Around Town: Lyric leaving? Or is surprise announcement just a ploy?
by Lee B. Garrett, Joe Kirby & Otis A. Brumby III
March 23, 2013 12:35 AM | 3600 views | 6 6 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
IS IT JUST A BLUFF? That is, is the Lyric Theatre’s surprise announcement late this week that it was leaving the Strand Theatre for parts unknown nothing more than a negotiating ploy?

No one but Lyric insiders know the answer to that one, and they’re not saying.

It was front-page news Friday when the MDJ reported that the Lyric would be leaving after the final performance of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” on June 23.

The Lyric has shared the Strand’s stage since the restored movie theater’s reopening in 2008. But the Lyric has reportedly experienced financial difficulties since the death of one major donor and the departure of one or two others, according to Strand insiders. Lengthy negotiations with the nonprofit Friends of the Strand to extend the Lyric’s five-year contract when it expires Aug. 31 finally broke off, with Lyric Artistic Director/GM Brandt Blocker telling the MDJ he would announce next week where his company’s new home would be.

You apparently can rule out any county-owned location. No talks are said to be under way between the Lyric and the county commission or the Rec Department. The MDJ also touched base with the “obvious” other local possibilities, including the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, The Murray Arts Center at Mount Paran Christian School, the Marietta City Schools and local colleges — and came up dry.

Cobb has numerous houses of worship that have large halls equipped with stages and near-professional quality audio/visual/lighting gear that could be used, but the drawback is that few churches allow alcohol on the premises, and theater companies usually depend not just on ticket sales, but on the sale of wine and beer during intermission.

As for the former Theatre in the Square building across Marietta Square, it’s said to be too small.

So is the Lyric’s announced move essentially just a ploy? A roll of the dice that Blocker hopes will put pressure on the Strand to come up with more favorable terms and pressure on Mayor Steve Tumlin to cough up hotel/motel tax money to bring the two sides together and sweeten the deal? After all, “walking away” is widely recognized as an effective way to shift negotiations in your favor.

The Lyric’s strategy — if that’s what it is — did bring both parties back to the table on Friday for a lengthy meeting at the insistence of the mayor, who is said to have been royally steamed that neither party had tipped him off that the breakup was coming. Friday’s meeting was long and amicable but failed to resolve the issue.

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IF THE LYRIC does follow through and leave, it will not be the end of the world, Strand officials say. The Lyric rented the theater for an average of about 35 percent of each year, but its average annual rental payments to the Strand of around $120,000 represent only about 15 percent of the Strand’s revenue budget. If those percentages were reversed the situation would be more worrisome.

As it is, though, the Strand likely would rely on its Artistic Director/GM Earl Reece to do more of what he’s done so well already — produce high-quality shows using home-grown, low-to-no-cost talent that have consistently kept the theater’s seats filled.

“Earl is going to be leading the charge,” Strand board chair Bob Ash told Around Town. “It’s tough in terms of the arts when you have Theatre in the Square gone and the Lyric possibly leaving downtown, but I don’t think that means that the arts in Marietta and Cobb are heading down the tube. It just gives all of us an opportunity to do different things.”

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SUPPORTERS of Tuesday’s $773.3 million Ed-SPLOST referendum might want to deliver some champagne to Cobb School Board members Scott Sweeney and David Banks. Why?

The SPLOST passed by what on the surface was a comfortable 5,931-vote margin, 57 percent to 43 percent. It failed only in one Cobb district, that of David Morgan, and only by 22 votes.

But if one subtracts the 11,198 votes from Sweeney’s and Banks’ posts and the precincts they share, the measure passed by only a razor-thin margin of 205 votes. Their two posts and shared precincts generated 48.1 percent of the “yes” votes the SPLOST got.

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THE SPLOST PASSED in six of the seven Cobb school districts, but barely did so in four of them. The difference-makers were Banks’ Post 5 and Sweeney’s Post 6, both in east Cobb. Post 5 passed it by a nearly two-to-one margin (4,647 to 2,683); and the margin was even more overwhelming in Post 6 (4,100 Yeses to 1,719 Nos).

Those precincts not coincidentally also saw some of the highest turnouts in the county. Leading the way was Timber Ridge 01 in Sweeney’s district, which had 26.2 percent turnout (and where the measure won by 432 votes).

Also over 20 percent were Mt. Bethel 01’s 24.67 percent (where it won by 554 votes); Dickerson 01’s 23.11 percent (where it won by 370 votes); and Mt. Bethel 04’s 20.34 percent (where it won by 249 votes). Only two precincts in the post rejected it (Terrell Mill 01 and Vinings 04), and by miniscule margins.

The SPLOST passed all 18 precincts in Banks’ post, with turnouts over 20 percent in Murdock 01, Roswell 01 and Chestnut Ridge 01.

The SPLOST also passed in the six split precincts shared by Banks and Sweeney, and by substantial margins.

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THE OBVIOUS ANSWER for the heavy turnout in Sweeney’s precincts would seem to be the fact that revenues from the tax would be used to build a replacement building for Walton High School. Sweeney, who chaired the board in 2012, also was heavily involved in laying the groundwork for how the tax would be spent if passed.

But the CSD also promised to build a replacement for Osborne High School in board member Tim Stultz’s Post 2 if the SPLOST passed. Yet support for the SPLOST — and turnout — lagged badly in that post. It passed, but by only 98 votes of 2,090 cast.

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THIS YEAR’S legislative session is slated to end on Thursday, and one of the most-watched bills as we come down to the wire is HB 125, which would eliminate the requirement passed in 2006 that applicants for contracts funded with public money be in the country legally. It would also exclude from the law contracts for work on utilities, communications and related services, including water, sewer, electrical power, gas, telecom and cable services and all contracts under $25,000. The current law contains no such exceptions.

In essence HB 125 in its present form would allow the state and local governments to keep turning a blind eye to contractors using black market labor from those here illegally. And it would in essence mirror the position taken by the Cobb Commission via its controversial recent vote not to require contractors seeking to do work for the county to apply for federal IMAGE certification.

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IS FORMER state Rep. Judy Manning (R-Marietta) planning to run again? We tracked her down at the Cobb County Republican Women’s Club luncheon at the Hilton Marietta Conference Center on Friday and asked.

Manning was ousted last year by a political unknown, Charles Gregory of Kennesaw, who downplayed his allegiance to Ron Paul until after his victory and has been working with other Paul supporters to take control of the Cobb GOP, according to Chairman Joe Dendy.

Asked if she planned to run again, Manning replied, “I’m thinking, I’m thinking, I’m thinking.”

“How seriously?” she was asked.

“Are you kidding? Look into my eyes,” Manning said with a dead-serious expression on her face. …

Also at the CCRWC luncheon was U.S. Senate hopeful Rep. Paul Broun (R-Athens) and wife Niki. Broun hopes to succeed retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss.

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LOCAL BANKER Vicki Aghajanian had the hot hand at Thursday’s Marietta Kiwanis Club weekly charity raffle. Proceeds ($11,000 so far from Marietta) go toward worldwide Kiwanis’s Eliminate Project seeking to eradicate neonatal tetanus.

Only 10 cards were left in the deck by the time she drew the joker, winning $1,995. It was the biggest pot in years, according to Club executive director Pat Huey, topped only by the time Alice Summerour won $4,000 by correctly picking the joker from among three remaining cards.

Comments
(6)
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bluffing
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March 25, 2013
Definitely a bluff. What better way to squeeze more money out of this town than to threaten to walk away? The Lyric is a mobile theater company, they can (and have threatened to) leave at any time. Why are we spending tax money to get them to stay? Where else are they going to go?
In the Know
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March 28, 2013
You DO know that Metro Atlanta is more than just Cobb County, right? There is your answer.
anonymous
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March 23, 2013
East Cobb has become the land of the brain dead liberal (rino & dems) "feel good", money-no-object, spendaholics (and chamber backed capitalist cronies)...who see the likes of granite top hot dog stands, astro turf and 1500 seat performing arts centers as priorities that their neighbors should all be forced to provide. After all "it's just a penny"(not).

anonymous
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March 23, 2013
The Walton community believes they are building a dynasty, and they by god wanted that SPLOST to pass and voted for it. Well, good for them, but now Sweeney has to come through.

This pot of money has caused more boorish behavior, more corruption and more problems. It gets worse each year as people figure out new ways to abuse the system. And the complete myth is that children and teachers somehow benefit. They do not.

arthu
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March 23, 2013
Ploy.
Rick Z
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March 25, 2013
It worked for the Falcons, so why wouldn't the Lyric give it a try?
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