The Richmond Register

February 20, 2014

EKU Center board clashes over dinner

By Seth Littrell
Register News Writer

RICHMOND — Disagreement erupted Wednesday afternoon when the EKU Center for the Arts Community Operations Board began discussing its marketing strategy for the remainder of the current season.

Board Member Skip Daugherty raised concerns that dinners hosted before a number of the shows were not being properly advertised.

Planned as a social event before shows, the dinners were incorporated into the center’s services before Joel Aalberts became the center’s executive director.

Aalberts, who joined the center last summer, has expressed a desire to discontinue the meals next season, calling them an investment of time and money better used elsewhere.

“The amount of work to get the proper group in there as we’ve been talking about seems to be a lot of work,” Aalberts said. “If we’re going to spend the time and energy promoting things, what I would like to do is sell tickets to the show.”

Aalberts also cited some space issues with the dinners, saying the room where they are served seats about 44 people. However, some Broadway shows have drawn larger crowds for the dinner. He also said the center hasn’t received any complaints about the dinners.

“People basically think they’ve gone away because they are not getting advertised,” Daugherty said. ”It’s not a matter of hearing complaints, it’s a matter of nonparticipation and not promoting something that was sold to people.”

The dinners also brought a socialization aspect to performances that has since been missing, Daugherty added.

Aalberts agreed but said the priority for the center’s resources should be selling tickets and making the shows as successful as possible. He also mentioned an alternative to the dinners that is in the works.

“When I started going to performing arts events, one of the things that was a regular thing to do was get done with an event, go to a coffee house in town and sit around and talk about it for 45 minutes,” he said.

Because such spaces are rare in Richmond, the director suggested the center look into providing such accommodations in the upper balcony area. After the show, coffee and soft drinks could be served as well as desserts. The service would offer a social opportunity, similar to the pre-show the dinner, while also helping to thin the crowds piling out of the theater after a show. Creating a space for small band performances would also be an option, he said.

The board also agreed to send letters to regular diners informing them of alternatives when the dinners are discontinued.

Seth Littrell can be reached at slittrell@richmondregister.com or 624-6623.