When coronavirus shrank its revenue, this Plano-based arts group expanded its programming

Sisters Avy and Ariel Huang participate in a virtual rehearsal for North Texas Performing Arts' production of "Madagascar Jr." The group's performance schedule has been disrupted by coronavirus-related closures, but is expected to be held in its entirety later this year. (Courtesy North Texas Performing Arts)
Sisters Avy and Ariel Huang participate in a virtual rehearsal for North Texas Performing Arts' production of "Madagascar Jr." The group's performance schedule has been disrupted by coronavirus-related closures, but is expected to be held in its entirety later this year. (Courtesy North Texas Performing Arts)

Sisters Avy and Ariel Huang participate in a virtual rehearsal for North Texas Performing Arts' production of "Madagascar Jr." The group's performance schedule has been disrupted by coronavirus-related closures, but is expected to be held in its entirety later this year. (Courtesy North Texas Performing Arts)

North Texas Performing Arts was not built for an unprecedented economic crisis like the one it finds itself navigating today.

But instead of cutting back on its programming, the Plano-based nonprofit doubled down on it, Chief Executive Officer Darrell Rodenbaugh said.

When mandatory social distancing measures were put in place across the state, the organization was forced to postpone its theater productions and in-person activities, Rodenbaugh said. They even had to slash staffing costs in their back office at The Shops at Willow Bend mall to adjust for the lost revenues.

But the organization fought the urge to cut programming or reduce compensation for its creative staff, Rodenbaugh said.

"We’re not really pulling back operations," Rodenbaugh said. "We kind of made the decision early on that we’re going the opposite direction. We’re actually offering more classes, shows, activities now than we were three months ago."


In the weeks since the restrictions first came down, NTPA has re-examined how it goes about nearly every aspect of its core activities, Rodenbaugh said.

The organization still plans to hold all of its planned theater productions later this year, Rodenbaugh said. In the meantime, the children involved in those productions are holding their rehearsals with their directors via video conference.

Classes are also being held online, as are inventive, revenue-producing events like NTPA's new virtual talent show.

Some of these new activities are seeing signs of much-needed financial success in these difficult times, Rodenbaugh said.

As a nonprofit, NTPA plans to merely break even each year, he said.

The vast majority of its revenues come from activities heavily affected by the coronavirus-related restrictions—including ticket sales for postponed shows, class tuition and similar sources. Only about 10% of its revenues come from donations, Rodenbaugh said.

But cutting programming or creative staff has so far been off the table, he said.

“We’re really big on our sense of community—on our kids that make up the majority of our programs and their families," Rodenbaugh said. "And so the last thing we wanted to do was to lose that power of our community relationships."

Although portions of the state are beginning the gradual process of reopening under Gov. Greg Abbott's latest executive orders, NTPA staff likely won't return to their Willow Bend offices until June at earliest, Rodenbaugh said.
By Daniel Houston
Daniel Houston covers Plano city government, transportation, business and education for Community Impact Newspaper. A Fort Worth native and Baylor University graduate, Daniel reported previously for The Associated Press in Oklahoma City and The Dallas Morning News.


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