Footlighters face financial struggle

Jasmine Gallup, Staff Reporter

As one of the most costly student organizations on campus, Case Western Reserve University’s musical theater group the CWRU Footlighters has a relatively high budget compared to other student organizations. Like many other groups on campus, though, Footlighters applies biannually for mass funding, but it’s the details of their production expenses that make their budget unique.

“Given our club’s long history, we have a very solid understanding of the costs involved in putting on a musical,” said Zachary Palumbo, outgoing president of the Footlighters. “Our budget varies depending on the show we are producing and the details of the production.”

Major costs for the Footlighters usually include the cost of show rights and materials such as scripts and scores, lighting and sound equipment rental, set construction and costuming, all of which can run up a bill of anywhere from $3,000 to $12,000. In fact, $12,000 is the biggest budget Footlighters has on record, and even that is on the low end of the spectrum when it comes to the average cost of producing a show.

College musical theater productions that start from scratch can range from $10,000 to $15,000, more than double what the Footlighters typically receive from USG. Rights to the production alone normally cost anywhere from $1,500 to $4,000, and that’s discounting the cost of everything else, from printing programs to buying lumber for prop and set construction. The Footlighters have a decent amount of equipment packed away in a storage space off-campus. However the stage lighting, wireless microphones, leftover lumber and scattered props that are available for their use aren’t enough to fully stage a musical. Every semester, they have to rent sound and lighting equipment, buy construction materials and fabric for costumes and beg or borrow the rest.

It’s not unusual for college arts productions to be low-budget affairs. Students frequently scrounge for every nickel and look for discounts wherever they can get them. Musicals are expensive, generally characterized by large casts and more technical details to worry about. And though the Footlighters is one of the most well-funded student organizations on campus, there’s no doubt that their productions are still low-budget.

In the recently completed USG mass funding for spring 2017, the Footlighters requested $5,000, yet only $2,945 was approved. This is not uncommon; on average campus organizations received only 50.6 percent of their proposed budgets this year. But when putting on a musical, every dime counts. Without adequate funds, the options for sets, costumes and shows are limited.