By Howard Pousner
Theatre in the Square issued an SOS to supporters Monday afternoon in which producing director Palmer Wells said it is “on the brink of financial disaster.”
The 30-year-old troupe is launching a campaign to “sell” each of its 225 main stage seats for $1,000 between now and Oct. 15 to try to pay down $187,000 in debt. It’s separately trying to raise $550,000 this fiscal year to support operations that have been hurt by cutbacks in contributions from all sources, said managing director Raye Varney.
Last year, Varney said she thought Theatre in the Square was turning “a significant corner” after the Metropolitan Atlanta Arts Fund awarded it a $75,000 grant. The Marietta company had undertaken a $1.5 million capital campaign to renovate its front facade and lobby right before the recession hit, and Varney said then that the improvements had “cannibalized” diminishing gifts that otherwise might have supported operations.
This May, the company again received the highest grant of $75,000 from the Metropolitan Atlanta Arts Fund, but Varney said contributions from individuals to government to corporations were otherwise off.
Theatre in the Square is operating on a budget of $1.6 million — 65 percent derived from ticket sales (”a high percentage for our industry,” Varney said) and 35 percent from contributed sources. “Tickets have held steady over the last few years, but contributed [income] has plummeted in almost all categories, leading to our shortfalls,” she said.
The company, whose budget peaked at $2.1 million in 2006-07, has been in a major cutback mode, with two rounds of layoffs, furloughs and now pay cuts.
Theatre in the Square joins Actor’s Express and, more recently, Georgia Shakespeare in launching emergency fund-raising drives with possible door-closing threatened. But several other companies, including Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre Company, Horizon Theatre and Georgia Ensemble Theatre, have made public pleas aimed at finishing years in the black or to keep from adding to accumulated red ink.
Donors to Theatre in the Square’s “Save Your Seat, Save Our Theatre” campaign will get their name on the back of the seat on a small plaque.
More information on the drive: 770-422-8369.