Your thoughts on Civic's Carmel move

November 17, 2009
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Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre of Indianapolis, Inc. -- better known as Indianapolis Civic Theatre -- and the City of Carmel Redevelopment Commission announced Tuesday evening that Civic will be moving to Carmel's new Regional Performing Arts Center. It will be, according to a press release, "the primary occupant for the 500-seat proscenium theater" beginning with its 2011-2012 season.

A major loss for Indianapolis? Absolutely. Any time an institution moves outside of city limits, it's a blow to the Indy arts community.

A disappointment that the new arts center won't be anchored with a fully professional theater company? Yes. 

A smart move for Civic? That's anybody's guess. With a total payment due from Civic of $10 million, one has to wonder if there's enough of an audience for community theater in this new location -- or enough new big-check donors -- to generate the necessary revenue.

And, of course, there's the memory of Edyvean Repertory Theatre, which went out of business shortly after a made the major move from CTS to the University of Indianapolis (and that was still within city limits).

Your thoughts?

  • CCP Welcomes Civic
    We've known this was coming for some time now and we are looking forward to it. We'll support and work with Indianapolis Civic Theatre any way we can. Here is a link to our press release wecoming Civic.
  • Delighted
    As a Carmel home owner, I am delighted by this news. Yes, it would have been nice to have a fully professional theatre company be the anchor, but who knows? Maybe Civic will make the transition to that some day. The Phoenix Theatre wasn't always a professional theatre, and I'm sure there are others that have successfully made the switch.

    In the meantime, Civic does have professional designers and it seems to get pretty lucky with the caliber of volunteer performers that want to perform there. I have seen ten Civic shows in the two years since I became a theatre blogger. I have been impressed with every one. I have also had positive experiences every time I have interacted with any of the staff.

    I claim Indianapolis as my home town as much as I claim Carmel, but I feel sorry for Indianapolis in this situation only up to a point. I guess I just don't think of Indy and Carmel as vastly separate communities. I drive from Carmel to downtown Indianapolis and surrounding counties very frequently in order to see a wide variety of theatre. I will continue to do so. I know a lot of actors, directors, and designers that also drive all around central Indiana to do what they love.

    I don't mean to seem naive or insensistive about the seriousness of Indianapolis losing vibrant arts groups through lack of political, financial, and other kinds of support. I delighted that Civic is going to be so close to me.

    I felt a similar delight after I attended my first show at the lovely new Carmel Community Playhouse in Clay Terrace. I am very much looking forward to supporting both the all-volunteer CCP and the "hybrid" Civic Theatre.

    I feel...(at the risk of perpetuating a Carmel stereotype that really does not apply to me)....!

    Hope Baugh
    Indy Theatre Habit
  • Break a Leg
    I wish them nothing but luck (break a leg Civic)! As one of the staff members at Edyvean when we made the move - I hope they do not experience the loss of audience that we did during our transition. I am confidant their board weighed the pros and cons and feel they made the correct decision for their organization. I do believe that if a theatre does move from a more central location to an outlying suburb the best direction geographically would be north. An audience study probably backs that up. Again, break legs Civic! See you on the north side.
  • Ouch, Lou!
    Civic Theatre has a full-time, professional staff, and all directors, designers, choreographers, etc. are professionals. I know I'm biased, being married to one of those professionals, and being a semi-regular "amateur" (I prefer the term, "avocational") performer at Civic, myself. But I'll proudly put the quality of Civic's productions next to almost any of the other, so-called, "professional" theatre companies in Central Indiana.

    I fail to understand how having a full-time company that pays its actors anchoring the performing arts center is better than one that has a professional, yet less-transient staff, and offers members of the community direct access -- as an audience member or a performer -- to high-quality entertainment. I'd be interested in hearing you explain your reasoning.

    And thanks to others who have offered rational words of support during what is going to be a really tough transition for Civic. I also want to say thanks to Brian and the others from Carmel Community Players who, IMHO, have shown a great deal of class in welcoming Civic to Hamilton County.
  • Peace
    Don't let the door hit you on the way out.
  • Civic

    No insult intended or, I think, delivered.
    To clarify: I want the Indy area to grow in its arts and entertainment offerings and to strengthen what it already has. Fully professional companies are a sign of--and a catalyst for--that growth.

    That in no way means that fully professional companies automatically have a higher track record of success or are willing to take more risks than avocational or professionally managed companies. It also doesn't mean that they have the money to lure an audience to the new venue.

    That being said, I'd love to see more fully professional theater in this addition to what Civic and other theaters are doing.

    Looking ahead, I wish Civic nothing but success in the new space. There, I hope it will be surrounded by other companies that, collectively, are committed to raising the bar for quality work.

  • What a shame!
    What a shame for Indianapolis to lose this wonderful legacy theater to the "burb" -- I am sure that they have studied the situation but wonder about the transition of audience and how the acting community views the move?!?
      I'm very disappointed to see Civic move. We've been season ticket holders for a LONG time and will continue to be. The quality of the performances is excellent. What I'm not happy about is moving to Carmel where the traffic is horrid and where it's far less accessible to a lot of folks. It seems that Civic has a core audience of retired folks. Did anyone look at the zips of those folks to see if the new location is convenient? The new location is actually closer for us but we just try our darndest to avoid Carmel and the lousy traffic!
    • Track Record
      Well, other theaters have certainly had trouble after moving (Edyvean), but I think we probably should look at Civic's track record in this area. In the early 1970s, Civic performed at the Booth Tarkington Theater at 19th & Alabama...currently the home of Footlite Musicals (renamed Hedback Theatre) since the mid-70s. Civic was then at the Art Museum (Showalter Pavilion, wasn't it?) until it moved to Marian College in the early 2000s. So, Civic has survived 3 rather large moves in the past 40 years (I admit to ignorance of where they were or how many times they moved in the 55 years before that!) If anyone can survive that change of demographic,'s probably Civic. It's certainly a great opportunity for them!
    • Civic The-A-Ter of Carmel
      This is not big news. They're just yet another community (volunteer avocational actors) theatre with the asterisk that they happen to employ professional artistic staff. At least their move from the IMA to Marian catered to their nearby audience. I wish them luck in this economy growing a whole new audience in Canada (it might as well be - it would be over an hour drive one way from my Indpls. house thus I'll never make the trip). They'll need it as the Edyvean fatally learned when they moved from the IMA area to the southside, growing a new audience is near impossible. They should also remove Indianapolis from their name.
    • Lousy Traffic?
      What's with the Carmel Hate? Lousy traffic? Are you serious? Having moved from Chicago and lived in Seattle, I can tell you there is no where in Central Indiana where traffic is "lousy." Last time I checked there are many more residences in Hamilton and Northern Marion County to throw what's left of the ever declining disposable income dollar the theatre's way.
    • Off the radar?
      I realize that Carmel is part of the Indianapolis metropolitian area. And I am sure that many of the current patrons of the Indianapolis Civic Theatre are from Carmel but I am not one of them.

      As a non-season ticket holder for any arts group besides the opera, my plans are based on what is coming up that sounds most interesting at the time. Generally speaking when looking for up coming activities, I only look at what is taking place in Marion county. This doesn't mean that I believe there is nothing worth seeing or doing outside the county lines. But when there is so much to see and do in Indianapolis, I just don't have any need to look outside the county.

      I believe that it is a very real possiblity that the Civic Theatre will fall off my radar. That's too bad because I enjoy the performances I have seen but with so many other choices so much closer to home, I doubt I will be there any time soon.
    • Civic Theatre
      Hamilton County is where the money is. Good luck, Civic.
    • Civic
      The article mentioned that other opportunities were presented to the Civic Theatre and were turned down. Was something for downtown Indianapolis on the table? I would be interested in learning about the opportunities they turned down and why.... I certainly wish the Civic luck. I personally think the move is risky because the Carmel total Center situation is on shaky financials and not paid for... and no clear plan as to how it will be paid for.... I hope taxpayers in Carmel look at the financials and ask questions. Does the $10 million cover facility cost, utilities, and maintenance and otherwise who picks up the tab?
    • Priorities
      Indianapolis chose to build a $750 million football stadium.

      Carmel chose to build a $80 million concert hall with two theatres seating 1,600, 500, and 200 respectively.

      If Indianapolis wants to be the cultural center of Indiana, they need to think beyond sports.

      Good luck to both.
      • Next
        As a season ticket holder for many years, I am disappointed to see the Civic leave Indianapolis. I will not be following you! I rather go downtown Indianapolis than to Carmel. I vote for football and theater....
      • Agree with Lou
        This is an instance where I will agree with Lou - to the extent that a Professional Theater would be a better use of the space in Carmel. Why? So that actors have a better chance of making a living in Central Indiana! By and large, Civic's paid staff is excellent, but they choose not to pay actors, so a Professional Company in that space would help professional actors in the area make a living. I don't begrudge Civic's staff from making their living, but their mission isn't of any assistance to many of us who act for a living and wish to remain in the area. Had ATI been the main or a major tenant, that would have helped the artists who make a living being onstage. Would have liked to see Civic use their connections and muscle ($$) to find space elsewhere rather than preclude the possibility of an added venue to support local actors make a living. Not an irrational position, so far as I am concerned.
      • Carmel
        I understand that there was at least one option under consideration for a downtown Indianapolis Theater concept and Civic chose Carmel. Indy's loss and Carmel's win. Logical choice.
      • Sad
        The news about the Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre of Indianapolis moving to Carmel is very sad. Booth Tarkington won the Pulitzer Prize in 1919 for the Magnificent Ambersons, which tells how the old downtown Indy neighborhoods died when the automobile made it possible for people to flee to the suburbs just north of Fall Creek. I think he would roll over in his grave to know that the theater which bears his name is now fleeing his beloved hometown to move to Carmel.
      • Richard Florida's Creative Class
        Indianapolis city leaders and Indianapolis Downtown Inc. specifically must pay more attention to the arts community:

        "Indianapolis" could easily be replaced with "Carmel" in the following names:

        Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, Indianapolis Repertory Theatre, Indianapolis Opera, International Violin Competition of Indianapolis, Indianapolis Children's Choir, Indianapolis Ballet..............

        A new trend of aging venues, shrinking donor base, and weak community support could decimate the past decade of efforts to attract and retain highly educated and compensated professionals to live and work in downtown.
      • Not "My" Civic Anymore
        Being a resident of Marion County, I have always thought of Civic Theater as an accessible Indianapolis based-institution available to a diverse, cosmopolitan population. I feel like the move to Carmel paints Civic as a more parochial, less accessible organization than I once thought. At a time when other arts organization are seeking to diversify their audiences and reach out to underserved populations, I feel like Civic is turning its back on all that. I am not inclined to send my entertainment dollars to Carmel.
      • Amen
        I wish Indianapolis and Carmel both success in their endeavors, whether the arts or the sports or other. Yet, personally, I'm looking forward to having the Civic in my backyard (Carmel). While I don't always agree with some of the things the Carmel community does, I am on board with the focus on building up the arts, developing designated bike routes, and other aspects that make the work of "living" better. It's what the Creative Class seeks. Simply put, Carmel offered a solution that the Civic found desirable.
      • Never!
        I will never, ever set one foot in Carmel's performing arts center, and I'll do my best to not spend a dime in that elitist community. I hate it! And I hope the civic theater fails miserably.
        • Grump!
          George, George, George... you need to take that frown and turn it upside down. It's those "elitist" folks that pump millions of dollars into Indy's sports venues, restaurants, museums, theaters, etc... Carmel, quite frankly, doesn't need your dime. And, no...Civic Theatre will not fail. Sounds like the only one that's miserable is you, Mr. Grumpy Pants!
        • Ugly
          I am amazed at how ugly some of the comments on this board are. Wow! For those of you protesting with such vehemence - do you serve on the Civic Board? I doubt it! Have you even visualized walking in their shoes while making this decision? Again, doubtful.

          Some of you might have been long standing patrons. But I would hope that while disappointed about the change in venue you would have enough trust in your past relationship with this fine establishment to know that they are trying to do what is best for the majority of those involved - including the longevity of the theatre itself.

          Will some perhaps have to travel a bit further? Yes?

          Should you expect the same quality of theatre that you've enjoyed in the past? Absolutely!

          And when the audience lights dim and the stage lights come up - you will be transported beyond Indianapolis, beyond Carmel - to another time and place - and truly isn't that what it is all about?
        • Here's the thing:
          I love theater. Anyone who is involved in theater, no matter where, is alright with me.

          The world keeps turning and I doubt our day-to-days are going to be truly affected by this event. Go or don't go. Hey, look at that: life goes on!

          I'm happy for Civic. Best of luck!

        • Playing Devil's Advocate
          Being a life-long civic theatre performer, and previous Indy Civic performer, I find it very sad that they are chucking their central location in exchange for a move to a suburb. This will make it nearly impossible for someone other than those close to Carmel to participate. It is a commitment to drive to rehearsals and shows (one that I love, of course), but if the theatre had been more than 20 minutes away, there would have been no way I could have worked full time and still made it happen when participating in all my previous shows, which was a wonderful part of my life. I also am concerned that those not close to Carmel who normally attend shows will feel the same about the longer drive. I wish them the best, always, but am wondering if this move was the only option for them. BTW - are they changing the name to Carmel Civic Theatre? And, will anyone open a new Indianapolis Civic Theatre for the rest of us who need a central location?
        • Vision and Planning
          Indy is not alone, this happens in many cities where a city's vision and planning seeks top dollar investments and loses track of the smaller wheels of an economy. Economies of cities resemble a watch mechanism. There are small and large cogs working together in precision. All pieces are important. Indy needs to support the smaller wheels if it seeks to be attractive to larger investments.
        • Come on...
          Indianapolis didn't NEED to build any more theaters as there are many already in place -- and many that are obviously suitable for Civic.

          What Carmel chose to do was to purposely build yet more theaters - without a major tenant to support it - thus creating an overstock. I don't blame Civic as much as I blame Carmel for being short-sighted in not realizing that its selfish actions were designed to benefit only the Carmel community and not the region as a whole. There is simply no other explanation. Cherry-picking existing groups from the heart of a region ultimately leads to a Detroit-like mentality. Now, if Carmel had built the theater as an incubator for beginning "new" arts groups -- that's an entirely different thing -- and would have been quite commendable.
          • more on Carmel move
            Latest IBJ story (Thursday) on the Carmel move:
          • Re: Come On
            Joe, I respectfully disagree. Carmel doesn't have any "real" theater spaces except for the schools, which are impossible to book due to school functions. The RPAC is a great addition to Carmel. From what I understand, Civic has several proposals to consider in Indianapolis. Theater is not a public service, even if it's NFP, it needs to make money. Carmel didn't go "Cherry-picking". There are MANY other explanations that you simply aren't aware of. And, no, you don't build a multi-million dollar facility like this and hand the keys to a small community theater - you give them to an organization that has the experience and staff to make it work. Civic is that group.

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          1. why oh why does this state continue to elect these you wonder how much was graft out of the 3.8 billion?

          2. i too think this is a great idea. I think the vision and need is there as well. But also agree with Wendy that there may be better location in our city to fulfill this vision and help grow the sports of hockey and figure skating in Indy. Also to help further develop other parts of the city that seem often forgotten. Any of the other 6 townships out side of the three northernmost could benefit greatly from a facility and a vision like this. For a vision that sounds philanthropic, the location is appears more about the money. Would really like to see it elsewhere, but still wish the development the best of luck, as we can always use more ice in the city. As for the Ice growth when they return, if schedules can be coordinated with the Fuel, what could be better than to have high level hockey available to go see every weekend of the season? Good luck with the development and the return of the Ice.

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          5. I remain amazed at the level of expertise of the average Internet Television Executive. Obviously they have all the answers and know the business inside and out.