San Diego County Arts Writer

In the flotsam and jetsam of the San Diego Symphony Orchestra's recent financial crisis, there surfaced a surprising note about thank-yous. Several heavyweight donors maintained that the orchestra has not paid attention to the basic courtesies in pursuing philanthropists.

The orchestra, they say, is more impersonal and cold than its sister arts groups. "We break our neck to thank people," said one member of the opera board of directors, who also supports the symphony. "Each year (the symphony) sends me a renewal, but they never have had the decency to put my name on the form," said the philanthropist, who asked not to be named.

After serving as chairwoman of the opening gala for Symphony Hall (which netted the orchestra more than $700,000), Dorene Whitney received a form letter that was sent to all who had helped with the gala. Whitney, who hopes to take a more active role with the symphony, said, "They could learn a lot from the opera and the Old Globe. They go overboard, thanking. They can't thank enough."

"We're not computerized to the extent that other organizations are," a symphony spokeswoman said of the absence of names on renewal notices. "It's quite a hindrance not to have a system internally. We hope that this will be dealt with by streamlining ourselves with computer capabilities."

One local arts development director, speaking not for attribution, said: "We have a two-day turn-around on all contributions. That's Fund-Raising 101. You can lose a large or small gift if you don't thank them within two days."

Additionally, after larger contributions, it's normal for board members or key staff members to call the donor, the development director said.

Symphony development personnel say they are now responding to the backlog of donations received in the last two weeks. But the normal turn-around time for an acknowledgement is one day to "possibly five days, if we've got a backlog," spokeswoman Nancy Hafner said.

BABALU TWO: A satirical work dubbed "The Pannikin Papers," a performance called "Laundromats of San Diego," and Marcel Proust as remembered by his chambermaid will be part of an eclectic revue known as "After Orwell II" this weekend at San Diego Repertory Theatre's 6th Avenue Playhouse.

Hosted by Lucy and Ricky (actors Laura Rankin and Larry Baza), "Orwell" is a potpourri of five-minute performance art, dance, theater, poetry and music pieces, created by a curious mixture of serious and not-so-serious artists and camp followers. The first version appeared in 1985--naturally--upon the successful completion of the year immortalized by writer George Orwell. "Orwell (I)" was so successful that a second round was ordered up by its producer, Sushi, the downtown performance and art gallery.

Among "Orwell II's" 50 performers are Eleanor Antin, Tavis Ross, Luke Morrison, Darla Cash, Gloria Poore, Navarre Perry, JoAnn Reeves, Judith Greer-Essex, Jim Moody, Ollie Nash and groups Poyesis Genetica and Sledgehammer Theatre.

"It ranges from the ridiculous to the sublime. There are some very goofy things, and some are short and quite serious," Sushi director Lynn Schuette said. Tickets for the event, which will be presented at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday at 1620 6th Ave., are $8. For reservations call 235-8466.

MISCHA MADNESS: The inimitable "Mischa," Mikhail Baryshnikov, will dance the role of Albrecht in his own staging of "Giselle" for the opening performance in American Ballet Theatre's one-week San Diego appearance, March 25 to 29. Alessandra Ferri will dance the title role opposite Baryshnikov, with Martine Van Hamel as Myrta.

Cynthia Gregory, Marianna Tcherkassky and Cynthia Harvey will appear as Giselle in the remaining performances, with Ross Stretton, Kevin McKenzie and Patrick Bissell as Albrecht, and Susan Jaffe, Nora Kimball and Leslie Browne as Myrta.

The other ballet on ABT's San Diego tour is the Baryshnikov-choreographed "Don Quixote." The principal dancers who will alternate the roles of Kitri and Basil are Gregory and Stretton, Cheryl Yeager and Danilo Radojevic, and Martine Van Hamel and McKenzie.

ARTBEATS: Robert McDonald's piece Saturday on San Diego artists who leave for greener pastures in Los Angeles underscored how tough it is for artists to sell in San Diego. It's an equally tough town for galleries that are not into tourist art or blue-chip artists. Two Gaslamp Quarter galleries that opened in November will close in April. The Conlon Grenfell Gallery at 527 4th Ave. and Santa Fe West at 622 5th Ave. have not found a market here for their original works by mid-range artists. Santa Fe West manager Renee Linson said, "If we had prints and posters, we might be able to make it." . . .

Last month J. David & Co. bankruptcy trustee Louis Metzger sent letters to a number of cultural and arts groups requesting that they return more than $1 million worth of donations made by the fraud-ridden company. After several days' delay, opera chief Bill Nelson received a missive asking that the musical group return 60% of an $85,000 donation. Its arrival boosted Nelson's opinion of Metzger. "He's a very careful trustee," Nelson quipped. The letter arrived postage due. . . .

The California Young Playwrights Project received the highly regarded Award of Merit from the California Assn. of Teachers of English. Co-sponsored by the Gaslamp Quarter Theatre and the San Diego Unified School District, the project, which encourages students to write plays, was cited for "creative and innovative work to encourage student writing (which) brings an invaluable dimension to community support of the English Language Arts and is greatly appreciated by teachers and students alike."

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