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San Jose Rep Theater folds after 34 years

The 34-year-old San Jose Repertory Theatre in downtown San Jose closed on Monday due to lack of local financial support and will immediately file for bankruptcy, a theater representative said today.

The non-profit theater company’s board of trustees made the decision to discontinue and file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy liquidation after failing to convince the community to contribute funds to keep it going, board vice president Paul Resch said.

The theater could not maintain itself on cash flow from the box office alone and required donations from wealthy backers in order to stay alive, Resch said:

“Professional regional theaters are not supported by ticket sales. It was never intended to be a stand-alone operation. … It needed to be supported by the community one way or another.”

Individual patrons who had supported the theater financially in the past told the company that they had turned to other causes, such as assisting the homeless, while others believed that the repertory group was “not sustainable,” Resch said.

Silicon Valley technology companies the company approached for donations said that their focus was on projects involving science, technology and mathematics, the so-called STEM areas, and not the theatrical arts, Resch said.

The theater group, with 51 actors, stage hands and other employees, operated at the 535-seat Susan and Phil Hammer Theatre Center at 101 Paseo de San Antonio in San Jose, about a block west of San Jose State University.

The theater officially ceased operating on Monday, darkening the city-owned Hammer Theatre, Resch said:

“Some actors even offered to go on for nothing, but it’s more than acting to run a production.”

The organization opened in San Jose in 1980 and averaged about seven live performances on its main stage per year with around 100,000 people attending annually, according to the company’s website.

Its latest production, the play “Landscape With Weapon,” by Joe Penhall, was to run from June 19 to July 13.

The last play performed was “The Big Meal,” by Dan Le Franc, from May 8 to June 1.

Tickets ranged in price from $29 to $53 and seniors aged 65 and up, enrolled students and persons aged 30 and under were eligible for discounts.

The theater also featured community and educational outreach programs, including the Red Ladder Theatre Company, Creative Dramatics Summer Workshops and the Creative Playshop series for children, as well as matinee performances for San Jose-area middle and high school students.

The group operated under labor union contracts for its performers, stage managers and choreographers.

— Jeff Burbank, Bay City News

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