Is Community Theater in Sioux Falls dead?

Well we have heard already that ticket sales are not supporting the entity. They had to eliminate the creative director, and they are looking to raise $100K to save the organization.

But are there other ‘outside’ forces killing community theater?

The scenario I see community theater in is the same one I saw the Sioux Empire Arts Council in a few years ago. The Pavilion infiltrated the board than killed the organization from within.

But this time I speculate SMG and the Pavilion are both involved.

SMG wants to control entertainment for the most part in Sioux Falls. They recently got the contract to do concerts and other events at Canaries Stadium and since they have been running the Orpheum they have been asking for a portion of the Entertainment tax that the Pavilion has been sucking up for themselves ever since the bonds were paid off.

The Pavilion for years has been trying to get all of the community arts programs under their roof, not for the benefit of the community, but mostly for fundraising. I think the Pavilion thinks of any community arts program as a threat to their fundraising.

I’m not sure if SMG and the Pavilion are conspiring on this. Maybe it’s City Hall? But I do know this, true community arts programs are dying in Sioux Falls, and not a slow death but a very FAST one.

A couple of the reasons are that there isn’t enough arts donation money to go around, especially in a community with basically NO middle class or a very stagnant one. We also have a very Republican (conservative) attitude towards the arts that if you can’t make money at it, or it isn’t promoting a product or service in our community, it’s not worth spending money on. SculptureWalk is often promoted as a program to help sell more beer and pizza downtown.

I often encourage people to support your local artists, musicians and promoters. Like small business they are the bread and butter of our cultural community, and once they are gone, we will feel it’s affects.


#1 The D@ily Spin on 03.05.18 at 2:43 pm

The middle class is stuck with stagnant wages while housing has risen. Food and transportation are high. Health care has become a large part of family budget. There’s less disposable income. For those who might consider theater, there’s not a good method to advertise. Given these elements there’s hardly enough support.

#2 "Very Stable Genius" on 03.05.18 at 6:37 pm

Is it fair to say, that the struggles with the Orpheum explain why some in town have been struggling to save the State Theater for over 27 years?

I have always felt that there were some behind the scene politics involving the State Theater which have prevented its completed restoration, which go beyond just the cost. That with the Pavilion and the Orpheum already in play that the city could not really support a fully restored State Theater; and that all that many wanted in town was a restored facade for the State Theater, so that it could complement Phillips Avenue development, which they now have. Although, that state of the art marquee, in my opinion, ruins that intend, however.

#3 anonymous on 03.07.18 at 11:21 am

Community theater in SF has always struggled to survive.

My daughter enjoyed the benefits of being involved at the Orpheum for ten years (1988-98) when it was known as Sioux Falls Community Theater. What she learned through that experience has had life-long benefits.

Many families, through the years, have contributed endless volunteer hours to make community theater possible.

It is sad to see what is happening now that it has been under the SMG umbrella (EC-Convention Center-Arena-Orpheum) for the past couple of years.

#4 TheatreDude on 03.08.18 at 12:45 pm

There is some truth to the outside realities you describe. But this should be an embarrassment to the arts community considering the population in the immediate proximity. In a world burgeoning with opportunity and interest in “experiential events”, escape rooms, every kid walking around with a cell phone creating videos, theatre should have the inside track to innovation and thinking creatively as an experiential craft. It’s frustrating to see this develop and predictably collapse.

175,000 people.