NC Shakespeare Festival suspends operations

cowens@newsobserver.comAugust 15, 2013 

— The North Carolina Shakespeare Festival has suspended operations, citing “extreme financial challenges.”

Known as NCShakes, the theater company aimed to “entertain, educate and enrich North Carolina students and citizens” through productions, youth programs and school tours. Founded in 1977, it has operated for 36 years.

“We would rather curtail and limit the organization’s operations at this point than proceed with a traditional year of programming that could put us in a debt position from which we could never recover,” said artistic and managing director Pedro Silva.

The company’s Board of Trustees determined that the company’s financial circumstances required a suspension of operations and a reduction of expenses, according to a statement by the company.

In practice, Silva said, this means the company will have limited programming and will look at how it can restructure its activities, including reducing fulltime staff positions.

NCShakes receives its funding from ticket sales, grants, sponsorship by businesses and support from Guilford County, the North Carolina Arts Council, the state and various fundraising efforts, Silva said. The company lost $200,000 through operations last year and wants to avoid doing that a second year.

“As we started to really look carefully at the reality of our budget and our projections, we realized the odds were great we’d lose at least that much this year, if not more,” Silva said.

The company in April announced its 2013-2014 season, which included two productions at the High Point Theatre, a new summer youth theater program and, for the first time, a year-round educational tour of schools throughout the state. The tour, called Shakespeare To Go, typically operates a spring season program only.

The company hopes to continue its Shakespeare To Go program in the spring semester, but it is cancelled for the fall semester. The suspension announcement came at the end of the company’s summer youth program, which it finished.

The two scheduled productions were a September production of “Macbeth” and the company’s traditional production of “A Christmas Carol” in December. Both have been cancelled.

Robert McDowell, who wrote several reviews of NCShakes for the Classical Voice of North Carolina, said the company was one of the finest in the state and that the suspension is a setback for the arts community.

“It’s a tragedy for the state of North Carolina because it provided such high-quality interpretation of Shakespeare,” he said.

The suspension, McDowell said, is part of a bigger story of local arts companies folding. Silva agreed, saying that the challenge to “make ends meet” in the current economy has been experienced by many arts organizations.

Silva said he hopes the company will resume normal operations next July, the beginning of fiscal year 2014-15.

Owens: 919-829-4567

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