Troupe wants shows to go on

April 25, 2002 12:00 am

By SCOTT PESZNECKER

Emphasizing the problem facing the Black Bart Players were the 140 or so empty seats in the group's Murphys playhouse on Wednesday night.

Attendance has dwindled at the Black Bart Playhouse. To address the issue, the Black Bart Players — a non-profit theatre group founded in 1965 — had announced a public meeting to gather feedback from the community, hoping to find ways to spark ticket sales.

Just five of the group's nine directors and nine community members came.

Publicity, they all agreed, must improve.

"We are aware we have fallen down on publicity and we are trying to address that," said Gayle Ludlow, president of the Black Bart Players.

Those making up the small audience offered several ways to increase local awareness of playhouse events.

Gail Pittman-Adams, a Black Bart Players member, suggested that playhouse actors visit schools to deliver speeches and small performances to students. She also suggested free performances for local merchants, namely hotel and chamber of commerce employees who often refer patrons to places of entertainment.

Another audience member, Murphys resident Emmanuel Serriere, said more fund raising and grant writing efforts would eventually draw more people.

"We're not broke, we're solvent," said Ted Allured, one of three Black Bart Players executive directors.

But, countered audience member Marsha Larrabee, secretary of the Murphys Creek Theatre Board of Directors, "Fund raisers aren't just to raise funds, but to raise awareness of the issue out there."

Allured referred to a 1982 survey to explain why attendance may have dipped. According to the survey — which was returned by more than 1,000 of 1,464 people who were issued the survey — 43 percent of play viewers were local residents.

Allured speculated that many of the other 57 percent of out-of-towners may be living here now.