Rebuilding year

By Eric Gallippo

LCP, ELFF regroup with eye on 2010

There will be fewer spotlights and projector lights than usual running inside East Lansing’s Hannah Community Center over the next 12 months.

Lansing Civic Players, the 80-year-old community theater institution that puts on its main-stage productions at Hannah, and the East Lansing Film Festival, which typically screens its opening and closing night films at the center in the spring, have both announced plans to regroup. The efforts will push the Civic Players’ scheduled main-stage shows back until the 2010-’11 theater season, and the film festival will be pushed back until November 2010.

Tony Sump, president of LCP’s board, said after some “hemming and hawing,” the board decided to postpone this year’s main stage shows — “Cheatin,’” “Singin’ in the Rain,” and “Shady Business” — in order to save money and focus on less expensive community and educational programming.

Sump said LCP ran a deficit of $4,000 last season. The biggest expense was renting performance space, which Sump said eats up about 85 percent of the annual budget. “We loved it [at Hannah] and really enjoyed the space, but it did get too expensive,” Sump said.

Sump said a potential buyer, whom he declined to name, has approached Civic Players about purchasing its old firehouse building at 2300 E. Michigan Ave., Lansing, which houses its offices and costume shop. Sump said LCP plans to use money from the sale of the building, which is listed for $499,000, to purchase and renovate a new performance and administrative space, preferably near downtown Lansing. “Our board is really geared and ready to create a new home for the LCP, because they’ve never had their own home to perform in for 81 years,” Sump said.

For this season, Civic Players’ will offer an “Underground Season” staged in the basement of the firehouse, including blackbox productions of “Opposites Attract” and “The Bob and Al Show,” as well as a fall Halloween program and holiday show at Dart Auditorium.

For the East Lansing Film Festival, moving to the fall allows the cinematic celebration to break away from the Madness of March, when locals are usually more in tune with college basketball than indie films. “Last year we were hit hard by the men’s basketball, but even more important is that March Madness has caused us to schedule the film festival as early in March as possible,” said Susan Woods, the festival’s executive director (and a City Pulse contributor).

That’s typically the week students return from spring break, which makes promoting the event difficult.

Woods said the idea is to move the festival back to November during a week when the Spartan football team has a bye. Woods said she and the ELFF board hope the extra time until the next festival will allow them to do some additional fundraising and make the festival “a lot healthier.”

Woods said the last festival lost about $10,000. She has been laid off and will work as a volunteer until the financial situation improves, she said.

Woods said the shift in timing for the festival could also lend itself to scoring more buzz-worthy movies. “The fall is when the more creative [films] come out,” Woods said. “I think the studios will want to promote the films at a festival more than in March when it’s really bad. That was another influencing factor.”

In the meantime, Woods said the East Lansing Film Society series and 48/5 film contests (the next of which is Sept. 25 and 26) will continue as usual.