October 13, 2010

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NYSTI kicks off fundraising drive to survive


UUP Secretary Eileen Landy, left, speaks out in support of the New York State Theatre Institute (NYSTI) at an Oct. 13 press conference to announce a fundraising effort to help fund NYSTI through its 2010-11 season. UUPer and NYSTI Interim Producing Artistic Director David Bunce, center, and Assemblyman Ron Canestrari, right, listen.

Landy joined Bunce, Canestrari (D-Cohoes), The Sage Colleges President Susan Scrimshaw, NYSTI Community Advisory Committee member Jane Cordts, and parent Erin Wallace on a panel to kick off the campaign. The fundraising effort includes a series of taped public service announcements featuring area elementary and high school teachers praising NYSTI and calling for public support.

UUP is doing its part; the union has donated nearly $8,000 to NYSTI to help cover printing and postage costs for the campaign. Donations can be made via NYSTI"s website at

"NYSTI is a jewel for education and it's a jewel for culture," Landy said. "It is a huge asset to schools and students here and across the state. This is a program worth funding and fighting for."

"As of now, at the end of December, we're out of money and we're history," Bunce said. But we're not going to let that happen. We are the `little engine that could' and we are fighting uphill because we believe so strongly in this program."

NYSTI, which saw its state aid slashed by more than 50 percent to $1.5 million in the state's current budget, needs to raise about $200,000 to stay afloat until the state's 2011-12 fiscal year starts April 1. Hopefully, a new state budget will be in place at that time—one that includes state funding for NYSTI, Bunce said.

To cope with this year's budget cuts, the number of full-time employees at NYSTI has been reduced from 28 to 15. Many of the remaining NYSTI employees are putting in 12-hour days to keep the Institute operating, said John Romeo, NYSTI's chapter president.

"We're doing whatever we need to do to keep this place going," he said.

The press conference was held after a morning performance of "The Miracle Worker," held for nearly 300 middle school students from the Rotterdam-Mohonasen school district in Rotterdam, Schenectady County.

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