MTYP emerging from chaos with head above water
MANITOBA Theatre for Young People is on track to record a $150,000-$200,000 operating surplus on a tumultuous season that climaxed with the dismissal of founding artistic director Leslee Silverman earlier this month.
Outgoing executive producer Zaz Bajon is forecasting a surprisingly healthy bottom line given that the organization struggled all season with chronic cash-flow difficulties that caused it to miss payroll, have its Internet access cut for non-payment, garbage service stopped and creditors demand- ing cash on delivery for supplies.
“This shows that we are moving in the right direction, that this is a viable operation,” Bajon said this week about the surplus.
It’s obviously not all rosy at MTYP. It’s impossible to ignore the elephant in the room, the accumulated deficit. Bank indebtedness has spiked to $1.6 million and the pile of unpaid bills on Bajon’s desk demand another $200,000$300,000.
“Some people are threatening to take us to small claims court,” says Bajon, who was the general manager of the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre for 30 years until 2011. “Some people want to get their lawyers involved. I’ve got all kinds of people who want to be paid. We’re getting deeper into the hole.”
Bajon is leaving his post after less than a year. He joined MTYP in June 2012 to help the highly regarded but cash-poor organization. His main plan had been to raise $2 million to pay off the accumulated debt and launch an endowment campaign with a goal of $2 million, which would be matched by government funders.
That initiative never got off the ground as a Manitoba Arts Councilinstalled interim management board carried out a study of the organization.
“We were being studied to death,” Bajon says. “What we needed to do was raise money. The longer we waited the worse it would get, in my humble opinion.”
The determination of Bajon (pronounced Buy-on) not to spend money the company didn’t have earned him the nickname No-buy-on. That frugality and reduced production costs are behind the surplus. It will continue next season when the theatre’s budget will fall to $2.2 million, down from $2.5 million, with a smaller seven-show season still being contemplated.
Bruce Willis, left, and Ray Park as Snake Eyes.