“It was a meeting that had highs and lows, and that was definitely one of the highs,” Tumlin said.
Tumlin said he was alarmed to hear Dianne Butler, the Lyric’s marketing director, announce during a Feb. 16 town hall meeting that her company was being courted by other communities. The Lyric is midway through the fourth year of a five-year lease and is considering whether to remain at the Earl Smith Strand Theatre or head elsewhere. Butler said her group needed to know that the community wants it to remain at the Strand.
“Immediately Tim Lee and I, as the mayor and chairman of the Cobb Commission, called Ms. Butler and said, ‘We’re ready to have lunch and talk, and the talk is we want you to stay. You’re part of what we want for Marietta and Cobb County,’” Tumlin said.
Tumlin also called the Council meeting for Monday and invited all the various downtown cultural groups to share with the city their thoughts for surviving the economy.
Brandt Blocker, artistic director and general manager of the Lyric, showed up at that meeting and thanked Tumlin and the groups for having the conversation.
“We’re all in this together,” Blocker said. “We’re all suffering together, and we’ll all survive hopefully together. Marietta, the city of Marietta, Marietta Square is where we all want to be. We love it here, and we appreciate the friends that we generated, the supporters and patrons. This is our home, and we hope that it will continue to be so. I want to thank you for opening up this forum, dialogue and conversation, and please know that the Lyric Theatre stands by all of our partner organizations to support in any way that we can.”
The Lyric produces five Broadway-style musicals each year during its September-through-June season, with 12 performances for each production. The shows typically cost between $80,000 and $100,000 to produce. Butler said the Lyric has paid the Strand more than $700,000 to date through such things as rent, naming rights and giving $1 of every ticket to the Strand’s restoration.
“I thought since I was happy with them they were happy, and when she said they basically were being courted by other cities and the term of their lease was coming, so I just thought how valuable they were to us, and I’d hate to lose them,” Tumlin said. “I think they recognize that our arts and our entertainment culture and history culture is something they want to be a part of not only for them individually, but it’s a culture that’s good for them, so it was good feedback.”