The troupe is seeking a new home for its 20th season, and plans to remain in the Connecticut River and shoreline region near Old Saybrook, CT. Dinner With Friends, opening Aug. 24, is River Rep's 96th production.
The late July announcement that the company is leaving shocked fans and subscribers who saw the troupe come of age in Ivoryton. River Rep's Jenn Thompson and Owen Thompson, the children of founding co-producers Joan Shepard and Evan Thompson, grew up before the eyes of the returning playgoers and continue to be producing partners who act, direct and administer along with their parents and artistic director and co-founder Warren Kelley.
The exit is due to "economic necessity," according to the partners. The contract with the Ivoryton Playhouse Foundation prevents the not-for-profit River Rep from raising money and growing its operation. IPF was concerned about competing fundraising efforts, and the companies could not come to an agreement.
"We love the Playhouse and are deeply saddened to have to make this move," artistic director Kelley said in a statement. "Having lived with a contract that precluded any operational fundraising whatsoever, River Rep has tried for years to negotiate with the Ivoryton Playhouse Foundation new terms that would allow us to pursue the fundraising activities necessary to sustain a professional, not-for-profit theatre company."
River Rep's "continued artistic growth and fiscal solvency" were at stake. IPF has wished the company well and is moving ahead with plans for its own productions, with amateur performers or a limited association with Actors' Equity Association. River Rep's Kelley told Playbill.com that a search committee made up of community members is in place. He said he's been encouraged by hundreds of letters of support, many offering suggestions of where the company might land. The goal is a theatre or space to accommodate about 300, the same size as Ivoryton.
"We are open to variety of scenarios for the future," Kelley said. "That might include moving into a completely working theatre, being in a theatre that's developing or taking over a space that could be turned into a theatre. We are actively looking and we are open to suggestions."
The 19th and final season for River Rep at Ivoryton ends with Donald Margulies' Pulitzer Prize-winning Dinner With Friends Aug. 24-Sept. 4. Jenn Thompson directs Warren Kelley, Owen Thompson, Susan Stevens and Jean Tafler in the warm and painful comedy-drama about what happens to two bonded couples when one couple is shattered by divorce.
Kelley said the final River Rep season at Ivoryton has been the best year yet, in terms of artistic growth. The box office for The Mikado and An Ideal Husband this season boomed.
"We've taken the company to an extraordinary place this year," he said.
River Rep tickets are $27-$29. The Ivoryton Playhouse is located at 103 Main St. (off Rt 9) in the Ivoryton section of Essex, Connecticut. For ticket information, call the box office at (860) 767-8348.
For more information about River Rep, visit www.riverrep.com.