Capital Playhouse is eliminating all its paid staff and cancelling its 2013-2014 Season in a Box, a slate of five musicals from September to June, citing financial reasons.
Ginger Eagle, chairman of the playhouse’s board, said two paid staffers are affected by the decision. She hopes to revive the annual series of five plays next year.
That means there are no events planned for the theater after the Kids at Play program wraps later this month until next June, when next year’s children’s program begins. Eagle said the playhouse is keeping that program. She said the theater may be rented or contract staff may be added to do productions in the meantime, but there will be no paid staff until next year.
“We’re going to start all over,” she said.
The five musicals will not be shown: Angry Housewives, A Little Holiday Magic, Tents or The Other Side of Grace, The Last 5 Years and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.
Eagle cited financial reasons for the move, including paying back taxes to the Internal Revenue Service. A letter to patrons informing them of the move cites a “severe decrease in charitable giving and a substantial turnover in staff” in recent years. It says that the Capital Playhouse would typically have $140,000 in donations and sponsorships at this point in the year, but has only $30,000. Also, only 50 percent of people have renewed their Season In A Box subscriptions.
Eagle said that the playhouse, a nonprofit children’s and community theater, will not refund subscriptions, but will apply them to the 2014-15 season.
Eagle cited several reasons for the theater’s financial difficulties, including the economic downturn and a $220,000 debt to the Internal Revenue Service that caused sponsors to pull their sponsorships. She said the organization is focused on retiring that debt, which dates to 2005.
The IRS recently accepted a settlement reducing the debt to about $67,000, she said.
In addition to those financial woes, Capital Playhouse weathered several controversies over the last three years. Last year, interim artistic director Troy Fisher left after he was arrested and charged with 14 counts of child pornography. Fisher’s charges were dismissed in February after a judge ruled that police improperly obtained evidence.
Eagle said she didn’t think the Fisher situation was responsible for the theater’s woes.
Also last year, former playhouse employee Joseph Sartori was convicted of felony voyeurism for secretly filming an actress while she undressed.
And founder and longtime artistic director Jeff Kingsbury parted ways with the theater in 2011 after a having been on requested paid leave. Kingsbury, a former member of the Olympia City Council, gained notoriety in 2010 after he revealed to The Olympian that he was the confidential informant who twice bought marijuana from then-councilman Joe Hyer as part of a sting operation.
Eagle asked for the public’s help going forward. “Contacting us would be wonderful,” she said. “Call the playhouse, call me, let us know you’re interested in talking about the future and where we can go with the future.”