Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Theatresource's Resignation

  • So the Board finally sent out the "we're closing our doors" email to the patron lists. It goeth like this. And yup, my notes are bulleted:
"With heavy sadness, yet also with deep gratitude, Manhattan Theatre Source is announcing that we will close our doors permanently in January 2012.  Despite many heroic efforts to save it over the past months and years, we have finally reached a point where we can no longer sustain the running of our space at 177 MacDougal Street."
  • You'd think that "heroic efforts" would have included talking to anyone on the Advisory Board before making this decision.
  • Or heck anybody outside of the Board. I haven't spoken to a single person who was aware the Board thought we should close.
  • Just because this Board can't sustain running the space certainly doesn't mean that it can't be done. It just can't be done by this Board.

"Our deficits have grown too high, and the terrible economy has badly hurt small theatre companies in NYC, not only The Source itself, but even more significantly the companies that we depend on to rent our theater all year long.  These harsh realities have left us no choice but leave our space."
  • This is not factual. Our deficits are not any higher than they've been throughout the 12-year history of the space. The "terrible economy" was vastly worse after 9/11 for theaters downtown than it is now.
  • We simply haven't been looking for new theater companies to rent from us or become resident companies. 
  • The "harsh realities" are that this Board has grown tired and doesn't feel like doing the work it takes to keep the theater going, and also doesn't want to step aside and let anyone else do it.
"However, while we are closing our physical doors at 177 MacDougal, we do not intend to stop producing our fine work, and are excited to explore new opportunities in new venues throughout New York City. We will continue to present our signature EstroGenius Festival, our annual celebration of female voices, in 2012 and beyond. We will also continue to operate our Writers' Forum, and remain committed to nurturing and developing exciting new work from independent theatre artists. We are energized about moving forward, refocused as a theatre producing and development organization."
  • Having a "virtual theater" as the Board likes to call it is... well it's nothing. Everyone has a theater company. Every 24-year-old who comes to New York with an MFA has a "theater company". What they don't have is space. That was the point of starting a theater in the first place.
"We are exceptionally proud of our 12-year run at 177 MacDougal Street."
  • What you shouldn't be proud of is that no matter how badly Theatresource may have been run up until now, it's shutting its doors on your watch.
  • The Board hasn't paid attention to the attrition of theater companies in the space over the last few years, and then when they looked at the companies which used to rent from us -- surprise, surprise -- those companies have moved on to other spaces.
"Founded in 2000, "The Source" has given opportunities to almost 10,000 artists -- including actors, directors, designers, musicians, dancers, painters, poets, photographers, and others -- to work in almost 1,000 stage productions."
  • And now that time has come to an end because the Board wasn't creative enough, or energetic enough, to maintain the theater.
  • If the Board had spoken to anyone about how to increase revenue, they would have come up with an extra $50,000 a year. 
"The bulk of these have been new works by emerging artists, some of which have gone on to significant commercial success, most notable BridgeClub Production's [title of show], which had a Broadway run in 2008 and was nominated for a Tony award."
  • Note that [Title of Show] is actually the name of the show, that's not an editorial lapse. 
  • I'm more proud of the numerous Innovative Theater awards our productions have gotten over the year, but I'm ideologically nominally opposed to "Broadway" so I'm prejudiced toward off-off-Broadway productions.
"We are likewise proud that we have created opportunities for hundreds of artists through our annual festivals, "Spontaneous Combustion" weekends, and more. Mostly, we are proud that, even in the harshest of economic climates, we were able to begin from scratch a little non-profit theatre community in Greenwich Village and have such a long and prosperous run there."
  • But I thought now was the harshest of economic climates? Or are you simply agreeing that indeed, although things have been harder before, you just don't feel like making the theater work anymore?
  • And now, unlike when we started, we're actually eligible for grants. But I guess you want to use those for your "virtual" theater company.
"We hope to be able to build on that success in the months and years to come as we transition "The Source" into a new era.

"We could never find the words to thank you enough for supporting us over the years, and we hope you will continue to support us in 2012 and beyond."
  • If the Board of Directors of Theatresource can't even bother to run a theater, why would anyone support them when they're... what? A phone number? A web address? 
  • Over the last 12 years Theatresource has had periods of spectacular mis-management. We've had debt loads (that we didn't necessarily realize at the time) of upwards of $150,000. But it's under this Board that we've had to actually close the doors. 
  • There are scores of theaters out there. Theaters whose boards don't pack it in because they decided a theater was too hard for them to run. Why would anyone continue to support Theatresource without the "theater" when there are actually hundreds of "virtual" companies out there?
  • Theatresource was one of the top-five off-off Broadway theaters and now it's closing its doors because of a Board that's too spineless to keep the theater open, and too stubborn to resign.
"The Board of Directors of Manhattan Theatre Source

"Courtney Birnbaum, Andrew Frank, Eric Laufer, Matt Quint, Melissa Riker, Doug Silver and Jen Thatcher"
  • Wait? Who is actually on the Board? Jen Thatcher hasn't been on the Board. Is she now? It's not that the Board of Directors has ever been particularly good at communicating when board members are elected and/or resign. But to do it just as their closing is... well I guess it's to be expected.
  • Now I've been at Theatresource for basically 6 days a week for the 12-year-run. So I see the day-to-day zeitgeist of the volunteers and the people in the space. The Board announcing the closing has made the place as quiet as a morgue. We're running into our final week of Estrogenius, our biggest festival, and tonight is the opening night. But at a quarter-of-six nobody was even at the theater. So the Board shouldn't think that "Oh, nobody's complaining but that Drew guy." Because everyone else has already checked out. I'm just the one who won't go quietly. That might change. I might end up being the good quiet one.
  • Thanks for killing the theater, guys. Good work there. Why don't you just resign?
Better days. But, of course, any days were better days.

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