From glee to glum: New costs could sink Placer High School musical

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Four Elly Awards won by Placer High School’s musical “Into the Woods” this week provided some positive notes to growing concerns about funding next year’s show. A tradition for generations of high school students at Placer, this year’s spring musical wowed Elly judges and attracted enthusiastic audiences but had to dip into reserves to balance its books. Producer Jennifer Mallery-Parino said Wednesday that funding for next spring’s show is still a major question mark and the possibility that the musical production will have to pay for theater use at Placer High’s auditorium is casting a long shadow over its future. But Placer Principal Peter Efstathiu said it’s difficult for the high school to continue to help finance spring musicals. There’s a concern on the school’s part that it can’t take on the liability anymore for a musical that could prove costly to school finances if it loses money, he said. “It’s very expensive and we can’t take on the liability if it ends up in the hole,” Efstathiu said. “We’re working with Jennifer to broker a deal to allow the spring musical to happen again.” Mallery-Parino said that while the cost is negotiable on the auditorium and would be a fixed figure rather than by-the-hour, it’s expected to be in the thousands of dollars. An hourly rental would cost an estimated total of $15,000 for rehearsals and shows, she said. Adding to concerns, Efstathiu hit spring musical-makers with another financial bombshell this week. “He left a message that we require a $1 million umbrella insurance policy to rent the auditorium,” Mallery-Parino said. “There’s no way we can afford that.” Last year’s production cost about $35,000 and this year’s is expected to be about $22,000, Mallery-Parino said. The group took money left over from 2010’s production of “13” to keep from going into the red, she said. Over the past several years, Placer High teachers haven’t been involved in the production. The school’s drama teacher splits the year between the Auburn campus and Foresthill high school, directing plays at Placer in the fall, Efstathiu said. Parents and former students provide a nucleus for fund-raising and backstage production, Mallery-Parino said. ”It’s a huge undertaking and we have to pay for technicians, costumes, the rights to the play and the materials to build the sets,” Mallery-Parino said. “We’re starting from scratch after putting everything into ‘Into the Woods.’” Last spring’s performances had a cast of 20 Placer High students. A total of eight shows were staged during a run from late March to early April. The possibility of paying to rent the Placer High auditorium is a daunting one that threatens the performance next spring, Mallery-Parino said. The group is hoping for some kind of corporate sponsorship as it continues to plan for the production. “I have nothing negative to say about the principal (Placer High School Principal Peter Efstathiu) but he has a hard time understanding the arts,” Mallery-Parino said. “He wouldn’t tell the football team to pay for the field.” Efstathiu said Mallery-Parino is mistaken. “Of course I understand the arts and how important it is to the school and its students,” Efstathiu said.