This Year’s Projo Guild Follies Will Be Last - End of RI Tradition
Sunday, January 21, 2018
John Hill, head of the Providence Newspaper Guild, has announced that the Guild’s Follies will end after this February’s event.
The event has been the biggest who’s who in RI politics and media for decades.
Hosted by the Guild, the event raised hundreds of thousands for community groups and scholarships since the event began in 1974.
Hill on Making the Call
The event is comprised of three major components, drinking and hobnobbing; a sketch-driven musical making fun of everything in Rhode Island’s political landscape; and a mystery guest.
“This was an agonizing decision,” John Hill, head of the Guild wrote in an email to GoLocalProv. “The Follies is our trademark. It has been part of our identity and the revenue from it has financed scholarship awards to our members’ children.”
“It’s also an event that belongs to the state as much as it does to us,” Hill said. “Ending this legacy feels like we’re cutting off one of our arms. Some decisions you get to make, and others are made for you. This is one of those.”
Hill said that the dwindling talent pool, the show’s costs, which had been increasing over the past several years, and declining ticket sales were all factors.
Sales have dropped more than a third. In the 1990s ticket sales were over 1,200 and today they are about 800.
“Any one of those trends alone might have been beatable,” Hill said. “But together they were making each year’s show a heavier and heavier lift.”
Tickets for the final Follies can be purchased HERE.
The end of the Follies is another indicator of the decline of the once dominant Providence Journal. The collapse of newspapers is happening around the country, but the decline at the Providence Journal may be most profound.
“GateHouse's strategy of not hiring reporters and instead letting the reporting staff shrinking by attrition (it's nearly a third smaller over the past two years or so) didn't help, but the trends that led us to this were at work before they came to town,” Hill said.
As GoLocal wrote about the 40th Anniversary Follies in 2013:
The 40th-anniversary edition of the Follies, ironically staged at the Venus de Milo in Massachusetts, was packed with close to 900 of Rhode Island's politicians, local celebrities, social activists, union leaders and (of course) media. As they do on the last Friday of every February since 1973, Rhode Island's glitterati flock for the prime rib and ribbing they receive from a motley cast of comic cabaret performers.
Just a few of the guests spotted over the Lobster Newburg included Senator Jack Reed, General Treasurer Gina Raimondo and Union Leader Mike Downey all rubbing elbows and enjoying a nice break from the political friction that often consumes Rhode Island in hot debate. In other words, the pols take of their crowns and hand them over to stand-ups and impersonators who douse the flames with a much-needed bucket of laughs.
The Follies flock of '12 did not disappoint. Local stand-up legend, Frank O'Donnell brought his dry sense of humor to the stage and warmed up the crowd between acts. Some of the most notable was “Flesh Start” introducing the show to the tune of Michael Jackson's Thriller. “Ode to Our Roads” parodying Johnny Cash's Ring of Fire with a chorus including “I fell into a hole that popped my tire, I hit ground downtown and the claims piled higher, and it burns burns burns like a ring of fire, my busted tire.” “Red Cup Kids” about the children of local politicians busted for boozing and partying set to the tune of Summer Nights from “Grease.”
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