The Rep calls fundraising campaign a success, will live to play another day
The financially embattled Repertory Theatre of St. Louis has raised enough money to finish its current season and announce a lineup for next season.
Theater leaders said in October that they’d need to raise $2.5 million by the end of 2023 to proceed with planned productions of “Moby Dick” and “August: Osage County” this year.
The theater hasn’t hit that total — but it’s within “spitting distance,” managing director Danny Williams said, making it possible to complete an amended version of the Rep’s 2023-24 season and to announce its next season in coming months.
“We’re extremely close to hitting our goal,” William said. “Success is getting to the end of this campaign and being able to do ‘August: Osage County' and to continue our work in the future,” Williams said.
In October, the theater canceled two limited-run productions scheduled for this year and switched a lavish production of “A Christmas Carol” scheduled for December with a less expensive option.
A December event dubbed “Rally for the Rep” raised $150,000 for the theater, with help from actor John Goodman, who sat for an onstage interview before reading aloud “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” the poem by Clement Clarke Moore.
David Catlin’s acrobatic adaptation of “Moby Dick” began performances Wednesday at the Rep’s mainstage, the Loretto-Hilton Center for the Performing Arts on the campus of Webster University. “August: Osage County,” a Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Tracy Letts, will begin performances there on March 19.
Theater leaders plan to announce their 2024-25 season during that run or shortly thereafter. It will likely include three or four mainstage shows, plus at least one production in a smaller performance space at Webster University.
The Rep is experiencing hardships now faced by many American theaters. It has been hit by reduced attendance since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, as well as a significant cut in donations from corporations and foundations that have turned away from funding the arts.
“The Rep is certainly in a more vibrant position than it was earlier this season. But we’re still going to need folks to buy tickets, to renew their memberships with the organization and continue to support us,” Williams said. “It’s going to take us a few years to build back to where we were prior to the pandemic, if we can actually even set that as a goal. We’re trying our darndest to make sure that the Rep remains viable and is here to entertain audiences for many years to come.”
The organization is in the final stages of recruiting a new artistic director, following Hana Sharif’s departure at the end of last season after five years. She now leads Arena Stage in Washington, D.C.
“The point is that we have raised enough to carry on, and we want to carry on,” said Ann Cady Scott, vice president of the Rep’s board of directors. “I believe that if we go dark earlier than we normally would, it would remove us from the public view. Now we can continue to sell tickets and to sell people on what we do. “