Vancouver Playhouse Theatre chair hoping a benefactor will rise from the ashes

A petition to save the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company has garnered 845 signatures and counting, but the chair of the company’s board says the organization has not yet received any offers to dig the company out of the financial hole in which it is buried.

On Friday (March 9), board chair Jeff Schulz and artistic managing director Max Reimer announced that the company would be ceasing operations following the final performance on Saturday of Hunchback.

Today, said Schulz, the company served notice to its employees, and will soon begin the task of paying off creditors.

“We’re giving notices to everyone today, so pending something miraculous happening, it is still curtains,unless somebody comes forward.” he told the Straight by phone. But he did hold out one small glimmer of hope: “We’re going to try and make a few asks in the next little while to see if there’s somebody that might be interested, but we have to proceed as we had announced.”

Should a benefactor emerge, said Schulz, the company would not attempt to reinvent itself or assume a new model. “I think we would continue in the current model for the time being, and continue to work to find ways to improve the company longer-term. We actually were having an okay year this year, it’s just we ran out of cash and were unable to service our debt anymore.”

According to Schulz, in order to survive, the company would require a cash injection of $1 million this year, and $500,000 annually for the following two years.



Mike Puttonen

Mar 12, 2012 at 3:20pm

Lets say the Playhouse offers the Playhouse community a pair of subscriptions for opening nights, good for 10 seasons, for $5,000.00? What if 20 couples in the Playhouse community buy that package? Isn't that million $ right there? Combine that with the province coming up to Sask. levels in supporting the Playhouse, and the $1.5m is gone soon enough.

That's basically how the Performing Arts Lodge was put through, wasn't it? People who had money enough bought life-leases on some of the apartments, giving PAL enough capital at the start. That commitment triggered the matching funds needed from gov't, and allowed the rest of that much-needed subsidized housing to be built.

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Mike Puttonen

Mar 12, 2012 at 3:25pm

OOOps. typo

That should be 200 couples of course, not 20.
(and yes I know there aren't 200 crazy couples, but there may be 40...)

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Mar 12, 2012 at 6:10pm

Do you want a world class city? With world class arts and culture? Then we don't need no benefactor, let the mother*theatre* burn. I've been all over the world and I've seen some wonderful theatre, and then I've seen several productions at the bloated, lazy Vancouver Playhouse. Do I want artists to do great work here? YES. Do I want a flagship Theatre company in Vancouver? YES. And the sooner we dismantle this antiquated institution and kick out its cultural gatekeepers and funding hogs, the sooner we can build ourselves a shining theatre on the hill for all by all.

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Mar 12, 2012 at 6:51pm

Ummmm...Im pretty sure the Playhouse wasn't having an "okay year this year" if they had to fold a 49 year old company due to $1 million dollar debt. Having an "okay year this year" and "running out of cash" aren't things that go hand in hand.

Obviously this model wasn't working. It's time for a new one.

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Arts Worker

Mar 12, 2012 at 9:12pm

Let the company fold with dignity. Come on Mr. Schulz, you announced on Friday that the Playhouse was closing. Now you are saying if a benefactor suddenly steps forward that the company won't reinvent itself or change its business model. Clearly, with subscriptions way down, something was seriously wrong with the business model and the art.

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Sharon Malone

Mar 12, 2012 at 10:42pm

I'm not saying the model is perfect, and there is always room for improvement, but this situation was not caused by Jeff Schultz or Max Reimer. They were doomed from the start with the lack of support from the city and an insurmountable debt load. Vancouver City Council needs to do better for the arts.

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Kyler S.

Mar 13, 2012 at 1:04am

How can they throw in the towel before asking for help from everyone who loves the Playhouse?

Yes, I know that all subscribers are encouraged to make a charitable donation when they buy their tickets each season, but I would expect more people would donate if they were told the future existence of the Playhouse was at stake.

I'm not sure how many subscribers there are, but even $100 x that number would be a good start.

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For more information

Mar 13, 2012 at 3:10am

Reading this wil inform you on the situation and how this happened.

*Note that since this was written last September neither the operating grant nor the residency terms were implemented by the City. Producing stellar art is difficult under bad terms. But did you see Death of A Salesman? Amazing. RED? Outstanding.

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Mar 13, 2012 at 1:54pm

Should a benefactor step forward, Schultz says the company would not try to reinvent itself or assume a new model. "We would continue in the current model". What model is that??? The model that needs $1 million this year and $500,000 each of the next two years? You're $2 million in the hole and you think that's a "sustainable" model????? You deserve to go out of business. And the taxpayers shouldn't have to pony up money for this or any other "artistic" endeavor that can't balance a budget and keeps feeding at the public trough.

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