Board of Finance hears report on Sharon Playhouse programs

The Sharon Board of Finance engaged with representatives of the Sharon Playhouse at its regular meeting Tuesday, Feb. 20. Speaking with the board were, at left, Rod Christensen, managing director, and Michael Baldwin, associate artistic director and director of education.

Leila Hawken

Board of Finance hears report on Sharon Playhouse programs

SHARON — An effort to understand more about organizations included in the town’s annual expense budget led the Sharon Board of Finance to invite representatives of the Sharon Playhouse to attend its regular meeting Tuesday, Feb. 20.

Representing the playhouse at the meeting were Rod Christensen, managing director, and Michael Baldwin, associate artistic director and director of education, who reviewed the ongoing programs that positively impact the community, introduced the 2024 season, and spoke of capital projects being planned.

“We want the Sharon Playhouse to be a place of community,” said Baldwin, adding, “The buzz is strong; our programming is strong.” He emphasized the robust program that involves youth of all ages who participate in the educational wing.

Reviewing the YouthStage program, Baldwin reported growth to six productions, with eight weeks of programming to reach over 150 young people.

“Our demand is high,” Baldwin said, noting that the playhouse has hired over 220 theater professionals and entertained over 16,000 patrons. More than 1,000 students were served by playhouse programs in the past year, Baldwin said, describing outreach programs to area schools.

“The Sharon Playhouse stands at the intersection of arts and community,” Baldwin said, adding that the support of the town is appreciated.

Outlining capital expense projects to be accomplished in the coming years, Christensen described planning to expand and pave the parking lot to accommodate growing audiences, estimated to cost $250,000.

Another essential project will replace the septic arrangement, estimated at $60,000-$75,000. And a third would reimagine and reconfigure the lobby area to include an accessible patron restroom, at a projected cost of $150,000.

Finance board member Jessica Fowler asked about the playhouse’s donor base. Christensen replied that half of income is from donations and the other half comes from generated revenue.

The Town of Sharon has allocated $5,000 annually to the Playhouse for some years.

Tom Bartram, Finance Board chairman, noted the value of the educational program to the children enrolled in Sharon Day Care.

Representing the Sharon Environment and Energy Commission, member Doug Rick provided a report on estimated energy cost savings of $1.3 million to be realized by the solar array project at Sharon Center School.

Continuing consideration of the removal of capital expenditures from the Board of Education (BOE) budget to include those expenses within the selectmen’s budget, Bartram reported that Doug Cahill, BOE chairman, had indicated that capital expense costs will not be a significant entry in the proposed budget for the coming year.

Removal of the capital expense line is an effort on the part of the town to reduce the state’s mandated minimum budget requirement that annually impacts the town’s education budget.

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