APEX - Curled up in a fetal position, Eli Moomaw does his best impression of feeling hurt. Moments later, he springs up, ready to act out the next emotion in the drama exercise.
Eli, 10, is one of about a dozen students taking part in Raleigh Little Theatres Apex Players youth acting class at the Halle Cultural Arts Center. The class started at 4:30 p.m. Thursday; it was the first event the center hosted all day.
The town-owned Halle is facing increased scrutiny by the Apex Town Council, which is concerned the site is underused. The council on Tuesday directed the towns parks and recreation advisory committee to look at ways to boost usage and rentals.
Council members said the goal was more about getting people through the doors and less about revenue, which could open up opportunities for nonprofit groups and more free events.
As a councilman, my expectation is fairly simple, said Lance Olive. Lets have a service they flock to. At the heart of any service, we have to look at utilization. Otherwise we are wasting time, energy and money.
The Halle costs about $244,000 a year to operate. Last fiscal year, the center brought in about $56,000 in revenue, and the town covered the rest.
On average, the Halle sees about 1,800 visitors a month, said Apex Parks and Recreation Director John Brown.
Were spending a lot of money for a little usage, said Councilman Gene Schulze. A lot of times I walk by and its not being used. When I go by the walking trails or baseball fields, they are being used. If (the Halle) is being fully utilized, I wouldnt mind.The challenges
A town analysis shows the arts center faces several challenges: a small advertising budget, no website, lack of Internet service on site and competition from nearby venues in Cary and Holly Springs.
The Town Council earmarked about $5,000 a year to market the center. If the budget was increased to $10,000 or $15,000, the town could reach 2 million to 7 million more people, according to the internal report.
The Halle, which dates back to 1912 and has served as an arts center for four years, needs more time to build up its patron base, said Renee Anderson, the centers director. It typically takes five years for a community to fully embrace an arts center, she said.
The centers staff has already identified some niche markets, such as blood drives, parents who homeschool their children, corporate team-building events and meetup.com groups that could help increase daytime bookings the time when the Halle is the most empty.
This summer, the arts center hosted two weeks of free movie nights that helped bring in some homeschool parents who usually turn to the towns community center for entertainment, Anderson told the council.Public outcry
Earlier this year, the council considered cutting back hours at the Halle to save money. The proposal did not move forward after an outcry from the community.
It will be up to the parks and recreation advisory committee to come up with new recommendations. Work has begun on updating the towns Master Parks and Recreation Plan, which will include the arts center, said chairwoman Angela Reincke.
Surveys are expected to go out this month. Reincke said the town needs to know want people want from the center.
We have to look at what would it take to get a resident through that door. ... No one wants it to be empty, she said. Meanwhile, Apex Players instructor Kathleen Rudolph has been hosting youth drama classes at the Halle since it opened. She loves it.
First of all, the fact that they have a stage excites the children, Rudolph said. And its fabulous that its in a historic building.
Sitting on stage Thursday, three young actors tackle the question Why is algebra so hard? during an improvisational exercise.
Each gets to say one word, and bit by bit a sentence forms: Because it was invented by
Smurfs! finishes 10-year-old Katie Warren.