Industry Pro Newsletter: North Carolina Theater Files for Chapter 11, Second Stage Gives Up the Kiser

The off-stage employees of the Atlantic have voted to join IATSE in another win for Labor in the theater community

By: Feb. 26, 2024
Industry Pro Newsletter: North Carolina Theater Files for Chapter 11, Second Stage Gives Up the Kiser
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The restructuring of the industry continues - in North Carolina, Raleigh has lost one of its major institutions (for the time being) as North Carolina Theater suspends their 2024 season and files for bankruptcy. The labor movement continues to notch wins in New York, as the Atlantic Theater workers have voted to join IATSE. All of this, as Cara Joy David explores, as the contraction continues in the field of arts criticism.

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Industry Trends

Industry Trends Weekly: Looking at the Lack of Theater Journalism and Saying Goodbye to Lynda Gravátt by Cara Joy David

We’ve all heard about the shuttering of media outlets and the departure of entertainment journalists from publications still in business. I’m one of many who have written about there being fewer theater critics in the last decades. Jason Zinoman recently wrote about the “slow death of criticism” more eloquently than I could and I urge you to read his words. In the last couple of months, I’ve been thinking frequently about how the dearth of theater coverage is changing our perception of the art form.

It feels like off-off-Broadway has shrunk tremendously since the pandemic. But the Alliance of Resident Theatres/New York (A.R.T./New York) reports more members than it had five years ago. Now you could argue that maybe there are more young companies or that some are more niche than the companies of old or larger theaters are now joining because of black box spaces; I don’t think any of this explains all of it though. A lot is a lack of press.

I’ve been talking to the leaders of theaters all across the country. So many of them reference lack of coverage as a major concern. An artistic director of a struggling theater in Florida told me he recently ran into a woman who recognized him from curtain call speeches. She wasn’t a subscriber, but she was someone who would occasionally go to the theater when she heard about a show that interested her. This woman thought his theater had not reopened after the pandemic. Why? He explained to me that his city has a daily and an alternative weekly, both of which still exist, but now rarely cover theater. Neither do reviews anymore. The alternative weekly used to do about 4 features on the theater per season; since the re-opening it’s been two total. Sure, the theater sends email blasts, but those are often lost in a sea of junk email. So you can’t blame this woman for not knowing the theater reopened. But theater companies cannot afford to lose women like her. And this company lost her not because of the quality of its shows, but because the press in many places has abandoned the art form. Local theaters can’t afford billboards or radio ads—they long relied on press that no longer exists.

If you’re reading this column, you care about theater. So, whatever your opinion on critics and criticism of art, you should want to keep people writing about theater. So I urge you to click on the stories written in your local media outlets about theater. Send letters to the editor praising them when they appear. Do something.

A final unrelated note. Last week, the theater community lost Lynda Gravátt. And it was a huge loss to many. For many years she was a constant presence off-Broadway. Whether it was as the boardinghouse owner in Intimate Apparel, union rep Faye in Skeleton Crew (played on Broadway by Phylicia Rashad), the imposing matron in The House That Will Not Stand, or any other of her many roles, she had a gravitas that stuck with you. Time Out New York’s Adam Feldman called Gravátt’s Faye “a model of rusted steel.” But it was her warmth I think you’ll hear most about in coming tributes. She was a mentor and a teacher to several actors. In terms of leaving a legacy, she not only leaves her performances and a family, but she leaves actors made better because of her. More than most can say.

Broadway/New York

IATSE: A Growing Movement: Off-Broadway Atlantic Theater Workers Vote Overwhelmingly to Join IATSE

Workers at the Off-Broadway Atlantic Theater Company have voted overwhelmingly to join the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), seeking to improve working conditions and secure fair wages. The decision follows a growing trend of theater employees across the industry organizing and unionizing to advocate for their rights. By joining IATSE, workers at the Atlantic Theater Company aim to address concerns related to job security, compensation, and workplace safety.

New York Times: Second Stage Relinquishes the Kiser

Only a few years into an 8 year lease extension signed in 2021, the company is giving up the space due to rising rents and unfavorable terms - including the requirement that they are responsible for building maintenance and upkeep, a growing cost that has become prohibitive for the company to continue producing in the space.

Regional

DC Theater Arts: American Shakespeare Center Announces Departure of Artistic Director Brandon Carter

The American Shakespeare Center has announced the departure of Artistic Director Brandon Carter. Carter's tenure was marked by innovative productions and a commitment to Shakespearean theater, but he has decided to step down to pursue other opportunities. Under his leadership, the American Shakespeare Center expanded its artistic programming and outreach efforts, strengthening its reputation as a leading Shakespearean theater company in the United States. The organization will now begin the search for a new artistic director to continue its mission of producing and promoting classical theater.

KERA News: Dallas City Council Approves May Bond Vote and $75.2 Million for Cultural Groups

The Dallas City Council has approved a May bond vote and allocated $75.2 million for cultural groups, including theaters, museums, and other arts organizations. The funding will support various projects aimed at enhancing the city's cultural landscape and promoting access to the arts. Among the beneficiaries are local theaters, such as the Dallas Theater Center and the Dallas Children's Theater, which will receive financial support for facility upgrades and program expansions. The investment reflects the city's commitment to fostering a vibrant arts community and providing residents with diverse cultural experiences.

American Theatre: Khalia Davis Named Producing Artistic Director of Coterie Theater

Khalia Davis has been appointed as the new Producing Artistic Director of the Coterie Theatre in Kansas City, Missouri. As Producing Artistic Director, she aims to expand the theater's reach and impact, particularly among underserved communities, while continuing to produce high-quality, thought-provoking productions for audiences of all ages.

American Theatre: Fountain Theatre Artistic Director Stephen Sachs to Retire

Stephen Sachs, the longtime Artistic Director of The Fountain Theatre in Los Angeles, has announced his retirement after leading the theater for over three decades. During his tenure, Sachs championed bold and socially relevant theater, earning acclaim for the Fountain's provocative productions and commitment to diversity and inclusion. Under his leadership, The Fountain Theatre became a hub for innovative storytelling and a catalyst for meaningful dialogue on pressing social issues. Sachs' retirement marks the end of an era for The Fountain Theatre, but his legacy of artistic excellence and advocacy will endure in the theater community.

North Carolina Theater Files for Chapter 11

After numerous appeals for emergency fundraising, the Raleigh institution is taking this step in an effort to reorganize the company and to emerge from bankruptcy. In the interim, they have fully suspended their 2024 season.

International

The Scotsman: Royal Scottish National Orchestra to Lose All Local Government Support

While the orchestra is still receiving support from the Scottish government at large, their funding from the City of Glasgow has been reduced to zero, and as such the Orchestra feels the need to reduce their work in the city, which currently equates to about 150 performance days per year.

Missed our last few newsletters?

February 20, 2024 - Who Benefits from the NYS Tax Cut for Broadway?

Another regional theatre has announced their closure, with Cutting Ball in San Francisco becoming the latest to look at their financial situation and decide that there was no viable path forward. This is something that we’ve been watching closely at BroadwayWorld, and moving forward we’ll have more coverage here and in our marketing update about the things that are working for theatres that have found a way to thrive in the new normal, and what is contributing to the closure of other theatres that haven’t been able to find their footing post-pandemic.

February 12, 2024 - AEA Members Authorize Strike, Boston Theaters Fight for Survival

AEA members voted to authorize a strike against the Broadway League of the development agreement - while this doesn’t mean the union will call a strike immediately, it does give them another bargaining chip in their ongoing negotiations with the League over the development contract. Regionally, we have a lot of stories of announced retirements and new leaders stepping into roles at institutions of all shapes and sizes. We’re also sharing a Boston Globe story this week that details the struggles of Boston area theaters to emerge from the pandemic.

February 5, 2024 - Roundabout Unveils the Todd Haimes, The Struggle of Toronto's Theatre Sector

Regionally, a few new leaders in high profile positions across the country - including Nicole A. Watson at Playwrights Center, Megwyn Sanders-Andrews at at Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, and Geneé Coreno at WAM. In the UK, a new union agreement for Equity and the ITC, and in Toronto, a tale of haves and have nots in the recovery of one of the most important theatre cities in North America.

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