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Fall Arts Theater - Spokane Civic Theater 

by Michael Bowen

It's been nearly four months since Jack Phillips was fired as executive director of the Spokane Civic Theatre. What's up at the Civic since then? Jack Delehanty has been hired as interim artistic director, for one thing. Delehanty, who taught theater at Gonzaga Prep for more than 30 years, is working to locate his successor: "We have a search committee in place, and they plan to select a new artistic director by November 16 and to have him in place by January 2," he says. Delehanty plans to move back East and is not himself a candidate.

What about the rumored decline in volunteers and artistic staff? Delehanty replies that "directors and producers have not stepped away, and we have high hopes that they will not. Some people have pulled away -- confusion is understandable -- but a number have drifted back."

Meanwhile, the new director of operations and marketing is already in place at the Civic. And the irony is that Deborah McCandless is not in the anti-Phillips camp. "I was hired by Jack [Phillips]," she says. "I'm here because of Jack."

McCandless, who has done membership, marketing and development for both Service Employees International Union in California and for the Girl Scouts in Oregon, has new marketing plans but knows that she needs to proceed with care. "There will be a lot of things we won't be able to do. We need to be more cautious, more aware of spending, and watch the budget more tightly," she says.

"We need more booths" at local events, McCandless adds. We need to get out there. Spokane has so many events -- and where is our presence? The costume shop, for example -- a lot of people don't have a clue we're here" and that costumes are available for rental. "We need more focus on marketing specials -- a military discount [on ticket prices], for example.

"We need to do coalitions with outreach. We already have a connection with African-American community with the Onyx Theater, and that's important -- but we need to do more. We need to create coalitions with outreach to Natives, the Russian community, the Hispanic community."

McCandless notes that the drop-off in season-ticket subscribers since Phillips and others were fired on May 20 hasn't been too severe: "In June, we had about 1,100 members. We're at 900 now."

McCandless reports that "We have probably 150 front-of-house volunteers -- that's box office, front office, Web, graphics, marketing, ushers, house managers." She wants to set up "volunteer teams -- people will know how to do more than one or two things. There needs to be overlap." McCandless minimizes any drop-off in volunteer turnout at the Civic: "They see how we are functioning. They see how they can trust me," she says.

Publication date: 09/16/04

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