Moore OnStage Brings Down the Curtain
For the last seven years, Moore OnStage has become a well-known participant in the Sandhills arts scene, opening and closing each season with creative dance productions presented by Taylor Dance.
In the intervening months, Moore OnStage treated its audiences to a program featuring an amazing variety of musical theater, comedy and drama.
Neil Simon’s comedy “Jake’s Women” led off the first season in November 2005, followed by “Driving Miss Daisy.”
The final production, presented earlier this year, was “Doubt: A Parable,” a thought-provoking drama that won the Pulitzer Prize and four Tony Awards
Now the production has turned out to be the swan song for this well-regarded theatrical enterprise.
Moore OnStage has begun the dissolution process, and without it, avid theater-going Moore County residents will have to look elsewhere for theater experiences, with the possible exception of the Judson Theatre Company, which made an initial stab at bringing live theater to the area last winter.
From the beginning, Cinny Beggs acted as the executive producer of Moore OnStage, selecting the shows, hiring the directors, technical staff and the actors, and becoming responsible for the overall operation of the production company.
Since her college days when she fell in love with every aspect of putting on a show, Beggs has been actively involved with theater.
From acting to directing to running the light board to costuming to working the box office, she has done it all. She was one of the five founding members of Moore OnStage with Rita and Gary Taylor, of Taylor Dance Company and High Point Ballet.
Originally the group also included the well-known Moore County director Rod Harter, and Susanna Turner, a “behind-the-scenes” person with a background of working as a professional entertainer in New York.
Cinny Beggs had a regional theatrical background with Temple Theatre in Sanford, and had worked with Playmakers Repertory at UNC, a company that in addition to presenting well-known actors, uses people from the college and the community.
“When I started Moore OnStage,” Beggs recently commented, “I started with the concept that the residents of Moore County would accept and welcome a step above what community theater could provide. By using professional actors, directors and technical people, as well as some of the very talented local people, I hoped to provide quality theater, paralleling shows that traditionally draw audiences across the country in cities and towns that represent smaller venues other than the New York scene.”
The three most popular shows that Moore OnStage produced were “Swing,” “42nd Street” and “Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story.” “Big River” and “Buddy” were the only Moore OnStage shows that drew sell-out audiences.
Not even an impressive Broadway-style production of the classic musical “Oklahoma!” with a New York director, featuring four young actors-singers who worked amid the bright lights of Broadway, and a pair of professional costumers especially brought in from Manhattan to dress the more than 40 members of the cast, could produce a sold-out house.
All of the elements of the production of “Oklahoma!”, including musical direction in the talented hands of Steven Menendez, a dual professional in the fields of musical theater and financial advice, failed to attract substantial audiences
In Beggs’ experience, among the challenges facing producers of musical theater in Moore County — aside from paying musicians, choreographers, actors and singers — are the substandard technical facilities at the venues in the county that add significantly to the cost of presenting a major production.
As the study which was recently done to establish the need for a performing arts center in the county indicated, consideration should be given to upgrading the present facilities before thinking about construction of a new center.
The simple answer to why Moore OnStage has brought the curtain down one last time is an imbalance between income and expenses, according to Beggs.
“At the end of last season, a five-figure loss had been sustained, and so after much soul-searching and deliberation, the dissolution process has begun,” she says.
Another of the factors leading up to the dissolution of Moore OnStage is the lack of municipal funding of the arts in the county, Beggs believes.
Nonprofit performing arts organizations traditionally raise only 40 percent of their income from ticket sales, with the balance coming through contributions from municipal sources, grants and individual donors.
In Lee County and in Cumberland County, Temple Theatre and Cape Fear Theatre receive funds on an annual basis from the county and the city governments.
In addition the arts councils in those two counties are what is known as a “united” arts council, meaning that the arts organizations in those counties receive financial support from the local arts council, in addition to the Grassroots funding made available by the state, which provides only minimal support to the performing arts organizations.
For seven years, the organization had been the center of Beggs’ creative focus, as she contributed her time, energy and talents to making Moore OnStage work, but the time has come to take a realistic view, she says.
“I have no regrets and have met some really wonderful people,” she says.
With the exception of funding by family and close friends and several major donors throughout the years, her donor base never reached the goals she had set, and likewise the fundraisers that she put on never met the desired objectives.
Beggs says wistfully, “I believe that prospective audiences of Moore County never really understood the difference between community theater and what we produced. I always had the feeling that because the venue for our shows was the high school, we were still regarded as high school productions rather than professionally produced theater.”
Contact Mary Elle Hunter at mehunter1055
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