ORLANDO — For years, Mad Cow Theatre has been encouraging people to see not only the plays they produce, but their entire season, and become season subscribers.
This summer, though, Mad Cow’s directors are urging the public to do something a little different: open their wallets and donate to help them keep operating for another season.
Mad Cow and other community theaters are struggling with major funding headaches following the decision by the Florida Legislature to impose huge cuts in the state’s grant program — by a whopping 90 percent.
The grant program administered by the State Division of Cultural Affairs supports not just community theaters like Mad Cow but also museums and science centers, and their budget has been reduced by lawmakers from $25 million to just $2.6 million.
And for Mad Cow, those cuts are likely to be devastating, noted Mitzi Maxwell, the theater’s executive director.
She recently sent out a plea to supporters of theater and the arts, noting that as their 21st season closes, they’re facing major challenges in terms of their future operating budget.
“Three years ago we were awarded $82,553,” she wrote. “Next year we will receive a grand total of $7,129. We were eligible to ask the state for more than $100,000 to help pay for our programming next year. But the state legislature granted only 6.3 percent of our request.”
It’s a cutback, she noted, that promises to inflict a lot of pain on Mad Cow.
“You can’t see it in our productions, but Mad Cow already operates on the thinnest of budgets,” Maxwell wrote. “Our small staff works amazingly hard, and our wonderful artists do tremendous work onstage. We don’t have any fluff in our budget. We don’t have anywhere we can slim down.”
Mad Cow is urging people to make a donation to help them at this time of need.
“Like most nonprofit arts groups, only about half of our income comes in through the box office,” she wrote. “Orange County kindly provides 7.5 percent of our income. But nearly all of the rest of it comes from people who attend Mad Cow, people who love theatre – people like you.”
Mad Cow needs to raise a lot: $105,733 in total, Maxwell noted, “to make up the shortfall between our eligible request to the state of Florida and the measly $7,129 we will receive in the coming year. Please help us keep great theatre alive in Central Florida. Please give today.”
Mad Cow is now promoting its annual Cattle Drive fundraiser, in the hope of raising $60,000 to fund their upcoming Season 22.
“We hope you’ll consider donating $10, $100, $1,000 or more to the shortfall or your favorite artistic team,” she noted.
The Cattle Drive fundraiser will continue through October. In the meantime, Mad Cow’s current production of the play “Bad Jews” has its final performance on Sunday, and then their production of Lillian Hellman’s drama “The Little Foxes” will run from Aug. 3-26.
Mad Cow Theatre is a 501c3 not-for-profit organization, so any donations made to them are tax deductible. To donate to Mad Cow Theatre, click here.
Mad Cow is not the only community theater being impacted. The Orlando Shakespeare Theater will receive only $9,606, about 6 percent of the $150,000 it was qualified to receive from the state grant program.
Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright and author of the book “Of Cats And Wolves.” Contact him at Freelineorlando@gmail.com.