Arts The Empty Space is Dead: The Update
posted by October 27 at 18:11 PMon
From the press release: “With deep regret, The Empty Space Board of Directors announced today that The Empty Space Theatre will cease operations effective immediately… The Empty Space does not have the financing needed to manage cash flow over the coming months.”
First it left its Fremont home, because it couldn’t afford the space. Seattle University coaxed it into the Lee Center for the Performing Arts on Capitol Hill, where it produced Bust (by Lauren Weedman) and Louis Slotin Sonanta
(by Paul Mullin), both of which were great productions.
Obviously, there are some questions that need asking: Wasn’t the SU home rent-free? Who are the debtors? Is SU pissed about it?
Damn. I really wanted to see Nick Garrison in I Am My Own Wife.
Update: I spoke with board president Erik Blachford who said the board had been seriously talking about shutting down for a week or so (though it had been in the backs of their minds for longer) and officially voted on it in the last day. It wasn’t the $75,000 debt that killed the theater as much as bad cash flow management. “In theater, there is more or less money coming in at different times of year,” he said. “Looking over the next several months, we saw a major deficit we couldn’t finance and thought it would be irresponsible to start spending money we didn’t have.”
Basically, the Empty Space was planning, in the next week, to start spending on marketing subscriptions for the next season and ramping up for their December production of Forbidden X-Mas. The theater couldn’t afford it, couldn’t get a line of credit to cover it, so had to close. Blachford said there was no specific grant that fell through, but there was, in his words “a smoking gun”: a too-small board.
“An organization the size of Empty Space should have around 20 people on its board,” he said, “and, as of yesterday, it only had eight.” That’s too small for the sustained fundraising that the Empty Space needed to stay afloat. “I haven’t been very effective in finding people to fill the board,” Blachford conceded.
And Seattle University? “They are very understanding about it,” he said. “They know that relationships with arts organizations involve risk.”