Arts Council Withholds Black Rep Funds Action Won't Affect Season Opening Jan. 3

Article excerpt

The Arts and Education Council is withholding grant money from the St. Louis Black Repertory Company, but that won't jeopardize the theater company's 1996 season, which opens in a month.

The $57,500 grant is less than 7 percent of the company's budget, said Joe Bryant, treasurer of the Black Rep's board of directors.

A&E withheld the grant because of concern about whether the business end of the theater was keeping up with the artistic side. Specifically, A&E had expected the company to have a business manager in place by September; in October, with the position still empty, the council began holding the Black Rep's funds in escrow, said Patricia Rich, executive director of A&E.

Rich said the problem is a reflection of the company's increasing popularity. "The issue for the Black Rep has been rapid growth. It's a classic business problem," she said. A consultant, Sara O'Connor of the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, is reviewing the situation; O'Connor will meet with representatives of the company and the council this month to go over her findings.

Bryant expects the study to suggest new ways to beef up fund raising and improve efficiency. But he said the board has yet to decide that a business manager is the right approach, and that is why the position remains open. …