The Balagan Theatre in Seattle is closing its doors. Founded in 2006 (its name is Hebrew for “happy chaos”) by manager/director Jake Groshong and Kaitie Warren, this scrappy producer of eclectic Off-Broadway and world premiere musicals (Ernest Shackleton Loves Me, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, The Vaudevillians) cited fiscal difficulties as its reason for closure.
In a statement to the Seattle Times‘s Misha Berson, board president Jim Griffin said: “The board realized that we had an overwhelming amount of debt, which was larger than the money raised and generated through ticket sales last year,” he said. “It was enough debt that we could not ethically continue to operate the business as usual and promise to pay the [small office staff].”
The decision was also partially attributed to the loss of the Erickson Theatre, the 133-seat venue that Balagan had managed, via a contract with Seattle Central Community College. The theatre had planned to mount its upcoming season in different venues around the city.
When questioned by Berson, Griffin was not sure if advance ticket or subscription purchases will be refunded. The board is currently working on how to address creditors and figuring out how much the theatre owes in back taxes. Balagan reportedly owes $8,600 to Contemporary Classics, a musical-theatre company who co-produced a 2013 production of Next to Normal with Balagan. In addition, a number of actors from last year’s Hedwig and the Angry Inch have still not been paid.
The change also puts up in the air the fates of the shows the theatre was planning on producing this season. Balagan former artistic director Louis Hobson, whose production of Citizen Ruth and Make Me Bad was planned in the spring, says that he was “blindsided” by the news. Despite the setback, he still plans to produce those musicals in Seattle via his for-profit company Indie Theatricals and Licensing, a licensing and investing company for musicals.
In an e-mail to the New York Times, Hobson writes, “The unexpected loss of our contract at the Erickson Theater at the beginning of last season proved too difficult a financial hurdle for the organization…. Despite a scaled-back co-production-heavy model, commercial enhancements, strong fund-raising efforts and moves made internally to cut overhead, the board didn’t feel Balagan could overcome the deficit created by the loss of its permanent space and produce another full season.”
In addition, Balagan was also planning on co-producing the Seattle premiere of the Benji Pasek, Justin Paul and Peter Duchan musical Dogfight with ArtsWest Playhouse. The production will continue its run from Oct. 23–Nov. 24.