Seattle's Intiman Theatre cancels 2011 season to 'pause, plan, prepare' for 2012

Intiman Theatre website

"As many of you know, the past several months have been extremely challenging for Intiman Theatre. While we recently announced that the initial Impact Intiman campaign benchmark was met and that we were launching our strategic planning phase of the campaign, the reality of our financial situation has made it necessary to reevaluate the potential for the current season.  As much as we had hoped to conduct a strategic plan while operating, it is evident that we need to close the 2011 season following the final performance of All My Sons on April 17. With our current income limitations there's no alternative.  Our primary intent has and continues to be to preserve the future of Intiman - and our hope was to save the season, too. Simultaneous efforts to accomplish both are simply unattainable. While we are driven by that "show must go on" kind of determination, we must ensure that shows go on the Intiman stage for years and that can only happen if we pause, plan, and prepare for strong seasons in 2012 and beyond.  By canceling the current season, we preserve and protect the ability to serve the community in 2012, when the board intends to reopen the theatre and continue Intiman's history of presenting this community with engaging art. We are still working through details of how this impacts our constituents and will have more information available in the next week."


Philadelphia Orchestra files for bankruptcy protection to avoid shutting down

The Philadelphia Inquirer, 4/17/11

The board of the 111-year-old Philadelphia Orchestra voted Saturday in favor of a Chapter 11 reorganization. The claim was filed this weekend in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, and the orchestra was expected to list assets at several times liabilities -- unusual for businesses seeking bankruptcy protection.  The move makes Philadelphia's the first major U.S. orchestra to file for bankruptcy.  Bankruptcy was also approved for the Academy of Music, which the orchestra owns, and the Philly Pops.  Concerts and business operations continue unfettered. In fact, orchestra leaders in the next few days expect to roll out a $160 million fund-raising campaign -- their largest and riskiest ever -- to save the orchestra from the worst-case scenario of liquidation.  Management said the bankruptcy was an unhappy but prudent step in a long-term recovery plan. Players committee chairman John Koen called the decision "really tragic.... [Management] has not turned over every get the broad-based support other orchestras have. I know of players who are considering auditions for other orchestras, and I hope that we will not lose the great orchestra we have. If we do, what is the point of all this? Who would care about funding a second-rate orchestra?"  Management has weighed bankruptcy for more than a year since deciding it no longer wanted to participate in the players' defined-benefit pension fund. Doing so would trigger liability of $25 million (the exact amount is in dispute), but participation represents an annual obligation of about $3 million that leadership believes it can shed in bankruptcy proceedings, along with other contractual obligations it says would save it more than $40 million over five years. 


3 years after bankruptcy, a shut-down Honolulu Symphony to play again?

WITV-TV News [Honolulu]

An exploratory committee announced it has reached a three-year agreement with unionized musicians to revive the bankrupt 110-year-old Honolulu Symphony [which] hasn't held a concert since December of 2009, when it filed for bankruptcy. In December of last year, the symphony converted its bankruptcy to Chapter 7, closing for good and liquidating its assets.  The new symphony plans to begin concerts in the fall. The deal would fund 64 musicians for a 30-week work schedule.  Musicians would earn $30,000 a year, roughly the same salaries they took home during the last full year of operations two years ago.  "After a difficult and dark two years for our musicians and our fans, this agreement represents a light at the end of the tunnel," said Jonathan Parrish, a spokesman for the musicians.  Many details must still be worked out, including a name for the orchestra.  The group is also looking for an executive director and a conductor.  The new orchestra has yet to book a performance space. That means the organization will have to squeeze between other acts which have already booked the symphony's long time home base, the Blaisdell Concert Hall.  The new group said symphony management will be more efficient with much lower overhead than the previous now-defunct organization.  "The size of the budget that we will be operating with begins several million dollars lower than it was in the past," said Steven Monder, who was president of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra for 37 years and served as an advisor to the Hawaii group.  Monder said there's lots of work still to be done to make sure Hawaii is no longer the only state in the country without a professional symphony orchestra. 


Commentary: Letting go the lifestyle to which arts orgs have become accustomed

Diane Ragsdale, blog Jumper, 4/11/11

Syracuse Symphony announced it is filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy because it is unable to pay off its debts; Detroit Symphony's musicians have recently voted to end a six-month strike, accepting pay cuts necessitated by a deteriorating financial situation; and New York City Opera announced it will not announce its next season until it has a balanced 2011-12 budget. There should be no shame for organizations that are coming down the mountain, so to speak -- just as there should be no shame in having one's net worth and lifestyle change dramatically through divorce, or from losing one's assets or high-paying job due to the recession or retirement. However, people (and organizations) sometimes respond to challenging material circumstances either by being in denial about them (and continuing to spend money as if they still have it) or by being bitter towards the world because they no longer have all that they once had.  It is, indeed, a difficult reality that many arts organizations may not be able to sustain the level of operations to which they have become accustomed.  The sooner organizations can face their changed circumstances and make the necessary changes, the more likely they are to have control over their destiny. And please know, 'make the necessary changes' is not my euphemism for 'birth a radical innovation.' In fact, lately I'm beginning to wonder whether the process of adapting to a changing environment has become harder than it needs to be because funders and others have become so fixated on the idea that future success will come only through 'radical innovation'.  I'm not saying that innovations should not be enabled or pursued, but I have a hunch we could see some pretty great results through good-old-fashioned, common-sense, it's-about-time, just-do-the-right-thing, 'improvements.'


Photo essay: 75 abandoned theaters around the U.S.

Dream Theater marquee

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