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Paper Mill Playhouse Snags 11th Hour Loan

Jacob Coakley • Theatre Buzz • April 9, 2007

MILLBURN, NJ — After fiscal difficulties that threatened to close its doors, two real estate companies have agreed to back a bank loan for the Paper Mill Playhouse, which should secure the current season’s completion.

Kenneth Thorn, chairman of Paper Mill’s board of trustees, is attempting to secure a $3 million credit line that will allow paper Mill’s season to complete. Thorn would not disclose the names of the bank or the guarantors.

“We are not going to close,” Thorn has stated. “We will make sure that all the people are able to see the shows they paid for.”

A board meeting was held April 5, where Thorn stated that the bank loan was forthcoming.

An Internet fundraising effort has brought in $50,000 in donations, while phone campaigns have brought in $100,000. Generous as they are, however, the gifts are only expected to maintain payrolls for the next few weeks.

In an email sent on April 6, Shayne Miller updated the Paper Mill’s scenario: “The donations are pouring in, but we are still not near our plea for 1.5 million. You may have read an article in The Star Ledger this morning indicating that Paper Mill will receive a loan to save the theatre. This is extremely premature! We are only in initial discussions with lending institutions and these things take time. Unfortunately, because of the piece today, donations are being replaced with expressions of congratulations. We only have enough cash to cover one week of payroll for the theatre, meaning we have yet to determine if Seven Brides for Seven Brothers will be able to have its press opening on Sunday, April 15. This theatre still may close if contributed income comes to a halt.”

A “Save the Theater” rally will be held April 9 at 7 PM in the plaza of the Paper Mill Playhouse. Among those scheduled to attend are Senate President and Governor Richard Cody and Senator Tom Kean, Jr.

Financial difficulties have plagued the theatre of late after changes in artistic direction, declining audiences and a drop-off in fund-raising. Michael Gennaro, from the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago, was hired as artistic director in 2003. As of that time, programming began to alienate much of its traditional audience, though it was well received by critics. Gennaro left Paper Mill in January. According to the New Jersey Star-Ledger, the theatre lost around 6,000 subscribers and had accumulated $5 million in debt since Gennaro arrived.

Donations and gifts to the theatre can be made by calling 973.379.3636 or online at www.papermill.org.

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