Indiana, PA - Indiana County

IUP to drop OnStage series

by SAM KUSIC skusic@indianagazette.net on December 04, 2010 10:34 AM

It’s curtains for OnStage Arts and

Entertainment, Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s performance

series.

The university announced Friday it is

discontinuing the series upon the conclusion of the 2010-11 season.

The season ends April 27 with the award-winning musical “Spring

Awakening.”

 After that, the series will be folded

into another IUP performance and exhibition series run by the

Lively Arts, the administrative and marketing umbrella for the

university’s more culturally sophisticated fare — art exhibits,

dance recitals, orchestral and ensemble performances and plays. 

 

 IUP Interim President Dr. David Werner

said the university’s financial problems are to blame.

  

 "OnStage has been enjoyed by the

Indiana community for many years, and we have been proud to offer

this resource for our region. However, in all that we do, we must

maintain our focus on our academic mission, especially in these

very challenging budget times,” he said in a statement.

The announcement comes as Werner and his

administrative team conduct a comprehensive review of the

university’s operations, looking for things to cut, consolidate or

expand.  Those decisions, Werner said, are being weighed against

the degree to which a given program supports the university’s

central purpose, giving the students a quality

education.

OnStage this year offered 12 acts,

including country singer LeAnn Rimes, R&B group Boyz II Men,

the musical “Monty Python’s Spamalot,” comedian Lewis Black and a

performance by Dennis DeYoung, a founding member of the rock band

Styx.  

 Dr. Ronald Lunardini, chairman of the

OnStage advisory committee and IUP professor emeritus, said the

series’ discontinuation leaves a tremendous hole in the

university’s cultural offerings and severs a connection to the

community.

 “I consider its loss tragic,” Lunardini

said. “I’m saddened that this very public programming that brings

the community to the university and extends relationships there

won’t be continued in the future.”

 The program was popular among

Indiana-area residents because it gave them a chance to watch

nationally touring acts without having to drive elsewhere in the

region. But it arguably had a limited appeal among students, some

of whom had said OnStage’s offerings are geared to an older

audience. And from that arose a second criticism, that revenue from

student activity fees was being used to subsidize programming that

students weren’t very interested in.

 The fee revenue is one of several

funding sources for OnStage. It also operates on donations, ticket

sales, sponsorships and a budget appropriation from the university.

 

 The university contributed $124,000,

according to officials. In addition, the Student Cooperative

Association, which administers the student activity fees, gave

$60,000.   

 Werner said a portion of the

university’s annual OnStage appropriation will be transferred to

Lively Arts next year. The rest will be put to use elsewhere within

the university, he said. How much, though, has yet to be

determined, he said.  

 Also to be determined is where the

OnStage series’ three-man staff will end up. Though the plan is to

transfer an administrative assistant to the Lively Arts program,

the university is still trying to figure out where to place the

other two, including Frank DeStefano, IUP’s longtime arts and

entertainment director. DeStefano also is president of the State

College & University Professional Association, a union for

professional staff at the 14 state-owned universities.

He declined comment Friday.

Though OnStage is being discontinued,

IUP officials said they aren’t trying to shirk the university’s

role as the community’s cultural center.

“IUP has a long tradition of providing a

wide variety of touring visiting artists. This will not change,"

Werner said.

“The centering of university arts

programming within one area simply makes sense, both

programmatically and fiscally. While IUP is firmly committed to

serving as a resource for arts in our community, in order to meet

this goal, we must be as financially efficient as possible and must

seek to eliminate duplication of services."

 That duplication, in theory, only is

going to expand with the opening of the Kovalchick Complex and its

4,000-seat arena.  The arena’s third-party manager, Global

Spectrum, is nationally prominent in the venue management business

and has marketing leverage when it comes to booking commercial, pop

culture acts.

 So as the argument goes, folding

OnStage into Lively Arts allows the university to concentrate on

finding more artistic touring performances that tie in better with

IUP’s fine arts curriculum, but still will entertain the

community.

"What is most important to any potential

booking is that it is, first and foremost, something audiences will

enjoy and find entertaining and enriching," said Michael Hood, dean

of the College of Fine Arts.  

According to Hank Knerr, Lively Arts

executive director, the group hopes to capture some of OnStage’s

donors, sponsors and patrons, not to mention some of its

appropriations, allowing it to expand its lineup to up to 12 shows

a year.

The types of performances will likely

differ from those OnStage offered — think musicals, contemporary

and classic dance and music recitals, jazz musicians and traveling

exhibits of international artists. 

"In addition to well-known acts, our

audiences will be treated to a variety of performers that may offer

a new sound, a different style, an established classical standard,

a quirky flair or an exceptional world perspective," Hood

said.

To help ensure that Lively Arts hits the

mark, the program plans to expand its advisory board, Knerr said,

to include members of the OnStage advisory board. The OnStage board

is made up of faculty, students and community members. It’s also

posting additional information on its website —

"text-decoration: none;">www.iup.edu/livelyarts — and

asking for responses to two surveys.

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