DAVID YARNELL: Collaboration needed to ensure future of Ramsdell

TO THE EDITOR:

Since moving to the Kalamazoo area two years ago, I have tried to keep track of what’s going on at my beloved Ramsdell Theatre.

A newspaper article several months ago talked about the Manistee Civic Players (MCP) supporting a new group formed to operate the Ramsdell. I didn’t quite understand what was happening until I received a call from a member of the MCP board of directors about the issues between the new group, the Ramsdell Regional Center for the Arts (RRCA) and the MCP.

In recent newspaper articles, the RRCA said that the Civic Players decided not to join them. What they didn’t say is that the RRCA was asking the MCP to dissolve its nonprofit status and its board, becoming only a committee to recommend plays with the final decisions made by the RRCA. In essence, the RRCA wanted total control.

Since its start in 1939 the MCP has been governed by a board of directors elected by season ticket purchasers. Anyone who purchases a season ticket has a say in how the organization is operated. It appears that the RRCA is a more closed organization.

I served as a member of the MCP board of directors for 25 years and also for many years on the Ramsdell Restoration Project. I would have been shocked if the MCP had been coerced into disbanding, as would the many others who spent countless volunteer hours for the MCP and Ramsdell Theatre. Also, I don’t understand why the RRCA feels that the success of the Ramsdell depends on the elimination of the MCP.

I believe the MCP has been told to move its office out of the building, and that the Manistee Art Institute also will no longer be in the Ramsdell.

For many years the MCP operated the building, but since this was always done with very few resources, the decision was made to turn building operations over to a city-appointed governing board. Some of us on the MCP board were sorry to see us lose this responsibility, but others pointed out that now we could focus on our main objective — producing shows for the Ramsdell.

I encourage everyone to support the MCP in its efforts to stage home-grown theatrical productions as well as the RRCA as it works to keep the building busy and economically sustainable. I do hope that the RRCA truly will be willing to work with the MCP in the future.

Simply put, the Ramsdell is important to the MCP, and the MCP is important to the Ramsdell. I believe it’s possible that by working together in the future, as we have in the past, the Ramsdell will continue to be the crown jewel of Manistee.

David Yarnell

Kalamazoo

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