WWCC Foundation's summer musical will be missed

It looks as if lack of funding will keep the amphitheater dark this summer. The decision was difficult but necessary.

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The Walla Walla Community College Foundation's outdoor summer musical at the Fort Walla Walla Amphitheater is a 30-year summer tradition. It's tough when traditions vanish.

Yet, it looks as if this year's musical will be canceled -- another victim of the Great Recession and government budget cuts.

Higher education has been hit hard over the past few years as the state Legislature has reduced the amount of taxpayer subsidy colleges and universities receive. As a result, all state-run colleges have been dramatically increasing tuition to keep from having to reduce class offerings and other functions of the school.

Lawmakers have been in Olympia looking at making more budget cuts because the revenue forecast has fallen short of projections.

As WWCC officials looked at funding the various programs and classes offered, a decision was made to not provide seed money for the summer musical, which can cost over $100,000 to produce.

In the past that seed money and more were recouped through ticket sales. The goal of the Foundation's musical has been to raise money for student scholarships.

Many locals and visitors have come to view the musical as an annual must-see event. But last year's production, "Hairspray," didn't draw crowds as large as usual. As a result, the $80,000 in ticket sales was about $10,000 short of covering the bills.

The production was a good one in terms of quality performances, but perhaps there was simply too many other entertaining offerings going on in the Valley. People have only so much time and money.

Nevertheless, it's sad the WWCC musical likely won't take place this summer and could be going away for good.

It remains possible, even at this late date, private money could be raised to put on the musical. WWCC Foundation Director Doug Bayne said several people have expressed interest in moving forward. Bayne said about $30,000 from the community would be needed.

It just might not be possible for this year. And if the show is gone for even one year it would be tougher to gain traction to get it going for 2013.

If the musical doesn't return this year or in the near future, it's possible the void could be filled by a professional theater company or another community product. But given the fiscal problems facing state government, WWCC officials had to make the difficult but necessary decision to not invest in a summer musical. It just can't afford to take another loss.

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