Oldcastle eliminates operations post

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BENNINGTON — The Oldcastle Theatre Company has eliminated its director of operations and marketing position, part of a broader effort to tighten up the budget amid a transition into a year-round performing arts center.

The board chose to eliminate the position during its December 2018 meeting, where the board also considered a "whole range of things" for the 2019 budget, said Anthony "Tony" Marro, chairman of the theater's board of directors.

The decisions for the 2019 budget, including staffing, were recommended by Tom Martin, interim executive director of the theater, Marro said in an email.

The director of operations and marketing position had been held by Erika Floriani, who worked for the organization for five years.

"We're trying to put together the best and tightest possible budget we can" to make sure the organization is solvent and sustainable, Marro said.

Floriani was very well-liked; the decision to eliminate her position was a financial and not personal one, he said.

Floriani said she was informed the position had been eliminated Jan. 2, the day she returned from holiday break. Her position "ran the gamut," but involved budget and marketing work and coming up with new price points, she said.

Marro and Floriani both declined to say how much Floriani was paid.

"To branch out into marketing with Oldcastle — it was really great for me," Floriani said. "I really enjoyed it. I really believed in what Oldcastle was doing." She previously worked mainly in accounting and operations.

Last year, Floriani received the Mike Williams Hospitality Award from the Bennington Area Chamber of Commerce, given in recognition of efforts to promote Bennington.

Floriani spent four of her five years with Oldcastle as director of operations and marketing; in the first year, she did part-time accounting work.

She said she will go on to other work, but hasn't decided where yet. She said she knows it will be in the Bennington area, where she's lived since 1987.

"I have received such support from my community and the people who knew me through Oldcastle," she said. "I just want to use all that positive energy ... to make a decision to do something else."

She said she wishes the theater all the best, pointing out that it has been mentioned recently in large publications like the New York Times.

"I think the Oldcastle Theatre Company is on the cusp of really being discovered," she said. "It's nice that [it's] finally getting this kind of recognition, because they certainly do deserve it."

She said she plans to continue to support the theater. One of her greatest accomplishments there, she said in email, was helping create another revenue stream for the theater through her involvement in a legislative effort that allowed theaters in Vermont to serve beer and wine.

In making the decision to eliminate Floriani's position, the board thought some of the responsibilities done in that job could be handled by board members, volunteers and contract employees, Marro said. Nonprofits everywhere are using less full-time work and more work from people like contract employees and volunteers, as a way of reducing costs, he said.

Recurring expenses are always an issue for nonprofits — of course, that includes paying employee salaries, Martin said.

"[This] decision was very difficult for the board," he said. "We're looking at our overall financial profile, trying to be careful with our expenditures for the coming year."

Much of the expenditures the board has to consider are fixed, Martin said. "The areas that they have some level of discretion on are pretty limited," he said. Yearly expenditures to run the theater are about $400,000, which basically runs the entire company.

And, he said, the board has already tried to run the organization as prudently as they can. "The operation already runs pretty lean," he said.

And when that's the case, that turns the board's attention to expenses like staffing, he said.

Over the years, the theater has always had a small, hard-working staff, but jobs have changed — some eliminated, at least for a time, and others added or modified, Marro said in the email.

The theater is also changing its structure and ways of operating, transforming itself into a year-round performing arts center that will show films, stage concerts, community theater, cabaret theater, art exhibits and magic shows, he said.

"Oldcastle in still evolving, and hopes to do many other things in addition to the quality professional theater that it has been doing so well for so long," he said. "My expectation is that jobs will change yet again as this happens."

Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached at pleboeuf@benningtonbanner.com, at @BAN_pleboeuf on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 118.

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