Why I Support the Cultural Facilities Fund

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Testimony IN SUPPORT of Section 2A 0640-0302 H. 3933: An Act providing for capital facility repairs and improvements for the Commonwealth

Before the Senate Committee on Bonding, Capital Expenditures and State Assets

Submitted by Wendy Lement April 24th, 2014

Senator Joyce, Senator Keenan, and members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify before you. My name is Wendy Lement and I live in Jamaica Plain. I am here as the Producer of Wheelock Family Theatre, to support Section 2A 0640-0302, regarding the reauthorization of the Cultural Facilities Fund.

To introduce myself–I grew up in Massachusetts. Every Saturday I attended drama classes, where in addition to actor training, I acquired life skills. As a teenager I struggled to find my way, but theatre kept me focused and grounded. In college I took a Children’s Theatre course and learned about dynamic plays produced around the world. I began attending national conventions. In Minneapolis I was inspired not only by the quality and quantity of professional theaters for youth, but also by the physical spaces that housed them. These impressive cultural facilities demonstrated a deep respect for young people.

Wheelock College is home to Wheelock Family Theatre [WFT]. I am proud of the WFT’s high production values and commitment to inclusion, as evidenced by our casting policies, affordable tickets, and bold access initiatives. Over half a million people have enjoyed professional theatre at Wheelock, many for the first time, and no one has been turned away for lack of money.

Our artistic programming and community outreach have expanded since the Theatre was built in 1964. But improvements to our facility have not kept pace. For example, the route to seating for patrons in wheelchairs is circuitous, and we must turn patrons away once our wheelchair seating area is full. To maintain our leadership role in access and inclusion, and to remain a destination for families seeking engaging, professional theatre, we must ensure that the physical plant adequately supports our work.

With an ever-expanding reputation for excellence and innovation, Wheelock Family Theatre is poised to be on a par with such nationally recognized companies as The Children’s Theatre Company of Minneapolis and Seattle Children’s Theatre, which attract audiences from around the world. The Theatre must be upgraded so that we can sustain our unique and vital contributions to Boston’s vibrant cultural community. Most foundations, corporations, and individual donors support specific projects, subsidized tickets, and class scholarships. To continue making an impact, we need the Cultural Facilities Fund to be reauthorized for another 5 years. I encourage the members of the Committee to increase the authorization from $50 million to $75 million, to keep the yearly allocation at $15 million. Thank you.

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