Thursday, February 24, 2011

Theater Deathwatch: Actor's Express, Atlanta

Another theater facing a "life or death moment":
Actor's Express, the highly regarded 23-year-old theater, sent an e-mail plea to supporters on Wednesday afternoon that terms its situation "a true life or death moment."

The company, which is $140,000 in debt and struggling to pay bills, is seeking $50,000 over the next four weeks and an additional $150,000 before its fiscal year ends July 31.

The metro area's mid-size theaters, which don't have the resources of the Alliance Theatre but can't operate on a shoestring like smaller Equity and nonprofessional groups, have been especially hard hit by the economy.
A completely different case from the Initman. Some curious details:
Actor's Express leaders, operating with a budget of $650,000 this year, cite reduced corporate donations and slumping individual ticket sales and subscriptions as the biggest factors in its mounting debt.

"We know it's not as much as other theaters have had," board chairman Bruce Cohen said, "but we just realized that we can't continue to operate from the position of acquiring more and more debt. We've got to address the situation."

Artistic director Freddie Ashley inherited some shortfalls in 2007 when he became the fifth leader in seven years of the Westside theater known for mounting premieres and edgy stagings. But he said those bills have been retired and the current debt is from his watch.

"The issue at hand is operational," Ashley said. "It's the lack of liquidity. The amount of debt we're carrying eliminates previously pursued options to address those shortfalls."
So, the debt is new, the shortfall isn't as bad as other theater companies, but because of a lack of liquidity the debt could crush them.

One last quote:
"I'm hopeful, because Actor's Express is 23 years old and has a reputation throughout Atlanta, the Southeast and the nation as one of the finest theater companies," said Cohen, president of Vision Properties Inc. "However, I am concerned. I think there is a tremendous amount of fatigue on the part of givers."

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