Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, Struggling Financially, Considers Merger

Classic Arts News   Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, Struggling Financially, Considers Merger
The Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, faced with a deficit of $1 million, may downsize or merge with the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.

According to the Post-Gazette, sales for the company's performances of Dracula and of The Nutcracker, on which the company depends for 58 percent of its total season ticket sales, were disappointing. Subscriptions and single-ticket sales for the rest of the season are also down 15-20 percent.

The company, which employs 125 people, has weathered difficult times on and off since the 1980s. In 1997, with a $2.4 million deficit, PBT received a $5 million grant from the Howard Heinz foundation, given with the stipulation that the company never go into debt again. Since then, dancers, administrative staff, and musicians have taken voluntary four- to five-week layoffs without pay in order to save money.

The musicians who play for PBT performances took pay cuts in 2001 and 2003, and recently were asked to take a 50 percent pay cut that would leave their salaries at $70 per performance, well below scale for musicians at other Pittsburgh venues. The musicians have only recently responded to this request, and negotiations between PBT and musicians are continuing.

Officials from PBT have met with the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, which owns three of Pittsburgh's major cultural venues, to look into a merger, the paper says. The company already participates in the Trust's shared-services program, through which arts programs save money on things that can be bought collectively, such as office supplies and health care, but according to J. Kevin McMahon, the Trust's president and CEO, the Trust hasn't taken yet taken on any of PBT's job functions.

Jeanne Gleason, president of PBT's board, denies that this meeting took place.

The company will finish its 2004-05 season, including a week of performances at New York's Joyce Theater, without cutting any performances.

The PBT has been without a managing director since the departure of Steven Libman last May. According to the Post-Gazette, an offer was recently made to a candidate, but the company and the candidate could not reach an agreement.

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