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MUSICAL CHAIRS
THEATERS JUGGLE SCHEDULES TO DEAL WITH BUDGET CRISIS

IIn the wake of the Erie County funding crisis, three theaters have been forced to cut or juggle productions this season.

"We've canceled Mike Folie's 'Panama' -- which would have had a cast of eight actors -- and moved Pandora's Box's production of 'Becca & Heidi' into that slot (this week through May 1)," said Joyce Stilson, Alleyway Theatre's public relations director. "With the cuts coming so late in the year and with no advance announcement, it was tough," she explained.

She added that the county never officially notified Alleyway that the theater would be receiving no funding. "We relied on stories in the media."

Pandora's Box, which is administrated by Alleyway, had to ditch its planned March production of "Pax," the work of English playwright Deborah Levy.

"It is an anti-war play and would have been timely," said Stilson. "However, it looks like 'Negras Eros' (by April A. Jones), originally scheduled for this season, will be done next season."

The pooling of $250,000 by six of the area's premier cultural foundations will provide some relief for the 42 zeroed-out cultural organizations. "It's important that they were able to make this deal and to act on it," Stilson said. "But it is 27 percent of what had been committed by the county. And of course six weeks ago none of us knew about it."

The foundations will also offer an undisclosed additional amount of funds that will be distributed through competitive application this spring. Stilson said that there are too many unknowns at this point for Alleyway to make any decisions based on a possible future grant.

Ujima Theatre Company has also felt the impact of the cuts. The theater has announced that it has been forced to cancel its long-running Mother's Day production, ". . . And Bid Him Sing." Adapted for the stage by Ujima founder Lorna C. Hill from the vernacular poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar, the musical event had been a popular staple at Ujima for a dozen years.

e-mail: rhuntington@buffnews.com