Maine theater at financial crossroads

Legiter needs $270,000 to avoid closure

PORTLAND, Maine — Another nonprofit resident theater is facing extinction. According to a fundraising letter sent to 7,000 members of the Portland community, the Portland Stage Co., now in its 25th season, will be closed if it can’t raise $270,000 by May 31.

The letter, from PSC artistic director Anita Stewart, said that her board has launched the fundraising campaign in an effort to cover its current deficit and that anticipated for next season and “to stabilize our bottom line so there is breathing room to address the larger issues of how to raise a permanent endowment which no financially stable theater can be without.”

It asks each member of the community to send in $25 or “any amount, or even an encouraging note,” and adds that the tax-deductible gifts “will be held in escrow, along with next year’s subscriptions, and returned in full if the theater is forced to close.”

Subscriber increases

Ironically, the number of single-ticket buyers at the theater increased by 21% this season, giving it around 40,000 attendees for its 1998-99 season ending May 9. Maine’s 290-seat PSC mounted eight full productions this season and had 2,500 subscribers.

Stewart pointed out that the theater has rejected raising its ticket prices to reflect the actual costs of its productions. “We have been biting the bullet,” she added. “Our annual budget (currently around $1.1 million) has been nearly flat for six years, our staff has been reduced from 26 to 20 since 1992, our plays have fewer actors, and we are still looking for ways to stretch our income.”