An open letter to the Federal Way City Council

Dear Council,

I am the artistic director at Burien Actors Theatre, http://www.burienatorstheatre.org.

BAT is a small 94-seat theater located in Burien. In May of 2017, the Foster School of Business at the University of Washington conducted a study of BAT’s economic impact on the City of Burien. Over and above ticket purchases, BAT adds over $141,000.00 annually to the City of Burien’s economy. That is $22.27 per participant. BAT does that with a budget of about $100,000.00 per year. (These are not National numbers, these are numbers from a city just north of Federal Way.)

Undoubtedly, Centerstage Theatre Arts Conservatory, with its larger house, and a bigger budget, a greater number of productions, and outreach adds significantly more to the economy of Federal Way. Theater-goers tend to eat and drink at a restaurant near the theater so they are not caught in traffic and miss the show.

Live theater is not a zero-sum game. Great theater in Federal Way, like that produced by Centerstage, adds to the success of better live theater in Burien and other performing arts in surrounding areas. Therefore, although I am not a resident of Federal Way, your decision about renewing Federal Way’s contract with Centerstage directly impacts BAT and the health of all the arts in South King County and North Pierce County.

Lately, there has been much discussion about how compared to Seattle, South King County is an arts desert. One of the bright spots in that desert, that casts a better light on Federal Way and South King County, is Centerstage. BAT has been impressed with the quality of work produced by Centerstage. In a very good way, Centerstage’s high standards have kept BAT on its toes.

Centerstage is a gem. It should be cherished and nurtured to grow. Recently, it has again upped its game. Its productions and outreach are to be admired and supported.  Having quality performing arts in a city has a significant impact on that city’s desirability as a place to live and invest in.

BAT has also noticed that there are changes going on at the Federal Way Performing Arts & Event Center. Please do not confuse what the Performing Arts & Event Center does with the great work coming out of Centerstage. The two are distinct. What Centerstage can accomplish is unique. Its draw, while regional, focuses on works and projects that would be impossible at a venue as large as the Performing Arts & Event Center.

Centerstage produces inspiring and noteworthy work in a beautiful setting.

The role of theater is to bring together a diverse group of people to share a common experience to build community. Centerstage meets that role.

These days, our communities are divided. Centerstage brings those divided people together to share an event. Through that shared event, conversations arise and bridges are built. Community is formed and cemented together. I urge you not to turn your back on the amazing work Centerstage has done to bring Federal Way and the greater area together. Renew Federal Way’s contract with Centerstage and reap the ongoing benefits great theater provides to your community.

You may ask, so what if Centerstage loses it venue and Federal Way’s support, won’t it just keep going anyway? I have been involved with a number of theaters without a venue. Almost without exception, they have died. While I cannot predict the future with certainty, failure to renew Centerstage’s contract will be the death knell to a community asset and a great theater.

Please vote to renew the City’s contract with Centerstage.

Eric Dickman
Artistic Director
Burien Actors Theatre

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