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City takes control of staffing at Fox Theatre

Citizen Staff Writer

TEYA VITU

tvitu@tucsoncitizen.com

The city will assume all employee matters Feb. 6 at the Fox Theatre, including laying off half the staff.

The move comes as the Fox Tucson Theatre Foundation finds itself with $40,000 in the bank and about $60,000 in monthly expenses, said Rich Singer, Fox’s executive director, who is on loan from the Tucson Convention Center.

“They did this because they are financially in very bad shape,” Singer said.

The foundation’s executive committee Tuesday decided to lay off the eight-member staff, but only four employees will be fully cut. The other four employees will be on the TCC payroll, a shift Singer had already implemented when he became executive director in November.

The city owns the 1930 Fox Theatre, 17 W. Congress St., and has a 50-year lease with the foundation which operates it. The foundation will continue to program and handle operating expenses, Singer said.

“It’s giving the foundation an opportunity to focus more on growing as a successful board,” Singer said. “There will be no net increase in cost to the city.”

He said show promoters pay the costs of theater staff such as technicians and box office, but the workers get paid through the TCC.

Singer does not know how long the city will handle Fox staffing, but he said the city wants to return full operation of the theater to the foundation.

“A nonprofit organization can do things that a city won’t,” he said. “They are much better in fundraising and developing their own program. We run rental programs (at the TCC). Not once do we put together a single program.”

Singer attributed Fox’s problems to being a startup with a large facility with large expenses. He said artistic startups typically begin in someone’s home and grow, rather than as a full-fledged operation without an established base.

The Fox reopened Dec. 31, 2005, following a $13 million restoration after being shuttered since 1974.

Nearly the entire staff joined the Fox in 2008, in the waning days of founding executive director Herb Stratford or in the short term of former executive director Jim Williams.

Singer said TCC staffers will assume the duties of the four losing their jobs Feb. 6. The four:

• Patty Yates, business manager

• Robert Bella Hernandez, development and marketing coordinator

• Julie Ragland, events coordinator

• Eric Holm, front of house manager

Singer will try to keep bookkeeper Jenny Bergdoll, who is already working half-time. Box office manager Colleen Sottosanti will likely stay on at the Fox, but as a TCC employee.

Production manager Tracy Odishaw and sound engineer Rocky Richardson were put on the TCC payroll in November, Singer said. The two were cut from full time to working events only, and they are occasionally used at TCC.

“Their lives won’t be substantially different,” Singer said.

City takes control of staffing at ailing Fox Theatre

They are financially in very bad shape.

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