Willows Theatre in danger of closing

September 10, 2009 7:16:05 PM PDT
Regional theatre companies have been facing tough economic times. Now the curtain could come down on a long-running Contra Costa theatre company, even after the city gave them money.

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"Hair," the classic American musical, relocated to San Francisco in this new production by the Willows Theatre Company.

"I think what it's about and why it resonates today is in every generation the idea about having a revolution whatever it is, it's not necessarily a bad thing," says artistic director Richard Elliott.

A revolution is what they could use here now. There's an undercurrent to the joyous celebration of the show -- the Willows Theatre is in trouble.

"We've been really dinged by some financial hardships here because we've seen our ticket sales, individual ticket sales drop, we've seen our donation dollars drop and foundation support," says Elliott

Part of the problem is timing. They have a main theatre in the Willows Shopping Center, but in 2007 they added a cabaret in Martinez where there was already an outdoor amphitheatre for big original productions. They thought more venues would mean a bigger audience, but it didn't happen.

"We find ourselves $350,000 out of sync with our budget. We have to raise the money by the end of October or the first of November or we're going to have to change radically the way the program is going to be here," says Elliott.

And that probably means closing one of the theatres.

The Concord theatre has been the Willows Theatre home for more than 30 years, but these are tough economic times and now they're looking for someone will let the sunshine in.

"I'll tell you $350,000 right now that would retire the debts and that would provide us enough funds to move into the 2010 season," says Elliott.

The regional theatre is about being local and they don't want the lights to go out.

LINK: www.willowstheatre.org
Donation Information: www.willowstickets.org/cgi-bin

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