats that were never really available before,” said Hunt, who pointed out that availability for a Wednesday or Thursday night show just went up 50 percent.

Longer show runs also equate to more health insurance for Village’s union actors who have always had at least six months of health insurance but who might now have almost a year’s worth of coverage.

“It’s the longest run in the state of Washington in terms of what anybody is actually doing,” Hunt said. “It’s good employment and solid employment.”

Hunt said Village has made the “very unusual commitment to new musicals” by deciding to produce two new musicals each year. That commitment brought the new musical “Million Dollar Quartet,” a Village Theatre original, to Everett last year. Village decided to run “Quartet” into a fourth week, making it the theater’s box office record breaker for new musicals, bringing in more than $1 million in overall ticket sales. With more than 29,000 tickets sold, “Quartet” was one of Village Theatre’s most popular musicals in its history.

“We hear this all the time (from patrons) that I’ve let my subscription to the 5th Avenue Theatre go because, ‘You guys are right here,’ and ‘Oh my gosh the quality is identical,’ and ‘I don’t have to drive as far and I can be part of my community,’ ” said Katie Nickerson, Village Theatre’s director of youth education. “Those are great things to hear.”

It used to be that Village Theater productions were subsidized by the city of Everett. That stopped about seven years ago and now the theater operates under a management contract with the city, meaning Village manages the Everett Performing Arts Center and pays rent to the city for each main stage and Pied Piper performance at the center. Last year, Village Theatre paid the city about $50,000 in rental fees, said Sherrill Dryden, general manager for the center.

“We’ve been in here for a decade and we started from ground zero and it became apparent after the first contract that this was going to be good fit for us and for the city,” Dryden said. “I remember when we hit the 3,000 mark (for season tickets) and that was a huge moment and we’ve doubled that now.”

Hunt said that the way to keep Village Theatre thriving in the community is for people to buy season tickets.

“The way to support the arts for the community is through subscriptions,” Hunt said. “Subscribe. That will help keep us getting better and better.”

Reporter Theresa Goffredo: 425-339-3424 or goffredo@heraldnet.com.

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