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Inside look at JPAC and its users

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Greg Peck
April 4, 2013

As readers of this blog know, my wife and I have seen many shows in recent years at JPAC, or the Janesville Performing Arts Center. We appreciate seeing quality entertainment here at home at what we consider a fair price without paying more for tickets, gas and parking to see shows in bigger communities.

Recently, JPAC released its 2012 financial report that showed it was in the black by almost $40,000. The Gazette Editorial Board has been a strong supporter of JPAC. Knowing that Janesville can be a tough community in which to sell the arts, we found that report remarkable.

JPAC opened in 2004 after visionary volunteers orchestrated a $4.2 million renovation of the auditorium in the former Marshall School downtown. JPAC weathered the recession better than anyone could have expected. It provides chances for local people to perform or help backstage. It introduces our children to artistic experiences.

Yet JPAC charges groups $1,000 for a week’s worth of rent. That might seem like a lot, but JPAC Executive Director Elizabeth Horvath says it costs $4,500 to $5,000 a week to keep the center’s doors open. Given the need to ensure it can pay for operating costs and capital improvements, is JPAC’s rent excessive? Idzerda’s story suggested that, if theater groups turned instead to the Edgerton Performing Arts Center, they wouldn’t save money.

It's worth noting that today’s Gazette kicks section features three front-page stories—all about upcoming shows at JPAC. Bower City Theatre Company is opening “Spring Awakening,” at 7:30 tonight. Shows also will be Friday and Saturday before the show moves to the Bartell Theatre in Madison next week. At JPAC, the audience will actually be seated on risers on the stage, an intimate setting with the performers. The provocative show is a rock musical about sex and love and the joys, confusion and desperation of puberty.

Our kicks section front also features a preview to Gaelic Storm, the Celtic rock band that will perform Oct. 5 and headline the Janesville Irish Fest and JPAC’s ninth anniversary celebration; and the Latin duo of violinist/fiddler Alex DePue and acoustic guitarist Miguel De Hoyos, who will perform a Janesville Presents concert at JPAC on April 13.

The thing is, Idzerda’s story reports that Bower City, which has packed JPAC with shows such as “The Producers” and “White Christmas,” plans to go on hiatus after “Spring Awakening.” When it factors in show rights, script and music rentals, theater rentals, costumes, set construction, stipends for talent and other expenses, Bower City’s productions cost between $27,000 and $30,000.

I’ve enjoyed a couple of Bower City’s shows and hate to see this decision. I want to see all of the local groups, as well as JPAC, thrive. Each group fills a niche, and I think collectively they make Janesville a better place to live and raise families.

I hope all interested parties can strike reasonable balances between costs and revenues.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook



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