Garden Grove Mayor J. Tilman Williams, reversing his opposition to funding the Grove Shakespeare Festival, said last week he would support up to $20,000 in additional city money for the troubled theater troupe.
Williams' announcement followed a vote by the Strawberry Festival Assn., a nonprofit group that raises funds for public benefit organizations in Garden Grove, to grant the Grove Theatre Company $30,000, said assistant city manager Michael D. Fenderson.
The mayor, who faces reelection in November, said his campaign manager, Woodrow W. Butterfield, persuaded him to change his mind.
"Seems like (the Grove theater has) been getting a lot of support," Williams said. "I just talked to my campaign manager Woody, and he said, 'Look around. Maybe you should change your position.' "
Since their June vote that rejected the Grove's subsidy request of $83,000, Garden Grove councilmen have been caught up in a fierce debate, with many residents attending council meetings and writing letters in support of subsidizing the theater from Garden Grove's $47.7-million municipal budget.
In previous years, Williams had voted to subsidize the Grove. But this year, following anti-Shakespeare oratory by Councilman Raymond T. Littrell, Williams joined Littrell and Councilman Robert F. Dinsen to block the subsidy.
Councilmen Milton Krieger and Walter E. Donovan--both possible opponents of Williams in the November election--have consistently supported the theater's subsidy.
As the debate has unfolded, with hundreds of letters of support for the theater company pouring into City Hall, Littrell too has softened his position. He joined Krieger and Donovan in voting for $35,000 to keep the Grove operating through the fall.
All councilmen, with the exception of Dinsen, now assert that they are advocates of the arts and have no ill will for Shakespeare.
Williams said his support for the subsidy depended on the Grove taking steps over the next several years to end its reliance on a city subsidy, which presently composes 15% of the troupe's budget.
Since the controversy began last month, Grove officials report receiving more than $30,000 in private donations.