Encore Michigan

Tipping Point: “We’re Still Here”

Feature October 30, 2020

Northville, MI – Live theatre was shut down around the world, leaving staff and artists with uncertainty about their jobs and future careers. That uncertainty has not disappeared, but there is still hope for the future of art organizations as everyone puts their creativity to the test to adapt to the new challenges. Tipping Point Theatre is using that hope for their latest fundraising endeavor, literally shouting “We’re still here” from their rooftop. 

The sign shines bright atop their building, reminding all who see it of the importance of arts organizations and their continued resilience during the pandemic that brought their entire industry to a screeching halt. 

“Michigan artists are some of the most hard working and passionate people that I know.” says James Kuhl, Tipping Point’s Producing Artistic Director, “I am reminded daily of the John Steinbeck quote ‘The theater is the only institution in the world which has been dying for four thousand years and has never succumbed. It requires tough and devoted people to keep it alive.’ I am thankful that we have the artists and patrons that we do, because we are going to need that tenacity now more than ever.”

While the small professional theatre has some savings from their successful 13 years of operation that have helped soften the initial shutdown, Tipping Point has been forced to seek out every additional avenue they can to save costs. They have gone from 9 full time staff members to 2, negotiated compromises with existing contracts, and received a loan from the Payment Protection Program that was launched with the first federal stimulus package. But no shows means no income for Tipping Point and, unlike typical theatres of their size, they depend heavily on ticket sales. Over 70% of their budget comes from revenue made off of sales while the nationwide average of similarly sized theatres tend to rely on donations. With their 13th Season ending 3 shows short of its expected run and their 14th Season on hold, Tipping Point is now asking for donations from their community to help them keep the lights on.

“We’re unable to produce our usual productions,” says their Marketing Manager, Natalie LaCroix, ‘but that doesn’t mean we are going anywhere. We’re still here and we need your help to keep it that way.” 

The arts are an important part of any community, contributing to social and economic growth beyond the obvious entertainment value. Providing outlets for stress relief, encouraging artistic expression, and providing needed human connections are just a few of the benefits. Theatrical stories have the power to change perspectives and spark much needed conversation within our communities, bridging gaps that previously seemed impassable. Economically, Tipping Point’s 16,000+ patrons spend over $503,000 annually in the local community before and after they attend performances. Losing an institution such as Tipping Point in Northville would be a sure loss and any support today will help the organization continue to thrive tomorrow. 

When asked about the easing of state restrictions that allow performance venues to open to 20% capacity Kuhl said “That is an encouraging step, but Tipping Point is a very intimate space. It’s one of the things that our audiences love the most about the theatre that we do. At 20% capacity, there is no way for us to produce a profitable show. It’s not even close to breaking even at that point. “We will open again to live shows when we can safely ensure a comfort and safety level for both our audience and artists (and there is a realistic possibility that we won’t lose our shirts by doing it). Until then, we have to try to find new ways to create content, and depend on the generosity of our audiences while we continue looking for funding through grants or other stimulus initiatives.”  

As they wait for live theatre to feasibly return, Tipping Point Theatre has found a few ways of providing content to their community. They partnered up with the Northville District Library to produce free table reads of scripts over zoom, with the next one taking place on November 10th. The TPTalks series featured on their Facebook page and YouTube account feature local artists and what they have been up to during the pandemic, outside of theatre.

On a much larger scale, Tipping Point is creating a virtual fundraiser of the play Hate Mail by Bill Corbett and Kira Obolensky. The show, a parody of A.R. Gurney’s Love Letters, is written for a cast of 2 actors that only communicate through letters. Streaming exclusively through Broadway On Demand November 27th – 30th, 2020, audiences will have the ability to cast the show from their choice of 6 different actors. This innovative idea allows patrons 9 unique experiences for the price of one ticket and includes options for gender switching the roles. More information will be available soon at www.TippingPointTheatre.com/hate-mail.

Protect art organizations today so they can return to your communities in the future by making a donation to one when they need you most.

Week of 4/12/2021

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