Tumlin and Tom Browning, chairman of the Downtown Marietta Development Authority, proposed that the city and the development authority sponsor five musical shows that the Lyric intends to produce this season.
The city would send that sponsorship money to the Friends of the Strand, the nonprofit that governs the multi-use performing arts and events facility. That money would in turn allow the Strand to reduce the Lyric’s rental payments and keep the theater company on the Square in downtown Marietta.
Brandt Blocker, the Lyric’s artistic director and general manager, said his board agreed to accept the mayor’s proposal. Tumlin said the Marietta City Council, the development authority and the Strand must also approve the deal.
“Of course it goes without saying that we are completely grateful to Mayor Tumlin for working diligently to get this done,” Blocker said. “His efforts with the city of Marietta and, of course, the Downtown Marietta Development Authority, we appreciate their consideration of the matter. I know they still have to vote on it. This confirms that our position has always been that we wanted to be at the Strand, and so this is a very positive way, I believe, to make that happen. Hopefully the Strand will agree to that, and we can give everybody, I think, what they want, which is to continue professional musical excellence at the Strand.”
Tumlin called a lunch meeting on Friday in the mayor’s office after the Lyric issued a press release saying that it was planning to vacate the Strand due to financial difficulties.
At that luncheon were Browning, Blocker, and Friends of the Strand board chairman Bob Ash, among others. Over sandwiches from Tommy’s Sandwich Shop, Tumlin and Browning made the offer.
The parties agreed to return Wednesday to decide whether to accept the agreement.
Ash said the Strand’s board would carefully consider the proposal.
“Obviously we appreciate the city’s interest, particularly the mayor’s in helping with the negotiations and certainly appreciate the potential contribution on that,” Ash said. “We appreciate it, and we’re taking it into consideration, as is the Lyric Group, and we’ll get back together and see where we are on things.”
Tumlin said he was not releasing the amount of money involved in the proposed sponsorship for fear that it would cause the negotiations to break down. He did say, however, that the city offered $10,000 and $20,000 promotions to the Theatre in the Square some years ago.
“We stayed within the parameters of what a normal sponsorship is for a play,” he said. “Back in the days when the big banks used to do it, we kind of have to take their place until we get the big givers back alive again.”
Proposed plays to be sponsored at the Strand are “Guys and Dolls”; Duke Ellington’s “Sophisticated Ladies”; “Annie the Musical”; “Monty Python’s Spamalot” and Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas.”
“The fact that we’re sponsoring five plays is not a random thought,” Tumlin said. “We think they have a dynamite season coming up. Five years from now, they might have five plays that everybody hates. The plays they’ve got are dynamite, will be well attended.”
The Lyric entered into a five-year contract with the Strand that expires Aug. 31. Annual rental payments were $100,000 to $120,000 a year, Blocker said.
Blocker said the Lyric has paid to the Strand $858,463 in rent, technical, cleaning, and restorations fees, as well as contributions for residency and naming rights since the start of the agreement. The Lyric will have paid the Strand more than $900,000 by the end of the five-year contract, he said.
Before negotiations broke down and the mayor had to step in, Blocker said he offered a proposal to extend the lease for two years at $92,000 a year for 10 weeks of rental, and an optional third year at $100,000 a year for 10 weeks.
“The Strand rejected that offer, and that is why we’ve had to consider another venue,” he said.