Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Coeur d'Alene Summer Theatre decides to close

Posted By on Wed, Aug 28, 2013 at 1:51 PM

Last week's issue of The Inlander featured a passionate opinion piece by one of our commentators, Mary Lou Reed, urging readers to do whatever they could to save the Coeur d'Alene Summer Theatre.

The long-running professional production group made public their serious financial issues (they needed north of $150,000 to keep afloat) earlier this month. But today, the theater's board of directors announced that they were shutting down the Coeur d'Alene Summer Theatre.

Not closing for the season, mind you, but for good.

People who made donations during the panicked plea for cash a few weeks back were told that their contributions would be used to settle the theater's debts, which in a release from board president Joseph Andersen, were said to be substantial.

"With both season ticket and individual ticket sales down significantly this year, there is no indication Coeur d'Alene has an appetite for the type of presentation our organization, in its current form, is consistently able to produce," wrote Anderson.

He went on to say that the board chose not to solicit more funds from individuals or businesses to keep the theater afloat because they were unable to offer a "fresh face and revised vision for our organization." 

[UPDATE 4:36 pm]

Michelle Mendez, the former executive director of the CDA Summer Theatre just got back to me. She, along with artistic director Roger Welch, were let go on Monday evening after they were "excused" from a board of director's executive session meeting.

"I'm shocked. We raised $60,000 in less than two weeks," says Mendez of the rapid fundraising efforts the theater engaged in during the tail end of the theater's season. 

Mendez, who was executive director this year and spent the three years prior as business manager, says the locks on the CDA Summer Theatre offices have been changed and she hasn't had a chance to retrieve her personal belongings from the building.

The reason she says this came as such a shocker was that she and her staff had prepared a proposal for the board to retool the theater, including trimming down to three shows. She thought those changes, along with increased fundraising, would help solve the theater's financial woes.

But, she says the board was not keen in increasing their fundraising from the community. In the past, the theater — unlike most other nonprofit artistic organizations — has relied almost entirely on ticket sales to fund the operation, rather than going after donations, grants and other funding options.

"The statement came from a board that was notinterested in doing any kind of fundraising at all," she says, adding that she's recommended increasing fundraising since she arrived with the organization four years ago.

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Mike Bookey

Mike Bookey was the Inlander's culture editor from 2012-2016. He previously held the same position at The Source Weekly in Bend, Oregon.