Execs bow out of Stamford Center

Non-profit org facing red ink for this season

It’s curtains for the board chairman, president and executive director of Stamford Center for the Arts, all of whom resigned last week from the 25-year-old Connecticut not-for-profit presenting organization, which runs the 1,580-seat Palace Theater and the 757-seat Rich Forum.

The center’s state subsidy for the new fiscal year, which started this week, dropped dramatically from an anticipated $1.2 million to $500,000, worsening its financial stability. Org was already facing red ink for this season, with accumulated debt, cash flow problems and no endowment.

Board chair Michael Cacace, board president Rick Lake and exec director Ken Wesler exited after the full board nixed a plan to suspend all new contracts for the season until a strategy was established to deal with the debt. Remaining board members are reported to be assessing the effects of these sudden exits while considering their plans for the new season.

State legislators have been attempting to whittle down the annual special subsidies in the state budget and replace them with increased grants to the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism. The most Stamford received from the state was $2.5 million for the 2001-02 season. The center’s annual budget is $6 million.

Located 45 minutes from New York, Stamford has had difficulty establishing itself as a viable theater over its quarter-century history in what’s widely viewed as a problematic market. Center executives — including commercial producer Alexander Cohen, as well as more recent heads George Moredock III and Douglas C. Evans — failed to find the necessary mix of programming, audience and donor support to sustain the organization.

It’s unclear what will emerge for the new season, how local arts groups will be affected and what the role is for touring groups and rentals.

In the past few years, several shows have used Stamford as a try-out house, including the pre-Broadway revival of “Bells Are Ringing” and preems of the musicals “St. Heaven,” “Empire” and “Two Cities” (not the “A Tale of Two Cities” tuner currently bound for the Rialto). New productions of shows the center was commissioning were dropped this past season due to a lack of funding.

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