State of HUGE – Spring 2014
I am going to be posting these more often in hopes that will make it easier to write them – the trick is that there’s always something else coming or “If I just wait a few more days, I can include ____” and hopefully more frequent posts can help with that and I can keep everyone more up to date.
The question I am most frequently asked is “How is HUGE doing?” and the answer is “Cautiously Great”
or “We’ve still got a long way to go – but we’ll get there”
If you read no further just know that HUGE is doing OK (which means we are usually out of danger and trying to build reserves at all times) because of the tremendous support and hustle of our performers, teachers, staff, volunteers, Members, donors and audiences – and we thank you every day.
[ That’s why I keep my nose to the stone – sharp ’til the hairs split ]
One of the biggest things this spring has been our run of Sold Out Saturdays – which actually began in November of 2013 with Family Dinner and just hit 32 weeks in a row. That. Is. Unreal. When we hit the 3 Year Anniversary show that was 12 weeks and we were all still astounded and now two more entire Saturday shows – Off Book and Darjeeling Unscripted – have opened and closed and sold out every ticket in between.
The funny thing is that somewhere along the way it tipped over from being this amazing thing that we were celebrating every week to a nerve-wracking thing the casts and directors are stressing about every week, because nobody wants to “break the streak” now – which is perfectly typical of the people on our stage, they don’t stop and take credit for selling out months of shows through what is ALWAYS our slowest time of the year, they are worried about owning the failure and haven’t bothered to own the success.
April and May have always been the worst months for ticket sales and eventually this streak will end because of one thing and one thing alone – SPRINGTIME. Until it does we have to keep telling everyone to please PLEASE do yourselves a favor and buy your tickets in advance if you want to get in.
The most exciting thing about the run of Sold Out Saturdays (and Fridays have been amazing as well) is that our weekend shows pay the performing artists based on attendance – that means 32 weeks in a row that we get to write checks to artists for doing what they do best.
This is always the critical point between trumpeting our success saying “We are selling out shows in the springtime!” and trying to make sure people still hear the message that we still need your hustle, your help and your support – Why I am always cautious about saying things are great, because the truth is we’re still running very lean, being clever where we can and going without when we have to. But we do it for good reason.
We made the decision more than a year ago not to wait on paying artists until things were comfortable and the theater was sitting on a big cash reserve and that’s something I’m very proud of and stand by – even though it means it may take us longer to get to a place where we can relax and maybe pay our staff something closer to what they deserve. The reality of running any theater is that we may never have “extra” funds and the reality of running our theater is that supporting improvisers isn’t an “extra” goal for when we have nothing else to worry about – it is why we exist and we’re working hard to move things in the right direction and the artists on our stage are why we do it.
[ Bet it all and win – Set it off and run ]
Speaking of things you will need to get tickets for – the eighth annual Twin Cities Improv Festival is just two weeks away! Wednesday, June 25th – Sunday, June 29th is our biggest weekend of our year.
It’s improv Xmas and tickets are going fast (there are only 5 Ultra Passes left!) and I don’t say this to sell tickets – I say this because if you miss this, you miss out and you miss out big. It’s going to be amazing.
So many special things happening this year – the 5 founding members of HUGE will be performing together Thursday night. FrankenMatt, NBA Hall of Famer and Droppin Science are all returning and a handful of new groups will get to see what I mean when I tell everyone Minneapolis is the best.
HUGE will once again be a venue for the MN Fringe Festival in August – we love working with the Fringe and they are always amazing partners to have – plus the Fringe gives us a couple weeks off to rest, regroup, re-introduce ourselves to our families and also roll out some changes, which can be tricky when you have a continuous schedule that never stops or even pauses.
Beginning this September we are making a change to our weekend tickets for the first time in a couple years – as of this fall you will be able to purchase tickets to the late shows at HUGE in advance, which means the early shows will be paired up so you can see the 8pm and 9:30 show for one $10 ticket and/or the expanded late shows for a $5 ticket.
More info on that as we roll it out with out ticketing system late this summer.
[ Got cracks in the armor, cracks in the ceiling ]
Our theater turned 3 this year and signed a 10 year lease on 3037 Lyndale to keep our home going through the next decade – we also learned a lot along the way about all the little things that go into longevity.
You learn the lifespan of things like toilet parts, vacuum cleaners, HVAC parts – all of which will break down and it’s not a matter of “when” but more like “how often” and we had a little bit of good news this year when our property taxes went down a little bit for the first time ever and even more good news is that we still keep that Depression-Era Mentality so we’re always saving for the bad days while investing to make both the good and bad days a little better all around with things like ceiling fans, LED lights and a new Annex space.
The Annex came to us as an offer from our landlord to lease space outside of the theater building – a space that allows us to hold classes and rehearsals and more even during show times – because time and space are still the biggest limitations this little theater runs into every week.
It isn’t free – it isn’t cheap – but it is an investment we think is needed and worthwhile to support all the amazing artists and allows us to offer more classes, workshops or just the space itself as a resource to them. Groups that are interested in using the Annex and helping make it more affordable for us to maintain
[ I give it up for those that are seeking the solutions ]
That concludes the part of the State of HUGE where I tell you how we’re doing – and now we’re adding something new where we ask you how we’re doing.
We have worked really hard as the Board of Directors to stay very accessible and approachable, to make sure people know they can come to us with concerns or questions or ideas – and that they can ALWAYS challenge us on things they think we’re doing wrong or complain about things we did poorly. That’s great, in theory, but if we never actually hear from people then it doesn’t actually work.
I’ve heard from some people over the years around specific issues and I always appreciate it – but we’ve always also heard there are problems that we are not hearing about and we want to make sure we’re addressing that, so we have added an anonymous Complaint, Concerns, and Question form to the contact page on our site that the Board will address.
We will go through the input each Monday at our Board meetings and do our best to answer anything sent through the form in blog form when appropriate. I still hope that everyone knows that we welcome ideas, challenges and questions the same way we hope people understand everything we do, even when we could do things better or we do things totally wrong – that it is all done with the best intentions to help us achieve our mission of supporting improv in the Twin Cities.
As always, thank you.
– Executive Director and humble servant