Earlier this summer, the City of Milpitas sent an email out to the Center Stage Performing Arts (CSPA) theater group, letting them know that they’d be suspending the group’s performance activities for the upcoming season.
In an attempt to save the theater’s contract, young performers, along with their parents and other community members, showed up at the August 13 city council meeting to let their voices be heard.
At present, the City is studying cost analysis to see if the theater program is something that Milpitas residents want to see more of. The CSPA program currently costs the City $76,000 a year to run.
As many in the community have been reaching out to The Beat, demanding to know exactly why this theater’s contract was suspended, we wanted to go back to some months prior — to a conversation from a Special Council Meeting…
This happened back on April 30. During the meeting, while Council discussed the proposed citywide master fee schedule changes for Fiscal Year 2019-2020 with staff, the topic of CSPA was brought up by Councilmember Carmen Montano:
“One of my concerns is that the Community Center…do we still give most of our rental facilities to the theater program?” asked Councilmember Montano.
“They do have rehearsals, shows, and productions in the community center,” said Renee Lorentzen, Director of Recreation and Community Services. “And to make room for private rentals or rentals that generate dollars, we’ve taken a closer look at what activities they’re doing and dispersing them through city facilities. For instance, if they’re doing rehearsals and it’s about choreography, we move them to the dance studio so they’re not in the larger room. So we’re trying to program smarter…”
Councilmember Montano mentioned that she had heard from community members that they had a hard time renting out the community center, due to the presence of CSPA:
“One of my concerns I’ve heard from the community is that they have a hard time renting the Community Center because it’s always booked by Center Stage Performing Arts. And I’m thinking, why should we be doing that? They’re a separate entity,” said Councilmember Montano. “It seems to me that the community should have the first priority. Maybe they don’t have another place, but is it our duty to provide them that space for them to have preference before the community? And that’s one of my concerns about cost recovery is that we can never rent it out because it’s always booked.” She then asked management to look into it, and they said they would move forward on that item.
And here we are.
Staff is currently doing all they can to research and gather data to determine where to go from here.
“We’ll be looking at attendance numbers and participants, and the value of the room for their practices and rehearsals; trying to put together the full picture of what the costs are,” said Milpitas’ Public Information Officer Jennifer Yamuguma in response to The Beat’s last article on the subject. “And we’re also going out to the community and hosting a meeting. There’s even an online survey. We’re trying to get feedback from the community on what programs they like, and what genres they’re interested in. We want to know what kinds of performing arts programming the community wants to see.”
After staff gathers the survey results, cost analysis data, and community input from the meeting, they will create a Performing Arts Study, which will then be presented to Council for feedback on October 1st.
“One thing I want to share is that the funding component is still there,” said Yamaguma. “And when Council has the opportunity to study the results on the 1st, they can make a decision on how to proceed. But the funding component is still there for it.”
Currently, the City is working on creating an interim solution for Center Stage. They’ve met with the school district about potentially partnering up and allowing the use of school space for rehearsals, which would free up space in the Community Center. “The Council wanted to make sure there was equitable use, because it’s a community room,” said Yamaguma. “So they’re looking at partnerships with the district to see if there’s an interim solution.”
During that Special Council Meeting back in April, even as Councilmember Montano expressed concern over CSPA’s use of the Community Center space, she also floated the idea of one day opening up a Performing Arts Theater in Milpitas.
On Thursday, August 22, at 7pm, there will be a Town Hall to discuss performing arts programming in Milpitas. All are welcome to attend. The meeting will be held at the Community Center (457 E Calaveras Blvd.).
Photo from CSPA’s Sleeping Beauty show during June.