Susan Fritzler’s kids gave her a $55 gift card earlier this year, redeemable at the recently shuttered Palms Theatre. “They fully expected I could use the gift card for dinner or for a show,” Fritzler says. But before she had a chance to enjoy a revival of Kismet, Fritzler heard that the Palms was closed. She tried calling the theater, but its phone lines had been disconnected.
“We were not season ticket holders at the Palms, but we were regular attendees and felt that the Palms should have honored all future tickets and gift cards before they went bankrupt.”
When Mesa’s most beleaguered playhouse closed for the second time this past September, someone in the front office sent out an apologetic email to fans and ticketholders. “We exhausted every available option as we sought potential solutions to keep The Palms alive,” the email read in part. “Regretfully, this leaves us in a position where we are financially unable to make a full or partial refund on advance orders; however, we are humbled and privileged to announce that another prominent Valley Arts Organization has offered to step up and honor outstanding tickets that were purchased for the upcoming 2015/16 Season (details coming soon).”
Karen MacArthur received that email on September 9, 2015, but hasn’t heard a word from anyone at the Palms since, regarding when or by whom her tickets will be honored.
“My friends and I purchased four tickets to Nunsense for November,” she gripes, “and now we’re out more than $200 and we’re madder than hell.” Cindi Rodewald also bought two pairs of Nunsense tickets and remembers being notified that they’d be honored, either by the Palms’ new owners or another local theater. Stan Bock and his wife were Palms season ticket holders, and had recently spent nearly $700 on tickets there. When Bock received the email about the Palms closing, he telephoned the theater. His calls have not been returned. Neither, at press time, had New Times’.
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The Palms had gone belly-up before. Originally opened in 2001 as the Broadway Palm Dinner Theater, the Mesa location was the third in a chain of Prather Entertainment Group venues. After several years of success, the venue closed in 2012, after which owner Tom Prather leased the space to a Utah-based company called Silver Star, which flopped after about a year. Prather renovated the space and reopened in 2013 as the Palms, which never recouped its earlier losses.
Palms fan Robin Dudek purchased six tickets to the theater’s 2015 Christmas show in December, only a week and a half before the company vanished. “I never was told they were closing. They took my money and that was the last I heard from them,” she says.
When Actors Theatre closed its doors last year, Arizona Theatre Company, along with five other local companies, was quick to offer seats to the defunct company’s ticketholders. That’s a rare form of largesse in the theater world, in large part because most playhouses can’t afford to give away seats. Although the Palms promised that a “prominent” venue would honor its tickets, as yet no announcement has been made about which playhouse that might be. The Palms continues to stonewall ticketholders and the press.
“I’d like to make sure they are not able to go into any other business ventures and bilk the public out of even more money in the future,” MacArthur says.