MTYP emerg­ing from chaos with head above water

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ARTS LIFE - By Kevin Prokosh

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.

PARA­MOUNT

Bruce Wil­lis, left, and Ray Park as Snake Eyes.

Zaz Ba­jon

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