“Reimagine” the Westport Country Playhouse.
And save it.
Those are the 2 key takeaways from today’s announcement by the 92-year-old landmark.
Rocked over the past 2 weeks by revelations about its precarious finances — and following a leadership change — the board of trustees has “approved and begun implementing a comprehensive plan to ensure that the historic theater is able to continue to operate.”
The 92-year-old Westport Country Playhouse.
The transformation plan — called “Reimagined: Save Your Playhouse” — includes “new and exciting programming for a broad audience, a major fundraising campaign, and a more sustainable and efficient cost structure.”
New board chair Athena T. Adamson — a trustee since 2017 –says, “This summer we are working to bring to life a new vision – one that features both first-rate theater productions and a wide array of innovative programming to engage new and existing audiences.”
Beginning in September, and “ramping up to full speed by early 2024,” the WCP will offer”live performances including curated one-night-only shows featuring celebrities and top talent from the worlds of theater, comedy, music, and dance; a continuation of the popular Script in Hand play reading series … and a speaker series, ‘In Conversation with…,’ providing direct access to creators, business leaders, artists, athletes, philanthropists, and influencers in an intimate setting.”
“High-end theater and new works,” along with “next-generation children’s programming,” will begin in the fall of 2024.
The “Reimagined” plan includes a fundraising campaign. The goal is “an immediate and necessary $2 million by July 30.”
The historic interior.
Adamson notes, “Westport Country Playhouse has stood the test of time by staying true to its mission and continually evolving. More than 20 years ago, Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman inspired the Playhouse’s last, great, transformative campaign, chaired by Bob Wright, former head of NBC, and now there is another opportunity for our wonderful community to be part of shaping the Playhouse for future generations.”
Earlier this year – citing the pandemic’s continuing effect on ticket sales — the WCP cut its previously announced 2023 season from 5 productions to 3.
They’ve now canceled a third show: “School Girls; Or, the African Mean Girls Play.” The next production — “Dial M for Murder” (July 11-29) — will be the second, and final, show of 2023.
Last week, the Playhouse made substantial staff cuts. Artistic director Mark Lamos plans to leave as well. The website currently lists 25 employees, though that number may not be accurate.
“Cancelling another production and losing more of our dedicated staff — these are the painfully hard decisions we had to make in the interest of fiscal responsibility and in order to survive,” Adamson says.
“We have a structured plan that will allow the Playhouse to meet the desires of the next generation of theatergoers, but we need your immediate help. Contributions to the ‘Save Your Playhouse’ campaign are fundamental to saving and evolving the legacy of Westport Country Playhouse.”
Adamson urges Westporters to contribute, attend the upcoming show — and contact the Playhouse.
“If you have suggestions about how we can deliver the best live performances right here in Westport, we want to hear from you,” she says. Ideas can be emailed to interim managing director Gretchen Wright: firstname.lastname@example.org.