First of all, let me report that San Jose Rep is alive and well, now in its fourth season under the amazing Rick Lombardo, perhaps the West Coast’s most talented theatre director. The board is raising funds in a tough economy; patrons are regularly treated to gripping drama, meaningful stories, zany comedy, and thrilling musical offerings. Life continues for the Rep—great art is created consistently, despite the fiscal challenges of being an arts group in Silicon Valley.
The constant effort to raise funds and build community support for any resident professional theatre is a daunting daily struggle and paying down debt is a major challenge. But this is not the raison d’être for the Rep. Creating theatre is what the Rep does and does well. Every day a beehive of activity occurs within that big blue box and audiences still are treated to one of the Bay Area’s best entertainment experiences.
In 2009, an auditor attached a note to the Rep’s annual audit stating that its finances were precarious and should be watched carefully. This note is now four years old … and yet a Mercury News reporter, apparently unfamiliar with his own paper’s previous interpretation of a simialr note, wrote the same article again, with a headline that would make Fox News proud. I’m not sure how this happened again. Maybe making some phone calls to someone with actual expertise would be helpful.
There was no precipitating event, no emergency, no sudden crisis, just a reporter unfamiliar with the nonprofit sector and, apparently, financial statements. The actual text of the article was as tedious and mundane as the inaccurate headline was loud and hysterical. There was “no story” behind the supposed story, no precipitating incident.
Like a doctor noting a patients weight, cholesterol, etc., and admonishing him to take better care, the auditors made their warnings clear—four years ago. Doctors don’t usually try to kill the patients for being unhealthy, especially while the patient recovers his health.
The Rep is still in business, still selling subscriptions and single tickets, still producing some of the most exciting theatre in the country. And yet, thousands of people were treated to a crazed rumor, perpetuated by an auditor’s notation and a reporter too lazy to look into archives or contact any appropriate experts.
San Jose Rep has trimmed its budget over and over. It has stayed alive despite debt and a bad economy and the general scarcity of the kind of support a major arts institution requires in Silicon Valley. But, amazingly, it continues on, being careful fiscally careful but bold artistically. It stands upright and alive in spite of the challenges and all of us need to applaud and support that.
James P. Reber is the Executive Director of San Jose Parks Foundation, a veteran nonprofit entrepreneur—he founded the San Jose Rep in 1980—and experienced special event planner and producer. He can be reached at http://www.sanjoseparks.org / firstname.lastname@example.org / 408.893.PARK.