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The entrance to the Pyrle Theater at Triad Stage in Greensboro. (Photo by Triad Stage)

Triad Stage Closes Its Doors

The theatre’s liquidation plan comes after attempts to recover from a leadership scandal, financial stress, staff shortages, and diminished audiences.

GREENSBORO, N.C.: After 20 years and more than 140 mainstage productions, including 20 world premieres, Triad Stage has announced that it will close permanently. Though the southeast regional theatre was initially able to reopen last year following a two-year pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic, yesterday the Triad board of trustees released a statement explaining that it was ultimately unable to sustain post-pandemic operations. In March, the board chose to suspend the remaining productions for the current season while they worked to determine the best possible outcome for the organization.

“Despite the best efforts of the board and a small and extremely dedicated staff, as well as the evaluation of numerous options,” said board co-chair Sarah Saint in a statement, “we have concluded that the operation of Triad Stage is unsustainable. The board has determined that the only responsible option remaining is to liquidate our assets and dissolve the organization.”

The ticket office will remain open to support the Eastern Music Festival through its 2023 season, and the board has begun implementation of a plan to dispose of remaining assets and resolve liabilities. Ticket holders will be contacted directly in the coming weeks regarding outstanding ticket credits. Triad Stage reports having assets valued considerably in excess of its liabilities, and, though the liquidation process will take some time, the theatre says it intends and expects to satisfy liabilities to ticket holders and other creditors in full.

This season Triad Stage presented the world premiere of Mike Wiley‘s Rebellious, which focused on Greensboro’s ties to the sit-in movement, and Lauren Gunderson‘s The Revolutionists, a comedy set during the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror. The theatre had planned finish the season with Bekah Brunstetter‘s The Cake in May, a comedy about a gay wedding in North Carolina that provokes a baker’s crisis of faith.

“After we took stock of the first two productions, the prospect of launching the final show of the current season, and the commitments necessary to begin the next one,” said board co-chair Deborah Hayes in a statement, “we concluded that the barriers were insurmountable. We are proud of the two shows we produced this season. It was an honor to premiere Mike Wiley’s Rebellious and tell that story unique to Greensboro. The Revolutionists was provocative and filled with compelling performances.”

Hayes continued, “Our executive director, Kate Holland, and our artistic director, Sarah Hankins, as well as the rest of our staff, could not possibly have done more. The board directed time, energy, and personal financial resources at a level none of us expected when we signed on for this volunteer commitment. We made a valiant effort, but the responsible course now is to sunset as gracefully as possible and find new ways to support a thriving arts community for the Triad.”

At one time, Triad Stage had close to 2,500 season passholders, representing 42 percent of theatre capacity, and more than 800 annual donors, according to Greensboro News & Record. The theatre sold almost 620,000 tickets over the years and employed hundreds of actors and artisans from N.C., N.Y., and beyond.

Triad was already in a difficult position when the pandemic necessitated its temporary shutdown in 2020. The theatre had an accumulated deficit of $1.5 million and the board was forced to make large staff cuts, as well as dispose of its offsite scene shop. In November of 2020, Triad’s co-founding artistic director Preston Lane was accused of sexual misconduct and resigned shortly thereafter.

The theatre took steps to rebuild under new leadership, while the board of trustees adopted a shared leadership model featuring three co-chairs. Former associate artistic director Sarah Hankins became artistic director following Lane’s departure, and executive director Kathleen Holland joined the staff last October after a nationwide search. With the guidance of arts consulting organization Partners in Performance, Triad worked to establish community standards, a more robust zero-tolerance harassment policy, a new DEIA statement, and an anti-racism statement. The organization says that during this time, it shifted its artistic focus to include newer productions and more diverse storytelling, as well as a reduced operating budget.

“The budget for Triad Stage’s 20th season was based on revenue assumptions we thought were conservative,” said Hayes in a statement.

Despite these efforts, Triad reports that revenue was significantly reduced this season. The company saw drastic increases in production costs as its downsized staff created an increased reliance on professional contractors, and the theatre’s houses averaged less than half full over the course of the first two mainstage productions.

“We are devastated by this outcome,” said board co-chair Cassandra Williams in a statement. “Triad Stage has been key to revitalizing downtown Greensboro, and an artistic refuge for writers, performers, and theatregoers. For 20 years this organization entertained audiences, premiered new work, and introduced schoolchildren to the experience of live theatre. We should never lose sight of the good work that has been done here, and we will deeply miss our role in Greensboro’s arts community.”

Triad Stage’s 2023-24 season was to include the world premiere of Jekyll by Patricia Lynn; Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some) by Michael Carleton, James FitzGerald, and John K. Alvarez; Chicken and Biscuits by Douglas Lyons; and Coal Country by Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen, with original music by Steve Earle. Complete details of the theatre’s liquidation plan will be released over the summer.

“Triad Stage is grateful to our patrons and donors, to the artists and artisans whose work we were privileged to share with this community, and to an amazing staff that consistently made it all happen,” added board co-chair Sarah Saint in a statement. “We have also appreciated institutional support over the years from the city, from the Arts Council of Greater Greensboro, the North Carolina Arts Council, and a host of other institutional supporters. We will do our best to honor each of you by conducting our final chapter in a manner worthy of that support.”

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