Theatre in the Square owes back rent, sets deadlines


Cash-strapped Theatre in the Square, which recently saw the resignation of Managing Director Raye Varney, must raise $60,000 by March 16 to keep its doors open in the short term, and $400,000 by the end of its fiscal year, June 30, according to Mike Russell, chairman of playhouse's board of directors.

Russell made his remarks during a special City Council meeting called by Mayor Steve Tumlin to hear from the various cultural groups in the downtown area and brainstorm on ways to help them survive.

“We will decide whether we keep the doors open or whether we raise the money either in cash or pledges going forward for the rest of this year,” Russell said.

Russell said he asked his board on Feb. 18 to raise $60,000 in 30 days. “That is what we have to have to keep our key vendors from shutting us down,” he said.

The theater owes its landlord, Councilman Philip Goldstein, more than $125,000 in back rent. On Feb. 8, Goldstein sent the theater staff a letter giving the organization three days to pay the full debt, something it has yet to do, Russell said. “It’s your basic lawyer letter that says you have three days to cure your default, and I’m assuming from reading the letter his ability to lock the doors on us if needed,” Russell said.

Before paying Goldstein rent, the board is committed to making its payroll, Russell said. “We’re right now struggling to operate on a day-to-day basis,” Russell said. “We literally cannot pay a seamstress $100 to do a costume for us for our play. … We’re about $28,000 short of payroll for this next run, so we’re making payroll, then we’ll pay any money that comes in after that” to the vendors, he said.

In all, the theater needs $400,000 to survive through June 30. Come June 30, it can then take the revenue from the season ticket sales of 2013 and use those funds to continue operations, Russell said.

Theatre in the Square's next main stage production, Pearl Cleage's Flyin' West, opens March 7, and the playhouse finishes its 2011-2012 season with Tuna Goes Vegas, April 25-May 27. One can only hope the company's 30th season is not its last.

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