Kingsbury out at Capital Playhouse

Olympia: Theater board says it has regained its financial footing

April 15, 2011 

Kingsbury out at Capital Playhouse

Jeff Kingsbury, whose Capital Playhouse had some trouble with vandals in 2008, went on unpaid leave from the theater late last year after telling the theater's board about the playhouse's financial troubles. The playhouse is again solvent but has parted ways with Kingsbury.

THE OLYMPIAN FILE, 2008

  • 'FAME – THE MUSICAL'

    Next at the Capital Playhouse is "Fame – The Musical." Based on the movie "Fame," the play follows students at New York’s School for the Performing Arts.

    When: May 5-28.

    Tickets: $22.40 to $39.

    Website: www.capitalplayhouse.com.

    Location: 612 E. Fourth Ave., Olympia.

    Phone: 360-943-2744.

Capital Playhouse, once on the brink of financial collapse, is again solvent but has parted ways with founder Jeff Kingsbury, the theater announced Thursday.

Kingsbury informed the theater’s board in October that the playhouse was having financial difficulties. He went on unpaid leave shortly thereafter.

In November, the theater announced it needed to raise $20,000 to pay back rent and other debts.

“It was so exciting the day when we finally had money in our checkbook,” board president David Reynolds said about the theater’s return to solvency.

The theater board also announced the hiring of Joe Vansyckle as managing director. Vansyckle has worked in that position since December in an unpaid interim capacity.

Troy Arnold Fisher will continue his longtime position as musical director and continue to serve as interim artistic director.

Over the past several months the theater has reorganized its staff, cut expenses by 40 percent, adopted new accounting practices and restructured financial planning and ticketing services, Vansyckle said.

“We have buckled down and weathered the storm for the last six months,” he said.

The theater’s patrons have been loyal and understanding, Reynolds said.

“Every time we’ve asked for financial assistance, they’ve provided it,” he said. In turn, “We made a public promise to take charge of the theater.”

Reynolds praised staff members, many of whom, like Vansyckle, worked without pay and put in extra hours.

Despite the recent turbulence, the playhouse is evolving artistically, Vansyckle said. The coming season will see the addition of two nonmusicals. The first, “Brighton Beach Memoirs,” is set to open in September.

Seventy percent of season ticket holders have purchased tickets for the optional two nonmusicals, Vansyckle said.

“That’s a healthy indication that they are engaged and willing to take the ride with us,” he said.

Reynolds wouldn’t go into details on Kingsbury’s departure, describing it as a personnel decision. He did say it was the board’s decision not to continue with Kingsbury at the helm based on philosophical differences regarding theater management.

“I’ve never second-guessed any artistic decision by Jeff Kingsbury,” Reynolds said. “It’s emotional to say goodbye to the founder of the theater as well as someone who’s contributed so much to the community.”

Kingsbury, a former Olympia city councilman, has been a polarizing figure in Olympia the past several years. In April 2010, Kingsbury revealed to The Olympian that he was the confidential informant who twice bought marijuana from then-councilman and former colleague Joe Hyer as part of a sting operation.

Kingsbury also was unpopular with some for voting to raise building-height limits on the downtown isthmus to allow a condominium complex as tall as 90 feet. Kingbury’s stance was a factor in his being voted out of office in 2009; the council subsequently voted to return height limits on the isthmus to 35 feet.

But others have lauded Kingsbury for his work on the council and with the playhouse and for being a champion for the arts.

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