Razzamataz needs public’s help to continue
By Darren Lum
Published Jan. 31, 2017
The public’s help is needed or there won’t be a Razzamataz Kids’ Shows! say volunteers behind the theatrical series for all ages staged during the academic year for the past 30 years.
The volunteers of the locally based group say providing affordable entertainment four times a year teaches about arts and culture and inspiring the next generation.
Although they are appreciative of their current sponsors and volunteers, they are asking for additional sponsors, in-kind donations (services, raffle prizes, reduced accommodation rates, venue provision) and new volunteers to help keep Razzamataz going.
Razzamataz chairperson Dawn Hurd hopes this series sees another year, but wants the public to know the realities of ever-increasing booking fees for performers and the unpredictable nature of grant money.
“We do get grant money. We apply for two grants, but we also need local sponsors to help us or we're not going to be able to continue. Shows are getting more expensive,” Hurd said.
Volunteers have discussed reducing the shows to three a year or raising admission.
However, Hurd doesn't want to raise ticket prices, recognizing the economic reality of the county.
“I want families that would never have the opportunity to drive to Toronto to come to a show. I like new faces,” she said. “I want new [people] to come and feel OK and comfortable.”
The arts has always been instrumental in opening eyes and providing insight into other worlds.
This is the root motivation for the volunteers who give their time and effort towards Razzamataz Kids' Shows!
Everyone is welcome, Hurd said. Even for children who have behavioural difficulties or have special needs the atmosphere is inclusive and accommodating to parents and guardians to leave if required and return.
Hurd's children are seven and four. Her eldest, who has been coming since she was a baby, loves the stage, which Hurd said is owed to Razzamataz.
“That's one thing she learnt from watching is [a desire for] being on stage, theatre. She likes dance and likes that kind of art,” she said. “It's a great opportunity for families. It's a Sunday out. It's enjoyable.”
There is an added benefit for the children who come to these shows, as they learn about social graces of the theatre and how to focus their attention on a performance and be respectful to other audience members.
Hurd appreciates how her children not only love to talk about what they have seen, but feel inspired.
Several days after the Professor Wick's Incredible Magic Factory on Jan. 15 at the Northern Lights Performing Arts Pavilion, her children continued to perform the magic tricks like they saw on the stage.
Isabel Buttler, the secretary responsible for programming and writing proposals, has volunteered for Razzamataz for five years.
The mother of two young children puts in the work for them.
“I see it in my children. They love it so much and the theatre they have seen through Razzamataz influences. They talk about it for years after they saw a show. It really inspires them,” she said.
Buttler says her youngest was thoroughly engaged even as a baby.
Booking fees for performers have risen. In 2004-2005 the Razzamataz artists' fees were $5,700 and in 2014-2015 they were $9,500. The total budget in 2008-2009 was $9,500 and in 2014-2015 it was $22,000. Last year the average cost to bring a show was $3,600.
She works with 12 other entertainment presenting groups all over northern Ontario known as the Northern Block Booking Group. This collective gives the local Razzamataz group a better chance to draw high calibre performers at reduced rates. Some performers from farther away are given greater incentive to come here because of the touring option. She makes great efforts to bring a variety of shows, which cover a swath of theatre genres.
Without Razzamataz, Buttler said, she would have to consider taking her children to major centres such as Ottawa, Toronto and Barrie. The added cost with having to travel would be a challenge and outright prohibitive to some.
She still treasures the few times she was treated with an opportunity to see a live performance such as a puppet show when growing up in Germany.
Money from Ontario Presents, a provincewide network of performing arts touring and presenting organizations, has supplemented the budget for Razzamataz. Ontario Presents gives opportunities for Razzamataz volunteers to attend conferences and see performers live to gauge if they will be suitable for the Highlands audience.
This relationship started close to five years ago, but Buttler said funding for this is likely to be reduced warranting the need for additional sponsors.
On more than one occasion, Razzamataz has booked acts before their popularity demanded rates much too high to afford, Buttler said. One example is Razzamataz's April 9 performers Terzetto, who are scheduled to appear at the International Performing Arts for Youth (IPAY).
She said whenever performers are chosen for IPAY their rates often go up after, so the timing is impeccable.
Over the last two years Razzamataz has been offering workshops, which have been well-received by the public. This has included a workshop on dance and, most recently, magic.
It engages the children with performers, gives them something to do and helps with funding.
“We live in a rural area ... it's nice to bring something different,” Hurd said.
A resident of Haliburton County for the past 12 years, Jenn Kelly believes Razzamataz exposes children to theatre who wouldn't otherwise have the opportunity.
“I think it opens up a whole other world that they wouldn't see or know about ... this is another thing out there and maybe they'll find their calling. You never know,” she said.
The volunteer treasurer joined because she wanted to give back. As an accountant, she jumped at the chance to volunteer when she saw the Razzamataz advertisement for a bookkeeper.
“I thought this was a great opportunity to use my skills and to give back to the community,” she said.
Although the non-profit is partly funded by grants from the Department of Canadian Heritage and the Ontario Arts Council, the series has and is supported locally.
Among the sponsors, its gold sponsors are the Haliburton Highlands Family Health Team, Rotary International and Dance Happens Here Haliburton. Mabel's Labels contributes a percentage of its sales to the series. See www.mabelsfundraising.com.
Individual show tickets are $10 for adults, $7 for children and free for children under two. Tickets can purchased online at www.razzamataz.ca/tickets. The website also outlines the specific positions available. For more information and to volunteer, contact Dawn Hurd at 705-854-0728 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
All shows are staged at the Northern Lights Performing Arts Pavilion in Haliburton.
The next scheduled performance is Saraka – African and Caribbean music with contemporary dance. On Feb. 26, performers from the Ballet Creole, who are represented by the charitable organization Prologue to the Performing Arts and based in Ontario, will stage a dynamic performance of dance and music thanks to the sponsorship of Dance Happens Here Haliburton.
Hurd said Razzamataz opens a window of possibilities to children.
“It also teaches the kids there’s other things [than sports, but] ... there is theatre and it can be fun and engaging. Then you can one day ... be someone who sings or dances,” she said.