As it did last year, the National Park Service has omitted funds for most of its performing arts activities from its 1981 budget request. Approximately $1.25 million in appropriations, which were dropped from last year's request but later added by Congress are missing again in the proposed 1981 budget.
These funds, as approved last year, include $600,000 for Wolf Trap Farm Park, $300,000 for summer concerts by the National Symphony Orchestra, $200,000 for Ford's Theatre and $150,000 for the Shakespeare-in-the-Parks summer festival.
As it did last year, the Park Service is requesting $90,000 for the Fort Dupont Summer Theater and $30,000 to operate the box office at the Carter Barron Amphitheater.
George Berklacey, a spokesman for the Park Service, said that the decision not to ask for these funds did not represent an attitude toward the performing arts or the non-mass-audience preforming arts, "although it might look that way -- particularly in Washington, where so much of this activity is concentrated."
The problem, he said, is that there is not enough money: "It's a long, thin dollar that has to stretch from the Virgin Islands to the Hawaiian Islands." He added that the service will continue its vigorous support of musical activities which "don't cost us a dime" such as military band concerts. "We just give them a turf, and they play," he said.
Reactions to the news varied from one performing arts organization to another. Frankie Hewitt of Ford's expressed dismay, Mrs. Jouett Shouse of Wolf Trap thought she could manage without the $600,000 through increased fund-raising but insisted that she sould not raise ticket prices.
"Let's just say that I maintained a prudent silence," said NSO president Martin Feinstein. "I don't know enough about what is involved to say anything more."
What may be involved, beyond the $300,000 for outdoor summer performances is the NSO's plan to request a subsidy for the $500,000 annual rent it pays the Kennedy Center. Berklacey said that he could not comment on this question because "we have not yet reviced a formal proposal."
At Ford's, executive producer Hewitt said that a withdrawal of the $200,000 subsidy ($175,000 in direct assistance and $25,000 for ushers) would be "a very difficult thing for us. At this stage, we can't afford to lost anything -- in fact, I need an increase."
Attempts to raise funds from other sources would be futile, she said, without federal support: "Any number of corporations and at least one foundation, when I approached them for funding, asked me what is the status of government support. Generally, their attitude is that if the government drops its support, they can't pick up the slack."
She added that Ford's "cannot be run as a commercial enterprise because of the uniqueness of the theater; it's too small and the quality of the work has to be first-rate."
Last year, when she faced the same threat, she said, "we had very positive feedback on the Hill.Constituents come to town and they want to go to Ford's Theatre and the Kennedy Center -- these are highlights of their visit."
During the past four years, when the appropriation has not been increased, she said, Ford's has made up the difference "by active fund-raising. But if the support is yanked out, forget it; I can't raise $700,000 per year. We have to raise $500,000 or $600,000 as it is, and it's hard to come by."
At Wolf Trap, Mrs. Shouse said that the performing arts park has been managing to balance the budget although "to keep in the black, we have to raise over $1 million per year." She noted that the overall budget for the performing arts there is now $4 million per season -- up from $1.3 million in the first season.
"We are not raising ticket prices this season," she said, "and we will hold down ticket prices as long as we can, to keep Wolf Trap available for all the people."
Other than appropriations for the performing arts, the Park Service budget proposals called for $1.2 million at Wolf Trap for park maintenance and other non-performing arts activities and for $4.4 million operating expenses for the Kennedy Center.