The Madison Repertory Theater closed its doors Friday due to insurmountable debt, preventing it from refunding previously purchased tickets.
According to producing artistic director Trevin Gay, the theater’s board of directors made the decision to dissolve the 40-year-old theater company Feb. 19 because of an approximately $500,000 budget deficit.
“I think it’s devastating, not only for the employees but for the city,” Gay said. “Art is part of what defines a community, part of what makes us a society. And people look for cultural offerings when searching for a place to live, but we just lost one.”
The theater announced earlier in the month it would not be able to produce the last two shows of the spring season at the Overture Center for the Arts and would be unable to refund previously purchased season tickets, Gay said.
According to spokesperson Rob Chappell, the Overture Center only found out Friday the Repertory Theater decided to close for good.
“This means a void in our operating for the community, and it’s sad, it’s hard.” Chappell said. “The [Repertory Theater] is a member of our family and it’s hard for us to go through this.”
Since the theater’s productions “Bus Stop” and “My Fair Lady” were cancelled, customers who bought season tickets only saw three out of the five plays they paid for, according to Chappell.
Gay said though the Repertory Theater sold 2,400 season tickets, it does not have any money to refund customers for the two cancelled shows.
However, the 1,200 people who bought tickets to the now-cancelled productions through the Overture Center can receive refunds and replacements because the Overture holds onto ticket revenue until its productions close, Chappell said.
According to Gay, single ticket sales have been down since early last year. Individual and corporate donations have slumped as well, all of which Gay attributed to the overall economic situation.
Past management mistakes contributed to the Repertory Theater’s downfall as well, Gay added. The Repertory Theater employed 16 full-time workers in addition to the 30 to 40 actors and designers for each production.
According to Chappell, the Repertory Theater is one of 11 independently owned resident companies that pay a reduced rent for use of the Overture building.
Chappell said the loss of rent revenue and revenue from the cancelled productions will impact the Overture Center financially, but the effect will not be large.
According to Chappell, they are already working on finding another theater company to replace the Madison Repertory Theater, who previously occupied the Overture Center’s Play Circle.
The Madison Cultural Arts District Board is the entity that operates the Overture Center. Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, said the Repertory Theater owes the center an undisclosed amount of money.
According to Verveer, MCAD is meeting Tuesday to discuss the debt and decide how to fill the vacancy left by the Repertory Theater.
“I’ve enjoyed many [Repertory Theater] performances over the years, so personally I am very saddened I won’t be able to enjoy their performances. … I know I speak for thousands of other community members,” Verveer said.