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Folger’s Reprieve

A closure announced and averted.

The announcement several months ago that the Folger Theatre in Washington, D.C. would close at the end of this season due to mounting deficits caused a flurry of activity on the company’s behalf. While the Washington press gave over page after page to editorials and letters supporting the theatre—a subsidiary of the Folger Library for the past 15 years—several prominent legislators officially involved themselves in the fight to save the Folger.

Their efforts paid off. Folger Library director Werner Gundersheimer announced March 1 that an agreement had been reached to keep the theatre open for at least the next two years. Under the new plan, the board of trustees of Amherst College, which governs the prestigious institution, has agreed to contribute $300,000 in cash to the theatre group over the next two years. In addition, it will pay $260,000 for maintenance and upkeep of the 253-seat facility over the same period. The library will earmark another $150,000 per year for the theatre, and an anonymous donor has pledged $100,000 (to be matched on a three-to-one basis) to help the theatre through the transition.

Gundersheimer said the library will also work with a newly formed committee, headed by Washington attorney R. Robert Linowes, to put the theatre on independent financial footing by the end of the 1986-87 season.

The widespread and continuing protest provoked by the announcement of the theatre’s closing—which rallied such supporters as U.S. Transportation Secretary Elizabeth Dole and Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY)—prompted the turn-around. “If people had yawned and said it doesn’t matter, if there had been no reaction, the decision would have stood.” remarked John Callahan, secretary of the Amherst board of trustees. Despite the two-year pledges of support, the theatre will still be heavily dependent on outside fundraising.

Artistic director John Neville-Andrews said he did not “anticipate any radical changes” in the Folger’s agenda of classical and new plays.

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