The 5-year-old nonprofit Tracy Performing Arts Foundation was recently named the historic theater’s first resident troupe. That means the foundation will rehearse and perform exclusively at the Central Avenue venue, get a 20 percent discount on the $25-an-hour rental costs and land a spot in the theater’s marketing brochures and seasonal ticket package.
A residency status also opens the doors for the foundation to receive more grant money, said Kelly Hendrix, a city arts commissioner and foundation member. One day, she said, the foundation may be able to compensate its producers, directors and maybe even some actors as paid professionals, because resident companies are more likely to get funding.
Residency is more about prestige than the promotional and financial benefits, said Theresa Yvonne, Grand Theatre director.
“It’s really an honor to have a residency somewhere,” she said. “That’s really what this is about. It means they have a home.”
For the city-run Grand Theatre, it means a guaranteed tenant. Without residency, the foundation has already rented the venue, but also has bounced between Tracy High School’s Emma Baumgartner Theater and the Tracy Community Center. The group’s newfound status means it can narrow things down to a single stage: The Grand’s Studio Theatre on the first floor.
“We’re part of a family now,” said Jack Elliott, the foundation’s treasurer and past-president.
The Grand Theatre — which reopened in fall 2007 after decades of closure — hopes to recruit dance companies, a symphony and other performing arts groups for residency, Yvonne said.
In the beginning, residency offers little financial benefit for the theater, and thus for the city as its financial backer, Yvonne said. But the more residencies a theater acquires, the more guaranteed income the venue will see from site rentals.
“In the long-term, we’ll really start to see the benefits,” she said.
One of the biggest benefits for the city this year is that the resident group will add six theatrical productions and two choral shows to the theater’s season. That’s a huge boon considering that the theater had to nearly halve its offerings last year, Hendrix pointed out.
Resident performing arts groups are expected to put on at least three shows per fall-through-spring season. If each show calls for several rehearsals, that totals a good several-dozen hours — in some cases hundreds of hours — in rent revenues for the theater.
“It’s not a huge amount of money, but in these times, no amount is insignificant,” Yvonne said.
The city budgets about $1.4 million from its general fund for the Grand Theatre, according to Yvonne. The hundreds of hours of rental income the foundation’s newly acquired residency is expected to bring in this year is a drop in the bucket in comparison. But, Yvonne said, it’s a promising start.
The foundation has planned for eight productions and some classes this September-through-May season — in addition to the guest performances booked by the Grand’s staff — beginning with “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” in October.
For each show, actors will schedule about 20 rehearsals, ones that could have been scheduled for another venue, Elliott said. In addition to the rehearsals and shows, as a resident troupe, the foundation will offer classes through the city in acting, singing and other performing arts.
“Since this is our home now, the theater gets a guarantee that we’ll meet there so many times a month,” he said. “We’re making a commitment to the Grand that we’ll do everything there.”
This year, the foundation has a lot planned for the first-floor studio theater in addition to “Joseph”: “The Diary of Anne Frank,” “Boesman and Lena,” “Love Letters,” “Willie and Esther” and “Lone Star and Laundry and Bourbon.”
Resident groups are expected to plan the entire season in advance, Yvonne said.
“Not just anyone can apply,” she said. “We have specific criteria.”
Because the Grand is a regional theater, Yvonne envisions performing arts and music groups from nearby cities and counties also to apply for residency representing different types of performing arts — ballet, modern dance and symphonies, to name a few.
“We can’t, for example, have two symphonies,” Yvonne said. “We would have one resident symphony, and if there were another, they would be considered guests.”
But that’s speaking in the long-term, she added.
Ann Langley of the Arts Leadership Alliance — the city’s nonprofit partner that raises money for the Grand Theatre — said it’s a sign of progress when a theater gets its first residency.
“We’re in the very beginning stages now,” Yvonne agreed. “But it’s a step in the right direction.”