Following the closing of Georgia Shakespeare after 29 years, the school that hosted the Brookhaven-based theater company says it is exploring new options for the building that housed the theater group.
“Georgia Shakespeare and Oglethorpe University have enjoyed a great partnership for a very long time and it’s been a sad week for all of us,” Oglethorpe President Lawrence Schall said in a prepared statement.
“Both Oglethorpe and our city will dearly miss their talent, their spirit, and certainly their amazing productions.”
The school’s Conant Performing Arts Center housed the company as its theater in residence for nearly three decades. Georgia Shakespeare announced on Oct. 8 that it was ceasing operations due to “substantial financial deficiencies.”
Schall explained in a memo to students, faculty and staff that the school and Georgia Shakespeare had no financial or legal ties.
“Their decision to close belonged to them alone and reflected their inability to meet their obligations,” he wrote. “Oglethorpe was in no way involved with any of that. Our relationship with Georgia Shakespeare was a partnership, a healthy and good one, but not a financial one. In fact, while they shared our space, there was no financial arrangement at all.”
Schall said the company mostly occupied the theater building during the summer, and that the Conant Performing Arts Center is used by the school during the academic year.
He said it was too early to tell if another theater company will replace Georgia Shakespeare at the school, but he expects opportunities to arise.
“In fact, just last week, Atlanta Symphony musicians and chorus members performed in the Conant Performing Arts Center,” Schall said. “We expect a number of new opportunities to arise and we will carefully explore those.”
Georgia Shakespeare’s announcement of its closing came just weeks after the company publicly declared it was in financial trouble and cancelled its production of “Henry V,” which had been scheduled to open Oct. 1.
The company had earlier this year initiated a fundraising campaign to raise $750,000 in operating capital from strategic funders to eliminate debt and create a working capital reserve. Managing Director Jennifer Bauer-Lyons said that the company currently had $343,000 in debt, and that the theater had been using operating money to pay that debt. If successful, the fundraising campaign would have eliminated the debt and given the company a cash reserve.
In 2011, the company had conducted a “Save Georgia Shakespeare” campaign, raising more than $550,000 from more than 2,000 donors. That enabled the theater to continue operating, but it did not eliminate its debt.
“While we were heartened by the strong wave of moral support, the reality is that we were unable to secure the funds required to create a sustainable path forward,” said Georgia Shakespeare Board Chairman Daniel Norris in a press release.
The company was founded in 1986, and became one of Atlanta’s most prominent arts companies, focusing on contemporary interpretations of Shakespeare.
“We believe this is a huge loss for Atlanta, given the critical role Georgia Shakespeare has played in the city’s cultural ecosystem,” Norris continued. “We would encourage all Atlantans to fight vigilantly to support their favorite local professional theater and arts organizations.”