By Billy Thomas
On Valentine’s Day, while many couples were doting over chocolates and flowers, and local businesses were declaring their love for their customers in email campaigns and on social media, Broadway Olympia Productions shared an unexpected and alarming Facebook post.
“This is a call for help from the community. If you enjoy and support local performing arts, please read this, share, and take action,” were the opening words of an appeal for public support to allow BOP to continue its inaugural season. A slump in ticket sales was said to be the cause of the fledgling production company’s dire situation, attributed to the recent snow storm, affectionately referred to as “snowmageddon.” As of 10 a.m. opening night, only 107 tickets were sold for The Wedding Singer. Total capacity at the Capitol Theater, BOP’s home stage, is 762.
BOP hopes to raise $10,000 through a GoFundMe campaign, with the end goal of finishing The Wedding Singer in the black, and the ability to keep its doors open for the rest of the season. Other upcoming shows in jeopardy of cancellation are Young Frankenstein and Cabaret.
Managing director Kyle Murphy is combatting the low numbers with his optimism and passion for musical theater, hoping to rally the community in support for local arts. He stated in an email to OLY ARTS, “My feeling is, and always has been, that if we invest a bunch of money in the local theater community, even if we can’t sustain ourselves, that money would be put to good use in furthering our goal of growing support for the performing arts in Olympia.” He touched on the possibility of having to close BOP’s doors, saying, “if that’s what happens, I’m prepared, but I’m definitely hoping we can pull out of this and continue.”
The situation that BOP finds itself in is disheartening, but is not unique. Its story is one of many small, local organizations grasping for their share of the same audience. The Olympia Symphony Orchestra also recently rescheduled a performance due to weather, speaking out publicly about the losses it consequentially experienced.
Arts attendance has swelled over the last few years—up to 29% according to a 2018 report released by the National Endowment for the Arts. This trend is felt by larger local organizations such as the Washington Center for the Performing Arts, reporting an increase in ticket sales during both the 2017/18 and 2018/19 seasons. Murphy, however, states he founded BOP because he saw a downward trend in public support, and a lack of opportunity for actors in our community. “I grew up doing theater in Olympia, and at the time, performing arts were everywhere,” he said, “When my family decided to move home [to Olympia] in 2014, I saw a decline, and I felt that there was a way to do something fresh that would bring a whole new, younger audience to the theater.”
Murphy’s experience on the local stage spanned from 1993 to 1997 with Kids at Play and Olympia High School Drama Club, led by recently retired Kathy Dorgan. He attended the University of Washington, graduating with a degree in Business Management. Murphy’s combination of theatre experience and business education were, and continue to be, driving factors in BOP’s success.
OLY ARTS is a season sponsor of BOP, and prints the production company’s show programs. We have made a contribution to the public campaign, and encourage our readers to do the same, if they are able. Other ways that the community can help are by purchasing tickets to upcoming performances of The Wedding Singer, or simply by sharing the campaign with friends and family.
The Wedding Singer
8 p.m. Friday – Sunday, Feb. 15-17;
2 p.m. Saturday – Sunday, Feb. 16-17
The Capitol Theater,
206 Fifth Ave. E, Olympia