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Monday, October 02, 2023

Florida Players UF theater club moves forward with season despite funding cut

UF’s theater club has found support after being snubbed of Student Government funds

Confronted with low budget funding, the Florida Players have continued to fundraise this Fall to make sure the show still goes on. 

Florida Players, a student-led theater company at UF, usually receives close to $20,000 per semester from Student Government. This semester, it only received $500 through base funding, which is granted to any organization that applies.

The group began fundraising virtually over summer break, and has raised over $8,450 of its $20,000 goal as of Sept. 27 to continue its season as planned.

The $500 it received through SG base funding is granted to any organization that applies, said Taylor Ho, the club’s financial director. Other SG funds are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. Despite the fact that members of the executive board submitted their budget requests within the first 10 minutes of the form being available, they did not receive any additional funds, Ho said.

“In the case of Florida Players and many others, unfortunately the available funding was exhausted before the committee could make it to their submitted budget requests,” SG finance manager Gary Bryant said.

Jacqueline St. Pierre, the club’s artistic director, said she felt blindsided when she learned the news.

“This is nothing short of a devastating blow,” St. Pierre said.

Florida Players overcame its initial challenge through the help of generous donors and unwavering spirit, Ho said. They will move forward with two plays at the Phillips Center, Ho said, and the New Works Festival may have to be downsized. 

Most of the money raised will go toward rent for performance venues, so they may need to get creative with costumes and sets, Ho said. 

“The theater we make as an organization this semester may look more like people walking through empty space, but that should not affect the quality of our work,” St. Pierre said. 

With its smaller budget, the board discussed having readings of plays on Zoom or in a free location. The club will still try to raise the money to continue with the season as planned. 

Ho said the group’s GoFundMe was a way to raise money while members of the club weren’t physically in Gainesville over the summer. The lack of school support for Florida Players was disheartening, she said.

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“I personally was panicking,” Ho said. “After the initial shock, I was also sad and worried. As a board, we felt a little discouraged, but we definitely weren’t going to give up on the season.”

But thankfully, the UF community has stepped up, she said.

“We’ve been kind of overwhelmed by the support that we’ve received,” Ho said. “We also had someone reach out to us to offer their materials for set building.”

The organization has more fundraisers planned throughout the semester. The group plans to reach out to different businesses or companies to see if they would sponsor the season — a common practice with professional venues like The Hippodrome. Sponsors would be offered perks such as having an ad in the playbill or having their logo printed on any merchandise made for the organization. 

Because the funding issue was unavoidable, the organization’s still unsure how to prevent the same budget issue from happening in the Spring semester. The club will apply using the same strategy as always, but it’s trying to build a safety net. 

“We’ve talked about saving the money that we make from other fundraisers,” Ho said. “Just in case we get nothing, or close to nothing — again.”

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