One of the premier children's theatres in the U.S., the 22-year-old Great American Children's Theatre in Milwaukee, has closed its doors due to financial trouble.
According to a story by Mary Carole McCauley in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Jan. 22), the theatre must make good on tickets sold to productions that won't materialize. GACT is obligated to refund the ticket price to patrons, minus a $5 or 20 percent handling fee (whichever is less). Audience members must request their refunds within 90 days after the cancellation (April 16 is the due date here). If the theatre doesn't have the money to make good, the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection can fine the company can fine it between $50 $200 a ticket.
Citing a 30 percent decline in advance ticket sales and a $300,000 shortfall for this season, GACT decided to shut down permanently, thus cancelling three shows: The Peking Acrobats, The Witch Of Blackbird Pond and Pinocchio. $150,000 in tickets were sold to these shows to school groups in Madison, Milwaukee, Wausau and four cities in California.
Those requesting refunds are directed to contact GACT board member Caryn Melton at (414) 390-5738 after Jan. 27 (she's on vacation this week).
A call to the Great American Children's Theatre reached an answering machine message saying that a board member meeting of Jan. 16 resulted in a decision "to cease operations immediately" and cancel all further performances. --By David Lefkowitz