The people at South Coast Repertory can manage the tragic flaws of King Lear, Oedipus and Willy Loman with no advice at all, but when the gods conspire against their stock portfolio, they call Earl Anschultz.
Anschultz is the Costa Mesa theater company's adviser at the Los Angeles-based investment firm of Scudder Stevens & Clark Inc. Paula Tomei, SCR's business director, was on the phone with him Tuesday morning to gauge the impact of Monday's 508-point stock plunge, a long day's journey into the financial night for many investors. Of SCR's $2.2-million endowment fund, 21% is invested in equities.
"He told us our investments are in fairly good shape," Tomei said about Anschultz. "He advised us to hold on to what we've got. He's not going to buy any more stocks right now. But he thinks the economy is fundamentally sound, so we're going to wait it out."
None of the Orange County arts groups contacted Monday plays the market to the extent that SCR does with its endowment fund. Indeed, according to spokesman Richard Bryant, none of the Orange County Performing Arts Center's $1.2-million endowment is invested in stocks.
Still, like SCR, most were playing the waiting game after the fall. They said Tuesday that they are not sure whether the bull market's apparent demise would shatter any of their immediate plans to start endowment funds, build new museums or start ambitious performance seasons.
"Quite a few of the arts managers in Orange County called each other on the phone yesterday to see what was going on, and we decided that there is no immediate problem to ticket sales," said Luke Bandle, marketing director for Opera Pacific.
"But if this continues, everybody will have difficulties, and the place where difficulties will be felt is in development."
The Center's Bryant, however, said he didn't believe that the plunge will affect the Center's hope of building its endowment up to $70 million in the coming years. "Giving has gone up every year in this country, every year regardless of the situation, and we're optimistic," Bryant said.
At Santa Ana's Bowers Museum, where ambitious expansion plans are afoot, officials are not panicking. Spokesman Steve Hansen said because the museum's planned $12-million expansion will be funded by the city, it won't be affected by the jagged, plummeting lines that ran down Monday night's stock charts like a drip from Jackson Pollock's brush.
"As far as the (privately funded) endowment we're planning goes, I don't think there's any doubt about whether it will be started. But I think that will hinge on what the market does in the coming months and years," Hansen added.
Officials at the Newport Harbor Art Museum, who are preparing to hire an architect to design a new $20-million facility, could not be reached to comment on what the stock market's dive will mean to them.
Luke Bandle took the broad view of human nature, bad luck and the impulse to use a night at the opera or an afternoon at a museum to forget the unfortunate forces of destiny.
"I think history has taught us that depression is a time when people look for entertainment," she said, sounding hopeful if not completely confident. "But it's hard to tell how we might be affected if stocks keep plunging. It could be quite bad for everybody."