Arena Stage Finishes Year in the Black

by Jacob Coakley

WASHINGTON, D.C.—In a sign of these economic troubling times, theatres are now announcing when they are financially solvent. Arena Stage released a statement today that they have finished their 2009 fiscal year in the black. On the other hand, they had to overcome more than most theatres this year—not only did they have to contend with last year’s national economic collapse, but they are also in the middle of huge renovation of their theatre, and spent this entire season “on the road” in an alternate theatres, which meant they had to convince ticket-buyers and subscribers to travel farther, and to an unfamiliar location, to see them.

“The list of achievements contributed by the staff, artists, board of trustees and supporters of Arena this year—Part One of Arena Restaged, our first full-season away from our D.C. theater campus—is remarkable,” commented Artistic Director Molly Smith. “In the same way in which we've ‘Restaged’ ourselves geographically, we've restaged the way we work artistically and administratively. Despite the financial circumstances surrounding the theater this year, Arena has been stable. ”

“One of the things that attracted me to Arena Stage was the ambition of the artistic mission paired with the fiscal discipline of the staff and board,” said Edgar Dobie, Arena Stage’s new managing director. “To inherit a balanced budget from a company producing top quality work is truly a gift in today’s world.”

Arena also touted their successes onstage, with two productions that were recently produced by Arena Stage were on Broadway at the same time: Moisés Kaufman’s 33 Variations starring Jane Fonda and Next to Normal featuring the entire Arena cast. The Broadway production of 33 Variations was nominated for five Tony Awards, and won for Best Scenic Design of a Play. Next to Normal received 11 nominations and took home three awards including Best Score, Best Performance of a Leading Actress in a Musical and Best Orchestrations.

When asked if the slight surplus was a result of these shows’ financial success on Broadway a rep from Arena Stage explained that no, the finances from the Broadway transfers are handled separately, so the theatre is on firm financial footing without considering these shows’ successes.

Arena’s statement also pointed out that despite uncooperative weather, construction is still on schedule and on budget for their new Mead Center campus, set to open in the fall of 2010.

In good news for other theatres looking to point to the value of a strong arts presence in a community, the Arlington County Cultural Affairs Division and the Commission of the Arts commissioned a study conducted by the Crystal City Business Improvement District that revealed the company brought in $3.614 million in additional revenue to Crystal City, with restaurants reporting positive growth rates between 7 and 20 percent after Arena Stage’s arrival.

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