By Howard Pousner
Raye Varney, managing director of Theatre in the Square, has announced her departure from the 30-year-old Marietta theater, which has been fighting to retire a deficit.
In a vaguely worded e-mail sent Tuesday night, Varney wrote that she was resigning to ”move on to new challenges.”
In response to questions from the AJC, Varney e-mailed a statement Wednesday morning: “I have stepped down from my post … It is my hope that the loss of my salary will allow my team to remain employed longer. I wish the very best for Theatre in the Square and feel fortunate to have worked for over six years to help lead it through both good times and bad. Finally, I encourage all those who love the arts to support their local arts organization with their talents and their resources.”
Last September, the company issued an SOS to supporters in which producing director Palmer Wells said it was “on the brink of financial disaster” due to $187,000 in accumulated debt.
The Cobb County troupe launched a campaign to raise $350,000 by the end of 2011 and an additional $400,000 by June 30. At year’s end, it had raised $297,931, and Varney said late last month that those funds would allow it to complete its 2011-12 season while continuing to fund-raise.
“We are thrilled with the support the community has shown,” she said in a statement then.
The total raised now stands at more than $350,000 toward the $750,000 goal.
The deficit had grown in recent years as corporate support waned. When the fund-raising drive was launched, Theatre in the Square was operating on a 2011 budget of $1.6 million, with 65 percent of its funds 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.
Theatre in the Square was one of a trio of long-time metro troupes that launched emergency funding drives last year, along with Actor’s Express and Georgia Shakespeare. Its drive followed cutbacks including two rounds of layoffs, furloughs and pay cuts.
Varney joined Theatre in the Square in 2005 after a dozen years in arts administration, including experience with 7 Stages, the Rialto Center for the Performing Arts, Georgia Shakespeare and Georgia Council for the Arts.