The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 25.395 Tuesday, 9 September 2014
Date: September 5, 2014 at 8:41:04 AM EDT
Subject: Important News from Georgia Shakespeare
We regret to inform the Georgia Shakespeare community that our production of Henry V has been cancelled. We invite you to read the press release below for further details regarding the cancellation of this production, or visit our on our website.
Richard Garner, Producing Artistic Director
Jennifer Bauer-Lyons, Managing Director
Georgia Shakespeare Cancels Henry V
29-Year Atlanta Professional Theatre Evaluates Long-Term Direction
September 5, 2014, Atlanta, GA – Due to insufficient financial resources, Georgia Shakespeare announced that it has cancelled its production of Henry V, scheduled to open October 1.
“We obviously regret that we will be unable to go forward with the show, but given our current financial status and our inability to secure strategic funding for operating capital, we felt that it simply not possible to do so,” said board chair Daniel Norris. “We regret the inconvenience to our patrons, supporters, and to the artists committed to working on the show.”
In consultation with key supporters and the community, the Georgia Shakespeare board and staff will quickly evaluate the theatre company’s long-term direction, providing a recommendation by early October.
“We’ve made great progress in recent years in creating a sustainable business model, and have operated in the black four of the last five years,” said Jennifer Bauer-Lyons, Managing Director. “Each year we have strengthened our balance sheet, but our lack of operating capital has meant that we have remained a fragile organization financially. It is not enough to fix the business model. We also have to find a way to fix the balance sheet.”
Georgia Shakespeare was founded in 1986 as a summer festival. Over the years, it developed as one of Atlanta’s most prominent cultural institutions, operating as one of two LORT theatres (along with the Alliance Theatre). The company focuses on “timeless stories now,” with contemporary interpretations of Shakespeare serving as the core of its programming.
In 2011, the company conducted a “Save Georgia Shakespeare” campaign. That campaign raised more than $550,000 from more than 2,000 donors, which enabled the theatre to continue operating, but did not eliminate its substantial debt.
Since that campaign, the company has taken numerous steps to help establish a sustainable business model, including the following key actions: (1) simplifying the summer schedule by moving away from the rotating repertory schedule rooted in its history as a festival; (2) moving to a hybrid ticketing model for its Shakespeare in the Park program by continuing to offer a number of free tickets but also selling tickets and tables; and (3) engaging with several metro-area universities to establish productive partnerships.
In 2014, Georgia Shakespeare sought to emerge from the recession once and for all as a revitalized organization. In order to do so, the company pursued two key strategies. First, it reinvested in its artistic programming and its patrons’ experience by expanding and improving the artistic selections for 2014 and utilizing capital grants to completely renovate the picnic grounds outside its home theater, the Conant Performing Arts Center. Second, the company initiated a fundraising campaign to raise $750,000 in operating capital from strategic funders to eliminate debt and create a working capital reserve. Given the impacts of the most recent recession, an operating capital infusion is necessary for the organization to improve its balance sheet and create a truly sustainable business model.
“When it comes to our artistic programming and the picnic ground renovations, the response from our patrons has been outstanding,” said Richard Garner, Co-Founder and Producing Artistic Director. “Our productions this year have been widely acclaimed, we set attendance records at Shakespeare in the Park, and our patrons have uniformly raved about the Picnic Grounds, which provide for a magical evening at the theatre unlike any other experience available in Atlanta.”
This year Georgia Shakespeare had over 5,800 people attend its production of As You Like It at Piedmont Park in just five days, with 1,642 people setting a single show attendance record for Saturday night alone. During its most recent production of the British comedy One Man, Two Guvnors, the company also attracted its first sell-out of the expansive Conant Theater in many years.
“Unfortunately, when it comes to the second pillar of our strategy this year, we have been unable to secure any significant strategic gifts for operating capital to improve the balance sheet and create the working capital reserves necessary for healthy operations,” said Bauer-Lyons. “We’ve developed strong momentum with our programming and business model,” said Garner, “but the organization needs to take the step of improving its balance sheet and creating appropriate reserves in order to continue producing the art that our patrons expect and deserve.”
“During the next few weeks, we will continue our ongoing conversations with all the stakeholders in the community in an attempt to identify a solution to our fundraising needs and determine our on-going viability ” said Norris. An announcement regarding the long-term direction of Georgia Shakespeare will be made after October 1, 2014. “For patrons who wish to help Georgia Shakespeare, donations will be used to meet existing obligations while we reevaluate the long-term direction of the organization. You can donate by visiting our website at www.gashakespeare.org.”
Patrons who have previously purchased tickets to Henry V should check Georgia Shakespeare’s website for further information.