"Grug" is part of MTYP's 2012-2013 season (Windmill Theatre)
Manitoba Theatre for Young People is in dire need of donations.
It's his first week on the job as the Manitoba Theatre for Young People's and general manager Zaz Bajon has discovered that the company's financial situation is gloomy. Bajon says the organization is nearly $1.8
million in debt and surviving on advanced loans that may only last until
Despite rising subscriptions, Bajon reports that the organization has decided to schedule two fewer productions from next season and has replaced its annual Christmas show with a production from Minneapolis.
He explains that most of the debt is due to the $5.6-million cost to build the MTYP's location at the Forks, which was never fully paid off.
About $1.2 million is owed on that debt. Although $4 million was raised in a capital campaign, the remainder wasn't completed, leaving the MTYP paying $182,000 in mortgage payments annually.
On top of that, it costs about $2.5 million a year to operate the theatre.
In addition, a former comptroller is in court for allegedly embezzling money from the theatre. "Some of the financial numbers are suspect," says Bajon.
The Manitoba Arts Council and the Canada Council have each advanced $100,000 to help them get to year end.
"MTYP in the Forks is a very unique organization. No one else exists like it in this country, in Canada, and it's in Winnipeg ... which is amazing," Bajon said.
"It gives great appreciation for young people for theatre, for culture, to become involved in the process that opens the mind; that gives them things to think about."
The MTYP's innovative Aboriginal mentorship program, lead by Columpa C. Bobb, has been highly successful, graduating many young people who have gone to successful theatre careers. "This program should not be threatened," Bajon confirmed.
Bajon is very optimistic about the future. "Winnipeg is a highly sophisticated cosmopolitan city," he says. "We're fortunate living in this city that there are individuals and corporations willing to come to support various community events. And the arts are highly supported in this city and this province."
Bajon is hoping Winnipeggers will donate to save the MTYP. The company will begin a mailing campaign next week and some past presidents have come together and will initiate a recapitalization campaign in the fall.
Listen to Zaz Bajon in conversation with Terry MacLeod on Information Radio: