Georgia Shakespeare, one of Atlanta’s most valuable cultural assets, has closed its doors for good. The announcement came Wednesday, Oct. 8, with the following press release:
With deep regret, the Georgia Shakespeare board of trustees voted unanimously to cease operations, given the theater company’s substantial financial deficiencies. The action includes the cancellation of the production of Holiday Panto planned for December, as well as ending the employment of remaining staff.
In September, the company canceled its October production of Henry V, and said it would evaluate the future direction of Georgia Shakespeare in consultation with its longtime supporters and key members of the Atlanta funding community.
“While we were heartened by a strong wave of moral support, the reality is that we were unable to secure the funds required to create a sustainable path forward. Consequently, we came to the sad conclusion that we needed to cease operations,” said board chairman Daniel Norris. “We apologize to our patrons for having to cancel Henry V and Panto, and we thank all our loyal supporters who have backed us so generously over the past 29 years.”
Despite the financial challenges, Georgia Shakespeare delivered some of its most notable accomplishments in 2014. More than 5,800 people attended its production of As You Like It at Piedmont Park in just five days, with 1,642 people setting a single-show attendance record. During the critically acclaimed production of the British comedy One Man, Two Guvnors, the company also attracted its first sellout of the expansive Conant Theater in many years.
“We made great progress in recent years in creating a sustainable business model, but our lack of operating capital made us extremely fragile financially,” said managing director Jennifer Bauer-Lyons. “Many people have fought heroically to enable Georgia Shakespeare to keep producing world-class theater with great local artists, but ultimately we were not able to attract the operating capital required for us to operate as a healthy organization.”
Georgia Shakespeare was founded in 1986 as a summer festival. Over the years, it developed as one of Atlanta’s most prominent cultural institutions, operating as one of two LORT theaters (along with the Alliance Theatre). The company focused on “timeless stories now,” with contemporary interpretations of Shakespeare serving as the core of its programming.
“We believe this is a huge loss for Atlanta, given the critical role Georgia Shakespeare has played in the city’s cultural ecosystem,” said Norris. “We would encourage all Atlantans to fight vigilantly to support their favorite local professional theaters and arts organizations.”
Patrons who have previously purchased tickets to Panto should check Georgia Shakespeare’s website for further information.
Co-founder and producing artistic director Richard Garner expressed appreciation to Georgia Shakespeare supporters. “I am indebted to the artists, staff, board, funders and ticket buyers who made up Georgia Shakespeare over 29 years. Together we created a body of work of which we can all be proud, and I feel very optimistic that the legacy of this theater company will live on through the work of GS artists and staff members who continue to flourish throughout the rest of the Atlanta cultural community.”