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Theater looks to 'reboot and refresh' after receiving extra $80K in funding

The city council on Monday night approved an emergency funding request for $80,000 from the Rochester Civic Theatre.

However, there was a catch.

Rather than granting the request unconditionally, the council opted to take $80,000 out of the theater's 2018 budget. RCT receives about $200,000 a year from the city to help with operations.

Council Member Michael Wojcik suggested advancing the funds to cover expenses through the end of the year. He also recommended that the council review RCT's finances early next year to make sure there is a plan in place to improve their future performance.

"I am disappointed we are at this point," said Wojcik. "But I don't think, given the financial situation right now, it benefits anyone to create a bigger mess."

Teresa Waldof, RCT's interim director, made the funding request after its first production of the season, "Urinetown," failed to generate sufficient ticket sales. The theater has been embroiled in controversy this year due to the loss of its longtime creative director and accusations that its former boss, Gregory Stavrou, sexually harassed female volunteers and cast members.

The problems have led to an ongoing dispute between the theater's board and a group of volunteers and season ticket holders, known as Friends of the Rochester Civic Theatre.

Waldof said Monday the organization has formed an artistic advisory community "to reach out and bring more people into what's going on within the theater."

"My mantra is 'reboot and refresh,' and under my leadership this organization is not what it was six months ago, or even three months ago," said Waldof, who's been on the job about 90 days.

Noting the theater's importance to the locals arts community, Ed Hruska joined other council members in urging the theater to reengage the volunteers and find common ground.

"I think that opportunity is there now," said Hruska. "Unfortunately, these last few months have created some hard feelings, but there is that opportunity now to pull together and reestablish this as a very strong area of our community."

The request passed 4-2, with Nick Campion and Mark Hickey voting against the motion. Annalissa Johnson abstained from voting; she is the council representative on the theater's board. 

RCT's next production, "Mauritius," opens Oct. 20.

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