What You Need to Know About Why It’s Important to Attend the Annual PDC General Meeting October 15
by Kristen Scatton
posted: 2011-10-08 12:45:52

 What You Need to Know About Why It’s Important to Attend the Annual PDC General Meeting October 15

Board Urges Membership: YOU Decide on Proposal

to make PDC Home Base at Wolf Underground Arts.


The 2011 General Membership Meeting is coming up Saturday, October 15th.  It will be held at 4 p.m. at the Wolf Underground Arts Building, 1200 Callowhill Street. And should there be a rumor afloat that there will be a special presentation and open discussion about a pending project that can have a pivotal and strategic impact on the PDC, the Board of Directors now hastens to put that rumor to rest…

By acknowledging it’s true.

“This is one General Meeting nobody wants to miss,” says PDC Board Vice-Chair Todd Holtsberry.

The proposal: Make the Wolf facility the new PDC home base.

“It’s a biggie,” says PDC Board Vice Chair Todd Holtsberry. “The potential for creating an operational home base is huge. And with a track record for successful operation at an established base, we’ll be in prime position to apply for grants that can open up a whole new vista of opportunity for PDC members. Grants equate with a broader range of programs to help theatre artists develop their skills and advance their careers.

“This event, if the move is made, means that our organization is on the verge of going to the next level. And along with the new opportunities comes new responsibilities for all of us.”

An initial proposal for the move called for a rent charge of $800 a month. As a kind of “focus-group” effort to test the waters, the Writers Circle was invited by the Board to hold a session at the facility, tour the building and check out the neighborhood.

The proposal got mixed reviews. The vote among WC was close, but the decision was to continue WC sessions at the CEC. A Q&A (shown below) provides some insight into the reasons WC members – even though potential benefits to PDC and its members generally were acknowledged and appreciated – felt that the financial challenge was an issue.

Board members, based on points of critique and comments offered by WC members, reassessed the proposal. Board member Bob Wuss, who is CEO of his own theatre-based company – and who personally invested months of research and negotiation with Wolf Management – reshaped the proposal and announced the specifics to fellow board members at a planning committee meeting on October 6. His new proposal effectively reduces the PDC rent costs to $250 a month.

“This is a dramatic development that brings the new venture into the realm of reality from a fiscal viewpoint,” says Board Secretary Kristen Scatton. “However, it is still a major innovation, and even though the PDC Board has the authority to make this commitment, we feel the ultimate decision belongs to members at large.”

Thus, at the General Meeting, members will receive presentations covering the full range of contract specifics, and they will be asked to participate in a secret ballot straw poll to indicate their level of enthusiasm and support for the project.  

“Board members recognize that there has been, in recent years, some distance between PDC members and members of its board of directors,” says Vice-Chair Todd Holtsberry.

“We want members to know that we consider it a major priority to close that distance, and to make it clear we see ourselves as servants of their interests. As the organization grew in recent years, it became increasingly difficult to keep that close relationship. But we now recognize this is among the highest of priorities.”

 “This is perhaps the most promising venture that has come down the pike for the PDC since I’ve been a member,” reports member Wally Zialcita who nears the end of his seven years’ service as Executive Director.  “It’s going to call for a concerted effort by more than board membership and the dedication of just a few people like Bob Wuss.”

It was Bob who for months locked in on research and negotiation efforts with Wolf Building co-owner Gary Ruben in the effort to forge contract specifics. “Right now,” he says, “We can define the nature of the challenge in terms of tactics, chores and logistics. But we just can’t put a limit on potential benefits to individual member playwrights, directors, actors and techies who want to operate on a bigger stage in Philadelphia’s theatrical culture.”

“We also need to make it very clear that the ultimate success of this project going forward will depend on the ability and willingness of members to step forward and volunteer to serve on the board and in staff positions that will be reporting to the new Executive Director.”

            Ballots will be counted in the presence of the membership and results will be announced on the spot. Election of new board members will then take place as part of the normal procures of the annual General Meeting.

            Below are questions submitted to the board by WC member following their visit to the Wolf facility. Members are encouraged to submit additional questions and comments via the blog spot that will be answered there; thus, the Q&A shown below will grow between now and the October 15th General Meeting.


FINAL NOTE FROM THE BOARD: Please plan to attend this very important General Meeting.  For too long, the PDC Board has been toting the load of too few people making decisions and implementing innovations for growth without the involvement of the membership at large. That is not the ideal operating culture for a community of theatre artists; too many career-oriented opportunities become available to organization leaders that for practical reasons (our thin ranks perhaps the most significant constraint) do not always transfer to the membership, to the individual member who may indeed hone his/her craft in various programs but who leaves the destiny of the PDC in the hands of others. We believe this is the moment for the membership to take hold of its own collective destiny. The Board needs your leadership. So do you.


Below are some of the questions received from the Writers Circle, following their visit to the Wolf facility, regarding the initial proposal; questions that are not relevant to the new proposal have been adjusted or dropped:


Q: I have concerns about the status of our relations with the CEC –- no matter how we resolve the relocation issue. I am concerned that the CEC learn of our plans for departure directly from us in a considerate and respectful way in keeping with our past, and possibly future, relations. That includes not having CEC feel they are the last to know, that, if we relocate, we continue a comradely, supportive relation with CEC, that we leave the door open for return if relocation to the Wolf Building does not work as hoped…that we not burn any bridges…that money be left in reserve beyond the November Wolf Building relocation, so we are not left homeless….You get my drift….

 A: Following the Writers Circle vote on Oct. 1, WC and Board member Pat McGeever discussed with Terri Shockley the opportunity for WC to move to the Wolf Building, letting her know that WC has voted to remain at the CEC for the present time. This was done in a spirit of openness with the goal of maintaining a positive relationship with Terri and the CEC, regardless of whether WC remains at the CEC, or chooses in the future to relocate.  

Q: I am concerned that the Wolf Building presents practical problems for general use, and particularly for use by the disabled. The building itself seems to be a large, complex maze hard to navigate on one’s own. How will this be addressed for general entry? Will there be a guide/information desk available to the public at all times? Certainly this would be necessary when we invite the public for rehearsals and performance…..

 A: Regarding the disabled, there is a lift at the entrance foyer that obviates the need for using any staircase (all other levels of the buidling are avaiable via the elevators). Navigating the hallways does seem a bit confusing right now, but we should be able to place direction signs in hallways once actual operations get underway. And we are confident members will be available to help at the entrance and to provide direction when members of the public attend events.

 Q: Re the handicap-disability issue: The lift to raise one person/one vehicle to the elevator level, in place at present, did not work well at the demonstration session and raises practical problems as a permanent solution. Some people need entry/discharge assistance, so that the one-person limitation may not be sufficient. An on-duty guard to assist may be an alternative to extra room in the lift for a care-taker, or a buzzer call at the entrance, though not ideal, is another possibility. Entry modification with a ramp, or some other more accessible means of entry to the elevators may be necessary.

 A: Undoubtedly, until procedures get set and the dust settles, there will be glitches and inconveniences that can be accommodated on the spot as we did on the occasion of the WC visit. And this issue will be forwarded to Gary Ruben, co-owner of the Wolf Building to see if he has some thoughts on possible improvements.

Q: Will due consideration be given to the fact that the prospective PDC space, in its present incarnation, seems very confined and claustrophobic? It did not feel very inviting, so any entrance and lighting features and the configuration of the office component will be very important in making the space more welcoming and even usable for the multiple purposes we contemplate. While it gives PDC a home base, a potentially permanent “space of its own,” does the available space fulfill our physical needs for good rehearsal/performance/meeting/office space?

A: Since the space is not completely set up at this time (when WC members visited), or cleared of construction debris, it is admittedly uninviting to the eye. Improvements are underway at the moment. The absence of windows cannot be remedied unless the PDC moves to a different space that would come at a higher cost. However, we feel the rehearsal space, without visual access to the outside, provides a kind of privacy that is beneficial to the rehearsal process, so we don't see that as a disadvantage. Folks working in the office area may feel a bit closed in, but they will hopefully adjust to that..

Q: I am concerned about availability issues. For example, at the time of our tour of the premises, an important component of the tour – the large performance space/auditorium -- was in use, and we were unable to see it. Will this kind of overlap be a problem?

A: Scheduling at the time of the WC visit was problematic. Keep in mind that construction and clean-up were, and are, still underway, and nobody stepped into a bucket of paint. But if the majority of members support the proposal, we will, over time, get better at arranging schedules to avoid closed doors and hallway collisions. Keep in mind also, that we very much WANT this to be a communal effort and process so that suggestions for improvement and innovation will be appreciated from all members.

Q: We do not currently have sufficient funding from dues to continue all of the existing programs and also cover the rent charges. Does this mean we must raise dues? If so, by how much?

A: The board has discussed the possibility of asking PDC members to be approving of some hike in the dues, which have not changed since the founding of the organization, and still amount to less than one dollar a week. But you can be assured that no dues hike, if one is necessary, will be more than some modest amount. And even if they go up to as much as $65/year that would still be only $1.25 a week. Alternatively, we should be discussing the possibility of a series of fund-raising events during the course of the year that are mounted by members collectively.

Q: I suppose it all boils down to: are we biting off more than we can chew?

A: The question, a good one, was more relevant to the initial proposal that called for $800 a month for rent; $250 a month is much more manageable. But there remains the necessity get PDC membership more actively involved in the organization itself by filling the open seats on the Board of Directors, playing leadership roles and contributing time and energy to operations. This is why it is so essential for maximum attendance of members at the General Meeting of October 15!


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