Arizona Theatre Company isn’t out of trouble yet, but it’s on its way.
Increased donations, lower ticket prices and a smaller but more cohesive board have contributed to the theater company raising $650,000 of a $1 million goal.
ATC ended its fiscal year June 30 with a $1 million deficit, a fractured board and a staff that was divided and dwindling. In addition, major donors withheld gifts because of the company’s apparent disarray.
It began to turn around in August when then-managing director Mark Cole resigned, Artistic Director David Ira Goldstein agreed to stay through the season rather than step down in December as he had planned, and 16-year ATC veteran Jessica Andrews returned as managing director.
In the last few months, the company has raised $650,000 in cash and pledges, and received loans of $150,000 — $50,000 each from the Industrial Development Authorities in Tucson, Pima County and Phoenix.
“Those loans are giving us some breathing space,” said Andrews.
Saturday, the company held its annual gala and was expected to meet its $100,000 goal (figures won’t be in until all costs are calculated).
“It’s nice to see a groundswell of support for the theater,” said the head of ATC’s Board of Trustees, Robert Glaser. “The theater means a lot to many, many people. It’s so nice so see a rebirth of support for it.”
Though the theater was not in debt, the deficit was a major problem. In order to correct that, the budget was dropped from about $7 million to $6 million, and is likely to remain at that figure for the 2014-15 season, said Andrews. Top ticket prices have dropped to $72; in-demand shows could raise prime seats $5-$15. In the 2012-13 season, prices were raised 10 percent, topping out at $78; if seats were in demand, some tickets went as high as $93. Ticket sales last year fell 15 percent, and ATC points to the increased pricing as one of the reasons for the deficit.
ATC’s board, now smaller because of resignations, has put differences aside and rallied behind the theater to help raise funds, said Glaser.
One of those board members, Mike Kasser, had withheld his annual gift of $100,000 until the company could produce a viable plan for where it was going.
When Andrews and Goldstein agreed to work as a team again at the company, Kasser made his donation and has actively helped raise other funds. “I asked and they gave,” Kasser said. Among those who gave was Jim Click, who donated $100,000 in hopes that it serves as a catalyst for more donations from the Phoenix area, where Click is well known. Much of the giving thus far has come from Tucsonans.
Kasser has also been instrumental in the development of an “action plan” for the theater.
The plan — the precursor to a business plan, said Kasser — was essential in order to bring back donors and attract new ones.
“It helps when talking to people you hope will donate,” said Kasser. “They want to know what the thinking and the structure is.”
While spirits and support seem to be on the rise, Andrews is quick to point out that they are not ready to sit back.
She wants to pay off the $150,000 Industrial Development loans by the end of the season. “We don’t want the theater to carry that debt,” she said.
She also wants to put $50,000 back into a cash reserve fund, which had been depleted at the beginning of this fiscal year.
She expects to end this season with a balanced budget and strong support for the next season.
Much of this will be done without sacrificing the productions, she added.
“We have a staff of very creative people,” said Andrews. “They can create these incredible costumes and sets on a very tight budget. There might be shows with smaller casts, but the theater goer won’t see a lesser show.”