Actors Theatre is "taking a pause" to assess and redesign its business model and to consider all options to "take control of our future." Strategies being considered include creating new and expanded revenue streams in a performance space, or spaces, that offer the company greater control.
"We are not closing. We are stepping back because we need to change the way we operate our business," said Producing Artistic Director Matthew Wiener. "Our entire board has been deeply involved in strategic discussions leading to this action and fully supports this focus on evaluating our business model while staying true to our artistic mission. Our goal is to continue producing the quality, thoughtful and entertaining theater we've become known for and to develop a more relevant connection to the community. We had hoped to finish our season at the Herberger Theater Center but recently learned that two large foundation gifts we had anticipated receiving this fiscal year will not happen."
As a result of this Board action, Actors Theatre is immediately suspending the rest of the 2012-13 season and will relinquish its position as a resident company at the Herberger Theater Center after more than 20 years. Wiener and Managing Director Erica Black will take the lead in this transition that includes exploring potential performance spaces in the Valley, both traditional and non-traditional. The company will temporarily shrink its operational footprint significantly by vacating its administrative offices, scene shop, costume shop, and production storage.
"This was not an easy decision by any means," said Board Chair Oonagh Boppart. "Given the financial challenges of the past several years with declining corporate support, the loss of grant funds we've traditionally received and the limits on our ability to generate additional revenue streams at our current performance venue, the board was unanimous in moving the company in a new direction. We are exploring new funding opportunities as well."
"One of our most important goals in this transition is to identify and pursue new revenue streams and partnerships in the community," Black said. "Conversations around leaving The Herberger started several years ago when it became clear the 20-year-old business model is no longer sustainable. In order to serve our mission best, we must diversify revenue streams in ways not currently possible. More control over our performance venue means being able to generate revenue for our own operations through concessions, box office service fees, space and event rentals, to name only a few."
Wiener said that preliminary discussions are underway with local economic redevelopment organizations about the impact on neighborhood revitalization "when theater companies reclaim, rebuild and reuse existing structures as performance venues, something happening in cities across the country. We want to be part of an economic recovery effort that positively impacts neighborhoods, not build a venue from the ground up."
Boppart emphasized the board's deep regret of the impact on current single and season ticket patrons. Actors Theatre is exploring opportunities with other local not-for-profit theater companies to honor tickets currently held for the last two shows of the season.
Herberger Theater Center management and the City of Phoenix were informed last fall that Actors Theatre might not be able to continue performing at the venue.
"The Herberger Theater Center has been a wonderful partner over the years. We have loved working there and are grateful to all the artists and audiences who helped us create such a joyful noise," Wiener said. "However, the times are changing and we must change along with them. We continue to have strong grassroots support in the community for our unique brand of contemporary theater. Again, we are not closing, and I'm confident we will be back on stage in a relatively short period of time."