Letter: The State Theater in Culpeper

First I would like to thank everyone in the 30th District for giving me the opportunity to represent you in Richmond. It is an incredible honor and responsibility and one that I take very seriously and with the utmost humility. I love the Culpeper, Orange and Madison area, and would like to take a moment to speak about one of the establishments that I think makes it a great place to live.

I recently found out that the State Theater is facing some budget shortfalls that could force it to close its doors. As I have enjoyed shows at the theater and am very excited that my children will have an opportunity to participate in the upcoming local production of Charles Dickens ” A Christmas Carol” this season, the theaterâ??s potential closing is something that greatly concerns me. I think the theater provides unique opportunities to attend a wide variety of shows and events that one might otherwise have to drive to Richmond or Washington DC to enjoy.

Members of the theater staff were kind enough to have a meeting with me to discuss the situation and their plan to save the theater. To be perfectly honest, the meeting did not go as I anticipated. As the Delegate Elect for the area, I am quickly becoming accustomed to the fact that there are many that see the government as the potential solution to a variety of problems, financial and otherwise. There is always a case to be made that government funding is necessary in order to achieve a “public good.” My own thoughts are that government is here to protect our rights and property, and that people, working through the free market and voluntary association are much better judges of “public goods” than politicians. So I arrived at this meeting prepared to explain why I could not support reallocating peopleâ??s tax dollars to support a project, no matter how enriching I may personally find it, if people weren’t willing to voluntarily give to the theater through private donations or through attendance at their events. I was very pleasantly surprised.

Instead of hearing a plan that might ask for state funding, I listened as the staff took me through the history of the theater, their short and long term goals, and how they wanted a theater dependent on customers, private patrons and voluntary donations, not government largess. The only discussion of government involvement was one of trading value for value, where the Theater would make some of its facilities and services available to the town, county and schools in exchange for utility credits or other such consideration. In short, the theaterâ??s team doesn’t want a handout, they want a chance to prove that this theater can be a success by providing unique and enriching services to the community. The theater has also recognized that it must have professional management and has made recent organizational changes which reflect that, which has resulted in increasing success.

I canâ??t tell you how much I appreciate their mindset and their vision for the theater. Historically the arts have been effectively used to keep government in check, but they canâ??t do that if they are simultaneously dependent on government. I believe this staff truly understands that and that is why I plan to spend my own money, not the taxpayers, in support of it. I am planning to host two town-hall meetings in Culpeper. One before the legislative session and another immediately following. I will be hosting these events at the State Theater not only in a show of my support for their efforts to both keep this wonderful venue open and free from government dependence, but because it truly is one of the best event venues in the region.

For those who have been justifiably concerned that the Theater might seek your tax dollars to keep its doors open, I hope that this will assuage some of your concerns. For those who have not had the opportunity to experience the Theater, I hope you will consider it. I think you will be very impressed, both with the quality of the productions and an opportunity to engage with the people in our community. I certainly hope to see you at our Town Hall meeting for which we will be posting information shortly.

Nick Freitas
Delegate Elect
30th District (Culpeper, Madison and Orange)