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City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP
City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP

After 30 years, Theatre in the Square calls it curtains

By Howard Pousner
hpousner@ajc.com

Theatre in the Square, one of Atlanta’s oldest troupes, has decided to close its doors.

The 30-year-old Marietta company sent an e-mail to supporters late Monday announcing that it was shutting down operations immediately, and that it would not accept a $30,000 emergency contribution approved by the Marietta City Council last week.

“After three days of board deliberations and financial analysis, we have decided that it is not feasible for us to finish our current season or launch a 31st season,” board chair Mike Russell said in the e-mail. “We simply do not have the money.”

Russell said the board was “incredibly moved and grateful” for the 11th-hour contribution from the city, but that it wasn’t enough to sustain operations. “We can’t accept the funding in good conscience knowing that we will still have to close our doors in a matter of days,” he said.

After raising $375,000 late last year in an emergency fund-raising drive, the theater was working toward raising another $400,000 by the end of June to help retire all of its debt. But to date, it had only raised $83,000 toward that goal.

“We just don’t see any indication that we will be able to bring in that amount of money, much less additional funds required to launch a new season,” Russell said.

Check back with ajc.com for more details this evening.

25 comments Add your comment

Debdoes

March 19th, 2012
6:49 pm

Truely disappointing, but I also closed a shoppe there and no one came to my aide except my wonderful customers who were amazing during my closing. The city needs to work with the landlords and do something about the high rent district for a low revenue producing area!

Terrible loss

March 19th, 2012
6:50 pm

There will be a lot of people who won’t care or will make light of this, but it’s devastating for the metro Atlanta arts community. I’ve seen many wonderful, consistently high-quality productions there and am deeply saddened to hear about this. Extremely bad news for theater lovers (and actors, directors, stage managers and the behind-the-scenes people who make it all happen). I’ll miss Theatre in the Square a lot.

chc4

March 19th, 2012
6:56 pm

It’s called a free market. If a business can’t be self-sustaining then it will go away. Doesn’t matter if it’s a theater, shoe store or accounting firm.

TheUselessGAPolitican

March 19th, 2012
6:58 pm

I’d love to say I care, but I’ve simply got too much money to chase. I’m a crook, remember. FU to Theatre on whatever square. Where was it at, Conyers?

Floyd Taylor

March 19th, 2012
6:59 pm

The sad part is that Theatre in the Square was in COBB County– as we all know the COBB County Commissioners to this day have never rescinded their infamous Anti-Gay Resolution that was triggered by a Baptist Minister disliking a play produced at Theatre in the Square that had gay overtones. Cobb County keeps reminding us that the county does not like art in any form except the Big Ckicken. This is why I still boycott the county whenever I can.

Kimmy

March 19th, 2012
7:12 pm

They are only 250K away from their goal, and they have 3.5 months to get it done, and they’re calling it quits? With that type of mentality, they deserve to lose.

Here’s an idea, hire a fundraiser with the 83K you have, then make him raise 500K. Pays for itself. Duh. You “artists” are too cute.

Sad News

March 19th, 2012
7:34 pm

Those of you rushing to judgments and making proclamations about the free market at work don’t understand the volatility of the nonprofit professional theatre business model. It’s a complicated group of factors that led to the company’s demise. It’s a sad day for the cultural community of our metro area.

Deservedly so...

March 19th, 2012
7:57 pm

Unfortunately this is a blow for Marietta. It would have been nice to keep the Theater. However, they only have themselves to blame. Their spending was out of control and until very recently did nothing to reign it in. A new facade, 10k sq ft of office space, etc and they expected others to continue to throw money at them.

If is not “the volatility of the nonprofit professional theatre business model” that did them in. It was their own mismanagement. They built a business model based upon spending what they wanted to spend and then asking for donations. Had they been more cost-conscience, they would not be closing today.

Sad, but deserved.

Zorro-3

March 19th, 2012
7:58 pm

chc4… No need to get all Ayn Rand on us. No one here has called for a government bailout. But that theater served the city well for thirty years and whatever has changed (the economy, people’s tastes…) that renders it no longer viable…is worth lamenting.

Sad Day

March 19th, 2012
8:10 pm

I’ve seen some really great theater over the years at T-Square. I’m sorry to hear that they are closing. This is a sad day for theater lovers in the Atlanta metro area.

chc4

March 19th, 2012
8:58 pm

Zorro-3: I wasn’t making a political statement. Simply a matter of reality. And as was pointed out above, this could very well be a case of money mismanagement. I have no idea if that’s true but it doesn’t change the overall point.

TB

March 19th, 2012
9:26 pm

This is really sad news. Whatever the reasons, the Theater has been around for decades and brings a lot of business to us store owners/restaurant owners on the Square. I’m wondering what kind of ripple effect this will cause to other businesses….. :(

Brandon

March 19th, 2012
9:38 pm

I’ll take”totally irrelevant and unnecessary” for $1000, Floyd Taylor….

Mike Huff

March 19th, 2012
9:49 pm

God Bless Jean..she was my friend there from the beginning until now, the unfortunate end. Tearfully, MIKE

Nathan

March 19th, 2012
11:55 pm

I have to say that I am a little bit offended by the comments made by some of these people who think that this is the appropriate time to bash this poor theatre and all who were involved with it. I am a college actor who wants to move to Atlanta and pursue theatre as a career for at least a couple of years, and this situation now leaves me even fewer choices for a job than I already have. Not only am I saddened for myself, and I am saddened for this community that will not have the opportunity to see the different perspectives on controversial issues that many people share whilst in the theatre. Oh and The UselessGAPolitician, that’s a good ol’ Georgian, Republican, don’t care about anybody but myself kind of attitude. Good job.

Georgia Retiree

March 19th, 2012
11:58 pm

Much of the blame goes to the Marietta City Councilman, landlord and owner of much of the property on the square, who until recently would not reduce the rent to a theatre that is bringing a lot of folks to the restaurants and shops on the square, which will eventually reduce his income from rent, as some go out of business.

Deb S

March 20th, 2012
6:33 am

A very sad day in Atlanta for sure – I am sure they did everything they possible could to save it. A true loss to the community.

JTH

March 20th, 2012
10:06 am

@Kimmy, that is the dumbest comment I have ever read. You honestly think hiring a fundraiser would have saved the theatre? You do understand that non-profit theatres are not churches, right? They are supported primarily by applying for grants through local and state arts councils. Private donations are nice and lovely- but if they are not receiving steady grant support for operating expenses or special projects, it is really tough to stay open. You “non-artists” are even cuter. I just love how someone who doesn’t know the first thing about how to run a non-profit automatically assumes what happened. You don’t know what happened. Nobody probably ever will know exactly what happened. And I also love the view that if a non-profit isn’t run like a “normal” business it somehow deserves to close. Non-profits are recognized by the IRS and the Government because people want the arts to enrich their lives. They don’t want another ice cream shop in downtown Marietta.

John Thigpen, Set Designer

March 20th, 2012
10:51 am

This is sad. Theatre in the Square has a great following, does quality work and kept ticket prices low. I don’t think people understand how grants, donations and sponsorships support not-for-profit cultural institutions and allow the average person to see a show for a good price, sometimes equal or less than the cost of a movie ticket. If all the small professional not-for profit theatres had to rely on ticket prices alone for revenue, they would have to charge prices comparable to the Broadway tours that come through town to pay the overhead for the smaller venues. These smaller theatre produce exciting, diverse work. They add value to the surrounding community by bringing business to them. Nearby restaurants and retail businesses benefit by the extra patronage from theatregoers.

I have worked there off and on since the beginning. I watched the square rebound through the efforts of the theatre and the businesses that rebuilt the square. I always looked forward to working there and dining for lunch and dinner at the surrounding restaurants. We always planned to have dinner on the square before a show.

I can speak for behind the scenes budgets. They were small and not out of control. The many designers and technicians did amazing work on a shoestring budget. Sometimes working long hours above and beyond what is required in a regular job. They maintained respect for the actors as well. The production values and talent onstage were maintained at high level for reasonable costs when compared to commercial productions.

I always felt amazing community support from the audiences. This is something that grew over time, and is difficult to maintain as a not-for-profit. Theatre in the Square did it. The memories of all the wonderful productions, shared with others, will stay in people’s mind. That achievement will never be taken away from them.

MacMillar

March 20th, 2012
11:05 am

@Floyd Taylor… I remember that. I was working in a small local theatre right out of high school, and I recall the uproar over the gay character in a play at the Theatre in the Square. I admit, I don’t think I ever went to see a show there after that. Not because I was upset with the theatre, but because I was upset with Cobb County. That was 20 years ago, and I’m sure I missed some good shows. It’s sad to see anyone close after so long. Good luck to the leasing company… theatre spaces don’t easily transform into coffee shops.

I can’t help but wonder if local community theatre is going to disappear in this town someday. In this technological age, where you can download on demand just about any form of entertainment you want, how much longer will people drive a ways down the road to see a show?

Theater Owner

March 20th, 2012
2:31 pm

Theaters both professional and community are dieing all over the US. A little facts for all of you that never owned their own theater building this does not include theater companies. For how meny theaters that start up how meny make it to a second season. You start with 100 the first year by the second you are down to 50. Now of that 50 how meny make it to year 5? Answer 5 Now you take a theater that lasted 30 years, “WHAT DOES THAT TELL YOU!” Palmer knows what he is doing! Live theater is the only are form of its kind. You have all of the art forms mixed into one then if you own the theater YOU ARE ALWAYS THE BAD GUY! After having a theaters for over 20 years and 8 locations there is always one true fact ” It is your blood and you pay your bills after the weekend.” Hoping there is money left over! I hope this will help you understand what Palmer has gone through for the last 30 years.
John….

Todd Olson

March 20th, 2012
2:40 pm

I think the saddest part about this story is how a community reacts upon the passing of a cultural institution whose only mandate was to create art and serve a town. There is such meanness and divisivness here in this thread (and in past threads about this subject), no wonder there wasn’t enough of a base of enlightened people to support a professional theatre. And it sounds like there’s more than enough religious figures in this theatres past to reflect a cultural distrust of the arts at all. Maybe there was mismanagement, I don’t know. All of the economists in this tread seem to be pretty sure of the challenges of running a NFP theatre these days; it aint a hardware store, you know? A bunch of artists just lost their jobs. Ask yourself why you’re taking this opportunity to deride them. They’re your neighbors. I would say look at yourself in the dang mirror…but you lost an important cultural mirror when this theatre closed.

Sad News

March 21st, 2012
7:30 am

@Todd…you hit the nail on the head. Beautifully said.

Alan McNaron

March 21st, 2012
9:00 am

Beyond sad and disappointing. Hate to see such a great town lose such an addition of it’s charm and character.

Everyman

March 22nd, 2012
12:42 am

Angry and scared, all of you who find joy or satisfaction in this event. Shame on you. I’m charged to have compassion for you but you make it difficult. Your anger lowers your IQ; your fear makes you want to hurt others. How sad that you would spend so much energy writing about that which you do not understand. I’m sure your parents and your preachers are proud of you. Not.