Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Change: a nerve-wracking tale of Two Muses

Imagine for a moment that you're a business owner. You've built your business quite nicely since its inception, as the number of patrons visiting your business continues to grow, and your reputation for providing quality products and services is quite high. And indications are for those trends to continue.

So what does the smart business person do to help grow the business? Take some risks, of course! With loyal customers and a solid reputation to back you up, it's likely time to shake things up a bit - expose your patrons to something new or different, and hope your ideas please your existing customer base while they also bring new faces into your business.

And so you set plans into motion - and then the unimaginable occurs: Your landlord also decides it's time for a change. The property is being sold, and you're being evicted.

Sounds like a nightmare, right? Unfortunately it's not.

What I described above is pretty close to the scenario in which Two Muses Theatre found itself last fall, when its landlord (Barnes & Noble in West Bloomfield) informed executive/artistic director Diane Hill that its landlord had decided to do something else with the property - which meant that both businesses were now without a home.

So with a season already announced and underway, what's a producer to do?

Find a new home, of course. Quickly - and therein begins the off-stage drama.

As other theaters have learned the hard way over the years, uprooting from one location to another is fraught with danger. Will your established customers follow you to the new location? Will the number of seats available to sell remain comparable? Will the new facility's rent and utilities blow the budget? Will the space meet the needs of the announced schedule? And on and on and on it goes.

After a frantic search, Two Muses accepted an offer from Paul Stark of Monster Box Theatre in Waterford to move in and share the space. And while that sounds like a great solution, that too is fraught with potential problems.

Specifically: With approximately 9 miles between the new and old locations, will Two Muses' customers follow them to Waterford?

But more importantly is this: Of the two, Two Muses is much better known and enjoys a much better reputation. From reports I've received since its opening, the quality of shows at Monster Box have fluctuated greatly.

And so I'm sure Diane has to be wondering: Will Monster Box's erratic reputation rub off on Two Muses? If people show up at a Monster Box show and don't like it, will that reflect badly on Two Muses as well? Will patrons - potential or otherwise - confuse the two? Or think them one and the same?

It's certainly a scary and uncertain future that Diane and Two Muses face - and that's a shame.

Since its inception, Diane and everyone involved with Two Muses have worked hard to create a home for women artists through which quality programs are made available to the community at affordable prices. And they've been rewarded for their efforts by developing a strong base of loyal patrons and donors who've eagerly supported the theater.

To see that damaged in any way is disheartening - especially since its final show in West Bloomfield, "The Light in the Piazza," was a superb piece of theater and one of its best efforts.

Unfortunately - and despite excellent reviews - audiences for "How I Learned to Drive" at Monster Box have reportedly been a fraction of what they were for "Piazza."

And so I'm sure Diane is asking herself, "Has it been the weather that's kept audiences away? Or is it the edgier show? Maybe our patrons haven't found us yet? Or are we too many miles away from our fan base?"

With one weekend left, there's still time for folks to come out and support Two Muses in its new home. Personally, I hope they do, as this scrappy little theater has been a fine and important addition to the community. I very much have enjoyed their shows, and I wish them a long and prosperous life.

But that won't happen unless patrons show up and buy tickets for this and the next show, "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change." (It's a musical, so that might help!)

I'm keeping my fingers crossed...

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CLICK HERE to read Frank Anthony Polito's review of "How I Learned to Drive" from

CLICK HERE to read Patty Nolan's review from

CLICK HERE for show information: "How I Learned to Drive"

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