Press-Republican

Thursday

October 3, 2013

Depot Theatre cuts full-time staff

WESTPORT — The Depot Theatre is restructuring and laying off its full-time paid staff to try to alleviate a dire financial situation.

Effective at the end of September, the nonprofit group eliminated the jobs held by Artistic Director Shami McCormick and Managing Director Angel Wuellner.

Depot Theatre Board of Trustees President Kim Rielly said that, as part of a new strategic plan being developed for the theater, both full-time staff positions were cut as a cost-savings measure.

Rielly said the theater has been ailing financially.

“Producing professional theater in a rural area is extremely challenging,” she said. “Ticket sales (for the past season), although they were strong, were not as high as anticipated.”

‘WORTH SAVING’

The employees’ salaries were not released, but the Depot Theatre has an annual budget of about $350,000, Rielly said. She said that budget comes from both ticket sales and donations.

The 136-seat theater produces plays in quarters at the Westport Train Station using professional actors who must belong to Actors Equity Association.

The theater has a seasonal schedule. 

No more plays will be produced until the theater’s 36th season starts in the spring, Rielly said.

The last production of the season was “Lombardi” in September, a play about legendary coach Vince Lombardi.

The Depot Theatre staged many musicals, which are expensive to produce and market to an audience, Rielly said.

“Examples of nonprofit arts organizations going out of business are abundant, and the board is determined to not let that happen to the Depot. 

“We believe that it’s an organization worth saving.”

‘UNIQUE PLACE’

Rielly said a new organizational structure and a plan for long-term sustainability will be put into place after the strategic planning process is completed. 

She said part-time interim staff and volunteers are taking over day-to-day operations of the theater until the reorganization is in place.

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