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Actors Theatre of Phoenix is going to the public with a plea for help with a three-stage fund-raising effort to keep its doors open after 26 years in the Valley.

To address a serious cash flow shortfall and prevent a shutdown, Actors Theatre must raise $70,000 by November 30 to complete its run of NEXT FALL, the season’s second production that runs from Oct. 28 to Nov. 13 and begin production work on HUNTER GATHERERS, the next show of the season.  An additional $170,000 must be raised by December 31 to allow the company to continue the season and another $260,000 is needed by June 30 to stabilize the company, establish a strong financial footing and move forward.

“We are facing a crisis unlike any other in our history and our challenge is urgent,” said Producing Artistic Director Matthew Wiener.  “We know this is a particularly difficult time for many individuals and families and not the best time for us to go public with this plea, but, the harsh reality is that we simply have no other options.”

Wiener said that even though Actors Theatre operated in the black last year – barely – and ticket sales have been solid this year, the company has been “crippled because private and corporate contributions, individual donations and grant dollars have virtually dried up.”  During Fiscal Year 2009-10, Actors Theatre’s contributed revenue was $668,368.  In FY 2010-11, it was $568,526.  So far this year since July 1, the company has generated only $45,012.

Generally, for most not-for-profit professional mid-size theatre companies, ticket sales represent about 50 percent of annual operating budgets with contributed revenue through donations and grants making up the difference.

“We know our goals and timeline are daunting,” Wiener said.  “We also know that we need a widespread, grassroots effort to make this happen because, given the current economy, there aren’t many angels out there.”

Wiener said that the company has already taken significant steps to control expenses by cutting costs, reducing staff, freezing salaries, explored a merger, strengthened the board and restructured debt.  He said that additional measures have been put in place to create a new business model “once we’ve achieved our goals.”

Those measures include reorganizing management to create a co-director structure separating operations from the artistic side.  Erica Black, who has been General Manager and has worked with Wiener for 16 years, has been named Managing Director.  Wiener will continue as Producing Artistic Director, while Black will focus on future business development.

To develop more profitable programming, Actors Theatre will introduce new, lighter-fare off-season programming similar to “summer stock” to generate income.  The first summer show will be “The Wallace and Ladmo Show” in a collaboration with Desert Foothills Theatre and Centennial Theatre Foundation.

Wiener, who has not taken a paycheck in three months, said that Actors Theatre staff “believes so strongly in this company, they are deferring part of their paychecks to next year.”  Black has not received a paycheck in six weeks.

“It’s common knowledge that our financial stress has not come overnight,” Wiener said.   “We felt that having finished in the black and with good ticket sales, if we could hit our fund-raising goals, we would be able to continue moving forward.  Unfortunately, even our 25th-anniversary fund-raising efforts didn’t make goal.”

Wiener is asking for donations that range from one-time contributions to regular monthly pledges.  Donations can be made online at www.actorstheatrephx.org or by mailing a check to Actors Theatre, PO Box 1924, Phoenix AZ 85001.

He also asks that individuals use their personal email and social networking communities “to spread the word quickly and efficiently.”

For more information, call Actors Theatre at (602) 253-6701 or visit the website.