Culture News

Arizona Theatre Company Fundraising Falls Short; Decision on Possible Closure Postponed Until July 18

Arizona Theatre Company announced late Friday, July 15, that its efforts to raise $2 million to continue operations and begin producing its 2016-17 season have fallen short by $281,195. But the company is waiting until Monday, July 18, to make and announce a final decision about the company’s future.

Founded in 1966, Arizona Theatre Company has performed at both the Temple of Music and Art in Tucson and Herberger Theater Center since 1990 — and is the state's only member of the prestigious League of Resident Theatres. 

The news follows an intense fundraising effort that began on June 27, when Arizona Theatre Company announced that it needed to raise $2 million in order to produce its 2016-17 season and continue operations. The company has struggled in recent years with financial difficulties and leadership transitions. 

Friday's announcement follows several weeks of speculation about whether the company might become the latest local theater to cease operations in the face of funding issues. Arizona Jewish Theatre shuttered in 2012, and Actors Theatre in 2014. Both cited significant financial shortfalls.

Arizona Theatre Company has remained cautiously optimistic throughout its most recent fundraising drive. 

Just days after announcing a July 1 deadline for raising the $2 million needed to continue operations, Arizona Theatre Company extended that deadline to July 15 based on a pledge by Mike Kassler, a board member and president of the real-estate investment firm Holualoa Companies, to raise and donate $1 million if Phoenix donors would also contribute at least $1 million to the cause.

Since then, Arizona Theatre Company has provided periodic updates about progress towards that goal.

In a press release issued on Friday, July 8, Arizona Theatre Company announced that 213 Tucson donors and 145 Phoenix donors had pledged or committed a combined total of $200,000 toward its current fundraising effort. Another release, issued Tuesday, July 12, announced that the effort had thus far raised $447,620 from 599 donors – including 29 from supporters living outside of Tucson, Phoenix, or the state.

But as of 3 p.m. on July 15, they'd raised $718,805 of the $1 million they were hoping for — with $350,132 coming from 417 Tucson donors and $368,673 coming from 253 Phoenix donors. 

"We're still hopeful, but we're also realistic about where we are right now," Billy Russo, managing director for Arizona Theatre Company, says in the July 15 press release. 

If the company can't reach its $2 million goal, it may either suspend operations or look at ways to restructure the organization or permanently go dark, according to the release. 

Arizona Theater Company board members and management will meet over the weekend to allow a bit more time for final outreach to potential donors and accounting, and announce a final decision about its future on Monday, July 18.

"If there's another angel out there waiting for the last minute, now is the time to step up," says Lynne Wood Dusenberry, chair of the Arizona Theatre Company board of directors. 
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Lynn Trimble is an award-winning freelance writer and photographer specializing in arts and culture, including visual and performing arts
Contact: Lynn Trimble