The Kennedy Center Opera House, about to spring back to life with The Washington Opera's "La Bohe me," was dark all through October. Ask Roger Stevens why this inactivity, and he sounds surprised. "People should be asking why the Opera House has been so full during the past 10 years," he says, a shade impatiently, before explaining that a production scheduled for October had to be postponed until later in the season. "We thought of putting 'Oh, Brother' in there," he says, "but they wanted a smaller house, so they went into the Eisenhower. But what has been surprising everyone in the business is how busy we have kept the Opera House. We haven't had 15 dark weeks in the last 10 years, and it takes a lot of hard work to make a record like that."
When it is dark, the Opera House has fixed expenses of about $1,400 per week for staff (a house manager, head usher and stage door attendant) plus a percentage of the Kennedy Center's overhead expenses which varies from week to week, depending on such questions as how much electricity is being used. It is a lot less expensive to keep the house dark than to bring in a production like "Willie Stark," which was expected to lose money from the moment the idea was born -- and fulfilled those expectations.