For folks who are wondering about the shortened, three-week schedule for this summer's 13th annual Heinz Poll Summer Dance Festival, yes, it's about money.

Since the city of Akron took over the free dance festival that honors the legacy of the Ohio Ballet founder in 2007, the festival had run four weekends, featuring three regional dance companies and a guest company from out of town.

For budget reasons, the city will feature just the three local companies this summer: Verb Ballets, GroundWorks DanceTheater and Neos Dance Theater.

“The primary reason for that is loss of funding,” namely $71,500 from the Knight Foundation, said festival co-founder David Lieberth on June 6.

“The facts speak for themselves. They gave us a two-year grant of [$143,000] and last year were unable to make a commitment to 2019,” he said of the Knight Foundation.

In late 2016, the Knight Foundation awarded the festival a two-year grant of $143,000 over two years, half of which was used for the 2017 festival and the other half in 2018. Last year, the Knight Foundation did not award Knight Arts Challenge grants for 2018.

“They were one of the original founders of the festival” in 2007, Lieberth said of the Knight Foundation. “For most of those years, we've had funding from Knight Foundation, from Akron Community Foundation and, off and on, the GAR Foundation.”

Cutting the festival back to three local companies avoids performance fees for the guest company, which has ranged from Martha Graham Dance Company to Ballet Hispanico over the years, as well as transportation, lodging and meals. Total guest company costs had averaged $25,000 a year, Lieberth said.

Shortening the festival also cuts back on stagehand and other technical costs to move and assemble the festival's large transformer-like stage for a fourth weekend.

The city has always provided funding for more than half the festival budget. The remainder has come from private and foundation support.

The city is continuing to guarantee funding for its 13th straight summer dance festival, thanks to nightly crowds that peaked at more than 900 last year and have reached as high as 1,200 in previous years. A total of 7,000 attended the four-week festival in 2018.

Last year, from the stage, Lieberth asked audiences to not take the dance concerts for granted and let the city know they liked them. Audience members responded in force by sending letters to the mayor's office and talking to Mayor Dan Horrigan in public, Lieberth said.

This year's budget for the shorter, three-weekend festival is $230,000, which also includes Akron Symphony Orchestra performances on the dance festival stage in each park on Sundays, a synergy that started in 2010.

To further cut costs, Glendale Cemetery will not be one of this year's venues. As a result, the city will avoid paying facility use charges and won't have to rent lighting towers for the venue. 

The city also has moved one of the performances from Hardesty Park to the meadow at Forest Lodge Park this year, in response to City Council requests to include the city's Fourth Ward in summer activities.

The festival will kick off at Forest Lodge with Verb Ballets at 8:45 p.m. July 26 and 27, followed by GroundWorks DanceTheater at Goodyear Heights Metro Park Aug. 2-3, and Neos Dance Theatre at Firestone Park Aug. 9-10.

In some good news, the University of Akron will provide $10,000 this year to be the stage sponsor. Peg's Foundation also has awarded $15,000. The festival is waiting to hear from Akron Community Foundation, Ohio Arts Council and the GAR.  

 

'Lizzie' axed

Speaking of money, no official reason has been given for “Lizzie the Musical" being canceled off-Broadway July 19-Sept. 29. But the show has been shelved.

Producers John and Danita Thomas of Strongsville did not return a call for comment. Here's the joint statement they put out last Friday: “We are so disappointed that this production will not happen at this time. However, we hold out all hope for a production to come together at a future date.”

The all-female cast of four was to have starred Baldwin Wallace graduates/Broadway actresses Shannon O'Boyle and Ciara Renée, along with Eden Espinosa and Carrie Cimma. Victoria Bussert, whose history with the show by Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer, Alan Stevens Hewitt and Tim Maner goes back to 2010, has directed the show twice at Playhouse Square, featuring her students, as well as in Denmark, London and Chicago.

The Thomases, who previously produced Broadway's "Little Women," had said their goal was to transfer "Lizzie" to Broadway by spring 2020. On the Lizzie the Musical Facebook page, the producers tell fans to keep following the page for updates.

Those who purchased by credit card online, phone, or at the box office will be automatically refunded. For more ticket questions, call Ticket Central at 212-279-4200.

 

Arts writer Kerry Clawson may be reached at 330-996-3527 or kclawson@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow her at @KerryClawsonABJ or www.facebook.com/kclawsonabj.