ATLANTA: George Shakespeare has announced that it will be closing after 29 years due “substantial financial deficiencies.” The theatre will also let go of its remaining staff and cancel its holiday production of A Holiday Panto.
Georgia Shakespeare had previously cancelled its October production of Henry V due to lack of funds. After consulting with longtime supporters and potential funders, the decision was made to cease operations, as the theatre could not find a way to meet its fundraising goal of $750,000—$343,000 of which would have gone toward eliminating debt, replenishing operating funds and building a small reserve.
“We made great progress in recent years in creating a sustainable business model, but our lack of operating capital made us extremely fragile financially,” said managing director Jennifer Bauer-Lyons in a statement. “Many people have fought heroically to enable Georgia Shakespeare to keep producing world-class theatre with great local artists, but ultimately we were not able to attract the operating capital required for us to operate as a healthy organization.”
This news comes at the tail end of a number of production successes at Georgia Shakespeare this past summer. Its production of One Man, Two Guvnors played to sold-out houses and As You Like It set a single-day attendance record of 1,642 attendees.
Georgia Shakespeare was founded in 1986 by Lane Anderson, Richard Garner and Robert Watson as a summer festival, specializing in contemporary interpretations of Shakespeare. Georgia Shakespeare was one of two LORT theatres in the state of Georgia. After its closure, the only LORT house remaining will be the Alliance Theatre, also in Atlanta.
In an interview with accessAtlanta.com, co-founder and producing artistic director Garner said of the company’s debt, “If you look at our history, we didn’t build the debt up all at once, it happened kind of slow…. You miss a ticket-sales goal. You miss an individual (giving) goal or a corporate goal. But once we got to the point of approximately $300,000 in debt, it tended to hover at that number.…When you’ve run out of ways to deal with it and sort of tap dance, then you’ve got to pay the piper, and that’s it.”
Georgia Shakespeare has set up a ticket exchange for its cancelled productions of Henry V and A Holiday Panto. Anyone who purchased tickets for either shows can exchange them for tickets to productions playing at other Atlanta theatres around the same time, such as Actor’s Express or Theatrical Outfit.
Georgia Shakespeare is not the only Atlanta theatre that recently shut its doors. Theater of the Stars closed in 2013, and Theatre in the Square closed in 2012.
*AT reached out to Garner for a comment, his response can be found here.