Walla Walla's summer musical could be silenced by budget cuts

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Dona Dunovant heads down to the stage for the WWCC summer musical, "Hairspray."

WALLA WALLA - The lights may not light up, the popcorn could stay unpopped and the singers might not sing.

Walla Walla Community College Foundation's annual outdoor musical could possibly be silenced by budget cuts this year, said foundation director Doug Bayne.

Traditionally the upcoming musical is announced by this time of the year, and plans for informational meetings and auditions are well underway. This year, however, Walla Walla Community College made an "executive decision" to not supply the seed money for a 2012 production, he said.

That money goes toward for royalty fees for materials, the director's contract and student support, plus helps solidfy some paid positions, Bayne explained.

Adding that to "dramatic" state funding cuts to education and it puts the immediate future of the yearly event in question. "It made us look at what can we do and at what level?"

The summer musical, birthed in 1981 with a presentation of "Oklahoma," has significant costs associated with producing the shows, which traditionally run three weekends in July, Bayne said. "If we go forward, we will have a budget and that budget has to be covered."

Jessica Barkl, who directed several of the foundation's biggest hits, left her position at Walla Walla Community College, perhaps due in part to the uncertainty of the 2012 summer musical, he added.

The event, which helps support foundations student scholarships, requires large audiences to support the venue of the Ft. Walla Walla Amphitheater and not every show brings those numbers in, Bayne explained.

While several people have expressed interest in moving forward for this coming season, Bayne and his staff await the green light from the board of governors. If a decision is reached to do the summer musical, immediate action will be required to make that happen, including support of about $30,000 from the community, he said. "And that is a significant amount of money for a summer musical. And there are other events in the summer that people are being asked to give to."

See more of this story in Thursday's Union-Bulletin.

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