Faced with the prospect of closing Spokane’s only professional theater company, the board of directors at Interplayers instead opted to merge operations with a community theater company, Lake City Playhouse of Coeur d’Alene.
The merger, announced Monday, gives operational control of Interplayers to Lake City. The playhouse’s artistic director George Green will oversee both companies, along with LCP’s managing director, Hannah Paton.
Out in this transition are Interplayers executive director Pamela Brown, artistic director Reed McColm and associate artistic director Michael Weaver.
Ryan Oelrich, secretary of Interplayers board, said it became clear earlier this year that Interplayers could not continue to operate as it had been – the income just wasn’t there.
“As we dove into the books, we realized things were not adding up,” Oelrich said. “We realized about five months ago that we really needed to make some big changes.”
LCP was moribund when Green came on board in 2010 and has since experienced a financial and artistic renaissance. What attracted Interplayers to the playhouse was LCP’s history of turnaround, Oelrich said.
“That was first and foremost important to us,” he said. “Secondly, we wanted to make sure that we were partnering with an organization that would assure us that the theater would continue as a professional theater, that that mission would continue. LCP and George Green were able to give us both those assurances.”
The difference between a professional company and community theater is, essentially, money. Interplayers and Coeur d’Alene Summer Theatre are professional companies that pay their actors. LCP and Spokane Civic Theater, both community theater companies, do not, although both organizations have paid professional staffs.
That Interplayers has financial woes is not news. Back in 2002, there was a “save Interplayers” campaign that raised between $200,000 and $300,000. In April 2013, the company announced it needed $150,000 to launch the following season.
“That was something we really looked at, the history of the past struggles,” Oelrich said. “The organization … has threatened to close its doors multiple times in the past if funds didn’t come in. We just realized that is not a healthy or sustainable way to run this organization.”
And they did seriously look at closing down, Oelrich said. “But we believe in the mission. I love the shows that have happened here. … We love what it brings to Spokane. So we hoped there would be another option.”
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