Hilton Head Island's youth theater program will move back to its namesake home after leaving it more than two years ago.
And it will do so without the town's financial backing.
Main Street Youth Theatre's board of directors approved a new lease that will allow the program to perform again in its original location at 3000 Main St., effective Nov. 15, according to chairwoman Sheri Sternitzke.
The group moved in 2010 to 25 New Orleans Road. It leased that spot for $3,500 per month and paid $750 a night for its shows at the Visual & Performing Arts Center at Hilton Head Island High School.
That saved the group $6,000 a month in rent, maintenance, utility payments and property taxes, and its leaders told a town panel in 2010 the program was on the road to financial recovery after moving to the cheaper space and a larger performance venue.
But financial problems followed. Production costs rose, while donations and participation declined, Sternitzke said.
"Unfortunately, it didn't turn out that way," Sternitzke said. "We had people unhappy coming to the VPAC for shows. It was too big and too costly to put on the kind of shows we want to put on for our community -- that last a week to two weeks. This (move) will work out much better."
She said the board negotiated a 27-week lease, with the option to add weeks if needed, that will allow other arts groups to use the building when the youth theater does not need it.
The group will only pay rent. Needed repairs, including those to the roof and air-conditioning system, have or will be paid for by the building's owner, Sternitzke said.
Volunteers, though, are being asked to help spruce up the building by donating carpet and upholstery, cleaning, painting, general handiwork and sewing.
The youth theater will still offer classes, and the new location will allow Hilton Head public-school students to walk over for after-school programs, Sternitzke said.
She would not say how much the group will pay in rent, only that it is less than it was paying for the performing arts center and the New Orleans Road location.
"We're hoping this is the answer and will be able to make it work," Sternitzke said.
The youth theater in July asked the town to buy the Main Street building and pay about 40 percent of the rent and maintenance; the town declined.
Mayor Drew Laughlin said Tuesday he was happy the group negotiated a lease without town funding and hopes the move will help the theater prosper.
Although Sternitzke says the group is no longer asking for rent assistance, it wants town tax revenue to help pay royalties and production and marketing costs.
The theater received $42,000 in accommodations-tax funds this year, after receiving $47,714 in 2010 and $40,000 in 2011. The group has asked for $60,000 for 2013.
Sternitzke said the group has cut costs by scaling back on musicals to avoid royalties, eliminated a full-time position by using guest directors and relied more on Facebook and Twitter to lower advertising expenses. Nonetheless, it continues to be hamstrung by sharp drops in donations and grants, she said.