In the words of William Shakespeare, “parting is such sweet sorrow.” The Tennessee Shakespeare Company may soon be getting a taste of those words as it faces a possible budget cut from the city of Germantown.
A 44.5-cent property tax increase has prompted the Germantown Board of Mayor and Aldermen to consider fully eliminating the Tennessee Shakespeare Company’s annual $70,000 grant. Germantown has been awarding the grant for the past five years.
In 2008, the plays of William Shakespeare were brought to Germantown by the professional theater company, which performs several of the Bard’s works at various locations in Memphis and Germantown each season.
The announcement about plans to eradicate the grant funding, due in part to tough economic times, came in early May in a letter from Germantown’s city administration. News of the possible cut came as a shock to board members of Tennessee Shakespeare Company and the group's supporters.
In meetings with the aldermen, Dan McCleary, founder and artistic director of Tennessee Shakespeare Company, has cited the company’s economic value, community service component, and assistance to Germantown students as reasons the board shouldn’t cut grant funding.
“I understand times are tough. They’re tough for all of us. But when times are tough, you don’t cut the thing that works” McCleary said.
Once McCleary heard of the grant elimination proposal, he quickly posted a public letter on Tennessee Shakespeare Company’s website asking supporters to make their voices heard. This simple request stirred an uproar of support from the public. McCleary has received nearly one hundred copies of letters that supporters sent to aldermen.
On June 10th, the Tennessee Shakespeare Company and their supporters lined the walls at the Germantown budget meeting where supporters spoke on behalf of the company and why the grant should be retained.
If funding is not retained, McCleary said that he will try to compromise with the board. But if compromise proves to be impossible, the company will have to move their location elsewhere. McCleary says leaving Germantown would provide opportunities to become more active in neglected Memphis communities, and the company has received many requests from other cities for the company to visit their schools. However, McCleary does not want to let go of the years of partnership his company and Germantown have had and the memories the city has given them.
“If we had to leave Germantown, it would be heartbreaking. This is where I was introduced to theater” McCleary said. The third and final budget meeting will take place June 24th. Since the last meeting, the number of phone calls and letters of support have increased, and McCleary believes the support will continue to grow as the final decision draws closer.