GMU Theater to Begin a Hiatus To Create a New Business Plan

Above, Theater of the First Amendment artistic director Rick Davis. At right, Jennifer Timberlake, Jenna Sokolowski and Sherri L. Edelen in
Above, Theater of the First Amendment artistic director Rick Davis. At right, Jennifer Timberlake, Jenna Sokolowski and Sherri L. Edelen in "Lift: Icarus and Me." Below, Joy Jones in "Open the Door, Virginia." (By Philippe Nobile)

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Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Theater of the First Amendment at George Mason University will suspend operations next week after a 15-year run.

Artistic Director Rick Davis and Managing Director Kevin Murray, the theater group's management team, announced a suspension and the cancellation of the 2006-07 season in a statement released by the university.

They said operations will resume. The hiatus, they said, would enable them to create a new business plan to combat the pressures that forced the suspension.

Davis said that revenue has been tight and that unspecified new initiatives would allow the theater's leaders to "reexamine and reinvent" the company for the future.

He said the staff would stay and try to put the initiatives in place.

Recent state budgets caused the group to scale back programming. But it remounted successful plays at the university's Center for the Arts.

Murray said the theater company began an annual fundraising campaign and started applying for more and more grants. The efforts failed to prevent the company from facing a deficit this season.

"It is obvious to us that we need to do business differently," Murray said in the news release. "We will not put our company, or our Board, into a situation where we need to ask for a bailout from the University or the community. . . . Instead, we are committed to making our supporters proud of the way we handle the situation. We will be back."

Davis said, "We consider our strong history of innovative work, our mission, and our relationships with artists, our Board and the community to be strong foundations upon which to build."

The theater group was founded in 1990 to offer resources to playwrights to create works and to show thought-provoking plays.

During its 15-year history, it has seen many successes. Its productions have won 37 Helen Hayes nominations and 12 Hayes awards.

Its 40 full productions have included 21 world premieres and five premieres of new translations or adaptations of works.

The theater group's offerings have been performed at the university's Center for the Arts, which opened on GMU's Fairfax campus in 1990.

The center includes several performance spaces and has attracted 100,000 patrons a year.


© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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