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Lake Plains Players contend with funding change through arts council

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 22 February 2019 at 9:28 am

File photos by Tom Rivers – Lance Anderson, president of the Lake Plains Players, portrays Jean Valjean in the production of Les Miserables. Anderson said playing Valjean in October 2013 was a dream come true. Anderson has expanded the LPP’s number of productions, including a children’s theater camp over the summer.

MIDDLEPORT – For many years the Lake Plains Players received state arts funding through the Genesee-Orleans Regional Arts Council.

But GO Art! decided about three years ago that it wouldn’t include the Players for funding because the organization performs most of its shows outside Orleans County. The Players for more than three decades have performed in Middleport at the Roy-Hart High School Auditorium.

The Players were given an exception by GO Art! for many years with the rationale the community theater group includes many performers from Orleans County, and many show attendees from Orleans.

GO Art! and other arts councils are tasked with doling out decentralization grants from the state. GO Art! last year had $63,084 to support cultural programs in Genesee and Orleans counties. The Players would typically receive between $2,000 to $3,000 from Go Art!, said Lance Anderson, president of the Players.

The Players have applied for funding the past three years through the Arts Services Initiative of WNY, Inc., which serves Niagara and Erie counties. The first year the Players applied, it didn’t receive any money. In 2018, it was approved for $2,000. The community theater group was just notified it will get $1,000 in 2019.

“We appreciate the thousand dollars,” Anderson said.

However, he said he is disappointed, and the group will have to work harder to try to raise money and reduce costs.

The Players put on a full-scale musical every fall, with the show usually in late October. The Players will do Oklahoma this fall. They also do a play, two recitals and summer youth theater camp. Leonard Oakes Estate Winery in Medina hosts the recitals.

This photo from October 2014 shows Zach Shaffer, when he was an Albion High School student, waiting for his cue to enter the stage when he played a waiter in “Follies,” a musical performed that October by the Lake Plains Players. The community theater group received $2,800 in grants from GO Art! in 2015 for two different productions. Now the Players are trying to get funding through an arts group that serves Niagara and Erie counties.

Anderson said about 150 to 200 people are involved in the productions each year. He said the community has many talented performers and others dedicated to the Lake Plains Players, including with set construction.

The sets can be expensive to build. The Players want to purchase a digital projector to help cut down on some of the set construction, Anderson said.

The rights and royalties for the shows also have been on the rise, he said.

The Players have those increased costs, as well as its goal of providing scholarships for students pursuing music and theater careers. Anderson said the group will be looking for ways to boost its budget, with a focus initially on drawing bigger crowds to its shows, especially the fall musical.

Anderson said he also believes the Players are now better known by the arts group for Niagara and Erie counties. Initially, that group wasn’t familiar with the Players and didn’t realize the quality of the productions and the large casts, Anderson said.

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