Passion Play to hold meetings for former employees, local businesses
EUREKA SPRINGS -- The new management of the re-opened Great Passion Play is inviting former employees of the play to a meeting on Monday, Jan. 28 to "get acquainted" with the new leaders and learn which openings are available.
"We want to find out who is willing to come back and get to know them and let them get to know us," said Director of Operations Dick Kelsey, a former Kansas state legislator who was brought onto the management team a week ago. "Our intent is to use all the previous employees we can. These are dedicated people and we home most of them will come back."
More than 200 employees, cast and crew were let go last November when the Passion Play determined after the end of the 2012 season that it could no longer afford to remain open. But the situation changed dramatically on Jan. 1 when Randall Christy and his Gospel Station Network successful spearheaded a last-minute drive to raise $75,000 to save the Passion Play from foreclosure.
Since then, nearly all of the former eight-member Board of Directors has resigned -- with only Keith Butler staying on as chairman -- and taking its place is a new three-man board: Butler, Christy as board president and the play's CEO, and board Vice President Tom Bush, who is a longtime ministry partner and radio network executive with Christy.
It's unclear how soon the Play will be able to actually hire back or pay any employees; currently, they are in the process of raising the minimum $200,000 they say is needed to re-open and launch the season by opening date, May 3. As of Monday, $20,000 of that had been raised, through donations, ticket pre-sales and the new Save-A-Seat program, officials there told Carroll County News.
Christy and others have said that as of now, the only people working there -- namely, the new the management -- are working as volunteers until the play can afford to pay them.
Still, steps are being taken in the right direction, it appears. Most of the animals have been bought back -- all but the camels, Kelsey told CCN Wednesday -- and they are already in training for their parts in the Passion Play. Now, he said, it's time to rehire the staff, cast and crew.
The employee meeting will be held from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m at Smith Chapel on the Passion Play grounds.
On Tuesday, the play wants to meet with local business owners and managers to form a plan to market themselves better, working together more with other tourism-related businesses, Kelsey said.
"We want to discuss with the local businesses how we can really make this thing cook," he said, "how we can work together to build all of our businesses in Eureka Springs. Our goal is to get 100,000 people through the play this summer, so we need to work together with our local friends," not operate in a bubble, Kelsey explained.
One step the Passion Play is taking in this direction is lowering the wholesale price on its tickets, so other vendors in town who want to re-sell them to their customers can actually make a decent profit on them. Other ideas are to offer ticket specials during scheduled weekend festivals, for example, such as possibly offering two-for-one tickets during motorcycle rallies and the like.
The possibilities are endless, Kelsey said, and it's time the play explored them more concretely and put some of them into action.
That's what Tuesday's meeting is for, he said. It will begin at 5:30 p.m. and will be held at Smith Chapel. All local businesspeople are encouraged to attend.