Penumbra Theatre Company announced today that it has decided to temporarily suspend programming due to an immediate cash flow challenge. If the fall fundraising efforts are successful, Penumbra will present SPUNK, an adaptation by George C. Wolfe of three tales by Zora Neale Hurston in March 2013 along with the popular Let's Talk Theatre and REEL Talk events. However, strong dedicated support for the Penumbra Summer Institute, a three-year arts education and leadership training program, will enable that program to continue as scheduled.
Penumbra responded immediately to the income shortfall by determining its potential impact and actions necessary to ensure viability. "Over the last month, Penumbra decided that it needed to curb new expenses until the income could be stabilized," stated Bill Stevens, Chair of the Penumbra Board of Directors. Penumbra has cut $800,000 from its remaining budget for the year ending June 30, 2013 including six full-time staff positions. By the end of September, Penumbra is projecting to be current on all payables or have a payment plan with select vendors.
"All of these decisions are painful. They have a huge impact on everyone – board, employees, artists, patrons and funders – individually and collectively. One of the hardest decisions was suspending the new play program and releasing Dominic Taylor, Associate Artistic Director – New Play Development," stated Lou Bellamy, Penumbra Artistic Director. "He has graciously volunteered to continue to contribute his talents to this theatre."
The immediate goal is to raise an additional $340,000 by December 30, 2012. "We are grateful to the many individual donors, board, artists and employees who have sent checks and are asking their friends to do the same," stated Chris Widdess, Managing Director. "Several members of Penumbra's artistic company are organizing a series of fundraisers in December. The outpouring of support and love for this theatre is amazing."
Like many other arts organizations locally and nationally, Penumbra has struggled in this unpredictable economy. "Individual support has increased eight consecutive years but it has not been able to compensate for the continuing decline in funding for the arts by foundations and corporations," added Widdess. "We have begun to meet with our funders and donors – foundations, corporations and individuals – to keep them informed of our efforts to address this latest challenge."
"It is ironic that this situation occurred now, when Penumbra is on the brink of developing a sustainable demand for its core products from theaters and universities here and around the nation," stated Kate Barr, Executive Director of Nonprofits Assistance Fund. Barr added, "In spite of it all, there are many things moving in the right direction. They have been working on a succession plan and have a strong legacy on which the future can be built. They have tested some new revenue streams that can result in a new business model. This is a pivotal time in Penumbra's history."