By Howard Pousner
Theater of the Stars on Thursday cancelled its 2013-14 season, and it is unclear if Atlanta’s longest-running stage company will return.
Operating with a $650,000 debt, the 61-year-old troupe in late June said it was cash-strapped and appealed to Atlantans for $1 million by Aug. 30 to launch its five-play subscription season plus a special presentation of “Stomp.” The company set a deadline to raise $500,000 by July 12 and another half-million by Aug. 30 or said it would be forced to cease operations.
But fund-raising proceeded slowly, with the theater raising only $100,000. That was not enough to leverage a match of an undisclosed, but said to be substantial, amount offered by Roger Bobb, president and CEO of Bobbcat Films, an Atlanta-based production company.
After canceling its first three shows in recent weeks, TOTS officials decided this week to pull the plug on the fund-raising drive and to cancel its final two season shows, “Disney’s The Little Mermaid” and “Cats,” as well as “Stomp.” TOTS’ board of directors approved the moves on Wednesday night.
The Fox Theatre, the troupe’s long-time home, quickly announced on Thursday that it would present “Stomp” itself from Sept. 26-29 and would honor seats sold by TOTS.
It is unclear what TOTS’ next steps will be.
While saying the company was not headed toward a bankruptcy filing, Vice President and General Manager Brian D. Frey could not clarify if it would attempt to relaunch next year or soon close its doors. He said a decision on the matter would come in a week or more, after further discussions with the theater’s board.
Frey said he and TOTS Producer Chris Manos were “very grateful and honored” by Atlantans who donated from $5 to $20,000.
“It just wasn’t enough,” he said.
Even before the recession made operating cash scarce, TOTS was facing intense competition for Atlanta’s musicals-loving audiences from Broadway in Atlanta, a member of the 28-market network of the national powerhouse presenter and producer Broadway Across America.
“We’re not blaming Atlanta for not saving our company,” Frey added. “Unfortunately our (business) model did not progress through the years as it should have in order to keep up with modern-day fund raising and development abilities.”
TOTS is in the process of mailing a letter to subscribers and single-ticket holders outlining these refund options: