Friday, January 25, 2008

Shaw Festival Slipping

Richard Ouzounian reports online at the Toronto Star:

"For the third time in the five seasons that Jackie Maxwell has been the artistic director of the Shaw Festival, the organization has posted a major deficit.

"At Friday’s annual general meeting, a shortfall of $927,000 was announced for the 2007 season on a budget of just over $25 million.

"Whereas this is nowhere near as disastrous as the $3 million and $2.57 million deficits incurred in 2003 and 2004, it does signal an end to the seeming upturn the organization had enjoyed in 2005, when it ended $52,000 in the black and 2006, where the profit margin reached $714,000.

"Just in terms of sheer dollars and cents, this would mean that Shaw has incurred an overall deficit of $5.73 million over the past five years.

"The board of directors has reduced this figure to $1.9 million, citing their use of a 'rainy day fund' and their own system – unique among Canadian arts groups – of claiming the Festival’s existing assets to help write down the amount of its operating deficit.

"On the positive side, the Shaw Festival Endowment Foundation now manages investments of $16.4 million.

"Treasurer Keith Mosley cited 'a volatile environment for theatre and tourism' as the reason for the 5% decline in box office revenues that led to this year’s deficit.

"However, faced with the identical economic realities, the Stratford Festival’s paid attendance rose 6% during the same period and yielded a $221,000 surplus – its 14th consecutive year of black ink.

"The Shaw Festival begins its next season on April 1st with a preview of the musical Wonderful Town."

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