Less than an hour before the opening of the second show of the Sherman Community Player’s 70th season, the public was notified that the stage lights would not go up at the Finley Theater in Sherman and the stage curtains would not be opening this month.
A post on SCP’s Facebook page notified patrons that the entire run of the musical “Annie” had been canceled and individuals that had purchased tickets received an email stating that refunds would be issued. Season ticket holders had also been notified that they would be receiving a partial refund for their season tickets since there would only be four shows between fall 2018 and summer 2019 instead of five.
After weeks of vocal and staging rehearsals, the SCP board of directors announced the decision to the problem that they had only heard about hours prior.
“By now everyone has heard that the Sherman Community Players (SCP) had to cancel their run of the Christmas Production, ANNIE,” SCP Administrator Webster Crocker said in a prepared statement on Saturday. “It was a very hard decision to make knowing that there has been a great deal of time, talent and effort put into this production over the past 6 weeks. As the SCP Administrator, I am truly sorry that this decision had to be made.”
The problem which had to do with rights and permissions, became evident midday Friday when Crocker was notified of a breach of contract that SCP had made.
As SCP does with all production, the theater had reached an agreement with the publisher of the musical that would allow the community group to perform the show this season. After paying $6,000 to the publisher of the musical for show rights for this season, royalties, and rental fees, SCP auditioned actors and began rehearsing for the show that was to run for three weekends beginning Friday and ending Dec. 16.
“Sometimes a smaller community theatre will have some limitations in their performance of the same professional show because they are not working with professional musicians or actors or technicians, and so some changes are made in accordance to those skill levels,” Crocker’s statement said.
Crocker went on to say that SCP had made changes to “Annie” because the theater has a different level of talent, and, therefore, the changes were made to make the show easier to perform for the actors. Crocker also said it is normal for theater groups to do this when the group cannot find a vocalist with the range to perform certain songs or when the cast is too small to perform certain choreographed selections.
When these types of changes are made, contractually, the theater is required to reach out to the publisher and ask for permission to make specific changes. In the case of “Annie,” SCP did not reach out.
“I was notified around 1:30 yesterday that the publisher had heard about the changes that we made, and we were in breach of contract,” Crocker said in an interview on Saturday.
From that time until the decision was made to cancel the show, Crocker was in negotiations with the publisher in regard to how to move forward and still produce the show for Texoma audiences. Crocker said he was told that the only way the show could be performed was if it was changed back to its original form. If not, SCP could be fined up to $10,000 for each performance. There were 12 performances scheduled.
While the group may have been able to relearn the show and perform the original work in its entirety in a week or more, that would have put the 70th season of SCP behind in schedule. Auditions for “Music Man” are still scheduled for Dec. 16 and rehearsals are set to begin shortly after.
Along with the board, Crocker decided around 6 p.m. to cancel the show but continue on with the rest of the season as planned.
“From a good Christmas show, we make about $24,000, and we expected to be around that with ‘Annie,’” he said. “That along with the $6,000, the cost of costumes, staging, and any advertising that we do, we lost a lot of money.”
Though the theater only has two paid employees, Crocker and Creative Director Anthony Nelson, the theater is rarely empty. It is made up of volunteers who work in various fields including the box office, staging, costuming, makeup, lighting, sound, advertising, backstage, cast and supporting cast, and more.
“All I can assure out patrons and loyal volunteers at this time is that a lesson has been learned, no matter how painful it may really be, and that SCP board of governing directors are taking steps to prevent anything like this happening further in the season and the future.”
Crocker, who is also the Theatricks director, has been with the theater for 30 seasons.
“I thank all of those who have expressed support and prayers on behalf of this great ‘community’organization, and for their patience as we work through this,” his statement said.
The email to ticket holders sent by Crocker reiterated that the season will go on and the group does not see any significant changes in the foreseeable future.
“Even though ANNIE will not be performed, let’s take the spirit of her song “Tomorrow” as a reminder that there is a tomorrow, and that SCP will be performing MUSIC MAN, THE DROWSY CHAPERONE, and WEST SIDE STORY in the new year,” the email said.