While feeding B Street Theatre, don’t starve other arts

Huzzah to B Street Theatre for securing the final brick in its effort to create a state-of-the-art theater in midtown. B Street is terrific.

At the same time, we should recognize that Sacramento’s vibrant theater community is more than B Street, and that most of its brethren live on the financial edge.

Not that you’d know it based on The Sacramento Bee editorial, (“Funding arts in Sacramento shouldn’t be so hard” Dec. 15). In an effort to address the larger issue of funding for the arts, The Bee ignored that Sacramento is home to many struggling theaters that may not benefit from the city’s generosity. More frustrating, the editorial gave a shout-out to B Street’s fine education program, failing to mention that it is one of many that serve young people.

B Street is one of three equity houses in Sacramento, along with Capital Stage and Sacramento Theatre Company. The city also is home to an array of innovative community theaters. All scramble to keep the lights on.

Although theaters don’t like to refer to each other as rivals, they do compete for audience and a finite number of subscribers. B Street’s website mentions the region’s “competitive entertainment environment.”

The Bee has reported that B Street’s new theater would allow it to sell an additional 35,000 tickets a year. Are those new patrons, or will they be taken away from other theaters? Does an infusion of public money benefit B Street at the expense of other venues? Take nothing away from B Street, but the newspaper ought to explore those potential consequences.

As for education, other nonprofits perform in schools and teach acting and theater workshops as after-school programs. My two sons trained and performed at Sacramento Theatre Company. Yet The Bee cited only B Street as a place where Gavin Newsom’s kids could learn about theater.

I’m all-in on funding the arts, especially theater. And B Street’s success is worth celebrating. But make it a start, not an end-game. All arts organizations contribute to Sacramento’s civic well-being, despite insufficient funding. The answer is not to deny B Street but to be more inclusive.

If Sacramento can open a financial sluice for the Kings, conceivably it can loosen its wallet for more than one theater, not to mention a ballet or a symphony. To get everyone’s attention, perhaps arts organizations should refer to themselves as soccer franchises.

A.G. Block, former editor of California Journal, is associate director of UC Center Sacramento.

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