Willows Theatre, in CA Bay Area, Is in Financial Peril

News   Willows Theatre, in CA Bay Area, Is in Financial Peril The Willows Theatre Company in Martinez, CA, in the Bay Area, announced Sept. 2 that it is faced with a financial crisis that may force the shutting down of its main-stage facility in Concord and a cabaret in Martinez — "perhaps forever" — unless it can raise $350,000 by Nov. 1.

"For more than a year we've been struggling to achieve a balanced budget but the reality is that the recession has had a major impact on our operations," stated Charles Lewis, board president, and Richard Elliott, artistic director, in a joint announcement. "We've cut staff, sharply reduced expenses and stretched every scarce dollar, but clearly it is not enough. Any further cuts could put us out of business for good. Clearly, we need help."

Lewis warned, "Unless we get an infusion of cash quickly, we cannot sustain our operations and continue to present the high-quality shows our patrons are accustomed to. Donations from our patrons and loyal supporters could help us get through the immediate crisis and pave the way to recovery."

Like so many theatre companies, The Willows has been hit hard by a substantial reduction in grants from foundations and corporations as well as donations from individuals, Lewis said.

In addition, ticket sales, which cover only about 40 percent of expenses, have fluctuated "due mainly to economic conditions," he said. He said the board is reviewing a number of options short of shutting down, but none appear to solve the immediate financial problem.

The 2009-10 season is to include Hair, Barefoot in the Park, Little Me, the return of the musical Brimstone plus two more titles. The company is accepting donations at the Willows Cabaret Theatre, 636 Ward Street, Martinez, CA, 94553. To make a donation by phone, call (925) 798-1300 or visit willowstheatre.com.

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The Willows began producing shows at its 210-seat theatre in the Willows Shopping Center in Concord, CA, in 1974. The company opened the 192-seat Willows Cabaret at the Campbell Theatre in downtown Martinez three years ago. Its administrative offices, rehearsal studios and scene shop are also in Martinez.

Its mission statement is this: "The Willows Theatre Company is a non-profit professional theatre company that develops and produces contemporary American plays and musicals. The company provides an environment to educate and nurture the skills of theatre artists.

"We strive to perpetuate the art form of live theatre by creating relationships with playwrights, designers, actors, students and other theatre artists whose work will impact current and future audiences. We provide a valuable opportunity for first employment for many developing theatre artists.

"In order to ensure that our audiences, students and artists can best experience the art of live theatre, the Willows Theatre Company maintains its own facilities, employs professional administrative staff and provides related services.

"Quality live theatre provides an emotional outlet for a community’s need to gather and reflect, and the goal of the Willows Theatre Company is to ensure that the art of live theatre is accessible and relevant to the audience of the San Francisco East Bay Area."

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