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$1.2-Million Deficit Causes Light Opera to Tighten Its Belt


LONG BEACH — Faced with a deficit of $1.2 million for the year, the Long Beach Civic Light Opera has tightened its fiscal belt, dismissed its executive director and geared up for a fund-raising campaign.

Spending cuts approved last week by the opera's Board of Directors will save about $150,000 when the organization's fiscal year ends in August, said Wayne Kistner, a local attorney and member of the opera board.

Officials hope to be able to raise $100,000 to drop the deficit below $1 million. More cost-cutting measures could follow, including trimming some of the opera's 16 staff positions, Kistner said.

The organization, which staged its first show in 1950, will rely on a $1.2-million reserve to carry out the remainder of its four-show, 102-performance season.

"From the Top," starring Carol Burnett, is the opera's third show this season. It opens May 22. In past years, the Civic Light Opera has staged shows such as "Funny Girl," "Carousel" and "Bye-Bye Birdie."

"We're facing fairly serious problems," Kistner said. "We have to chart a new course." The opera board voted last week to dismiss Pegge Logefeil, an opera employee since 1981 and its executive director since 1990.

Logefeil, who reportedly earned about $80,000 a year, will be replaced by a general manager who will earn $55,000 a year.

The move will save the organization only $25,000 a year, but it will enable the opera to hire an executive with strong financial skills, Kistner said.

Janet Foley, president of the opera board, said in a press release that Logefeil was a "tremendous asset" over the years.

But Kistner said Logefeil had not provided the tight-fisted fiscal control that the Board of Directors wanted.

The Civic Light Opera has run at a deficit in recent years as ticket sales dropped because of the recession and, most recently, because of competition from the new Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts, Kistner said. Production costs also have gone up.

"There were concerns that had been expressed to Pegge over the years that . . . there were not appropriate controls on expenditures," Kistner said.

Opera officials said Logefeil was free to apply for the lower-paying position, but she had not done so.

Logefeil, who began working for the opera as its marketing and public relations director, said she was consulting with a lawyer about possible legal action and could not comment.

"I hate to see Pegge go. She did a lot of hard work," said Ned Gaylord, a past president of the opera and a member of its advisory board. "But apparently the Board of Directors feels it's time for a change, so it's time for a change."

Sandra Gibson, executive director of the Long Beach-based Public Corporation for the Arts, praised Logefeil but said, "They have made the commitment to maintain the level of offerings and the quality of productions and that to me is the most important." The Public Corporation gave the Civic Light Opera a $60,000 grant this year.

As with many nonprofit theaters, the Long Beach Civic Light Opera has weathered years of deficit spending. Last year, for example, expenses exceeded income by about $900,000, Kistner said.

The details of the fund-raising campaign are still being worked out, Kistner said. Opera officials also want to come up with a new marketing plan and to rely more heavily on volunteers.

Kistner said the effort will continue into next season, when the theater plans to stage its usual number of shows.

"We didn't get into this problem overnight and we're not going to get out of it overnight," he said.

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