Fresno children's theater group faces financial challenge

LOS ANGELES

The group has been putting on shows in downtown Fresno for eleven years. The city of Fresno offered its vote of confidence this week but right now the group seeks sell-out crowds. "Ariel" will do her part to try to keep Children's Musical Theaterworks financially afloat.

The Fresno City Council has approved a three-year agreement with the group for continued use of the Memorial Auditorium Theater downtown.

Councilmember Larry Westerlund was the lone dissenting vote. He was concerned because Children's Musical Theaterworks owes the city 20-thousand dollars for facility fees dating back to November of 2009.

CMT Executive Director Judy Stene explained, "It's been a year that's been in upheaval for all of us. For the city, for us. So I think this contract wouldn't have been drafted without the security of knowing we would be able pay those fees."

Assistant City Manager Bruce Rudd said the deal calls for the group to re-pay the 20-thousand in installments. The first one is due in two weeks. Rudd said, "We hammered out a new agreement that I think allows them to deal with the short-term cash flow challenges that a lot of non-profits are facing as well as provides some long-term security for them."

Stene said Children's Musical Theaterworks plays an important role in bringing more people downtown. "People whose children in our plays have to come downtown to see them and so that gets them down town and for some of them it's their first time. We're real proud of that so we really want to stay here."

A solid weekend could get the group headed in the right direction. Rudd said, "We thought it was important for the community to give them an opportunity to get their feet back beneath them."

In addition to a Friday night performance of Disney's "The Little Mermaid," two shows are set for Saturday and one on Sunday.

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