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Penumbra Theatre has made a financial turnaround

Posted by: Rohan Preston under Theater Updated: October 14, 2013 - 2:14 PM

After a fiscally harrowing year that threatened its existence, Penumbra Theatre has made a remarkable turnaround.

The company, founded in 1976 by Lou Bellamy (above), announced Monday that it had ended the 2012-2013 fiscal year in with a surplus of $130,779 on a $2 million budget. That swing into the black contrasts with the $1.2 million loss (out of a $3.4 million budget) that Penumbra recorded the previous fiscal year.

In August, 2012, Penumbra announced that it had severe cash flow problems. The company cut its staff, pared its budget by $800,000 and suspended its fall season. It then told its story to the public, hoping to raise $340,000 to make its accounts current again.

The appeal was successful. Foundations, corporations and individual donors, 1,400 of whom contributed, gave a total of $359,000 to Penumbra. That was $19,000 over its goal, which allowed the theater to resume producing again.

In March it opened a stylish production of George C. Wolfe's “Spunk.”

The positive figures, said Penumbra board chair Bill Stevens, are a "testament to the value the community places on this theater. They ensured Penumbra would continue its vital role in the nation’s theatrical landscape.”

The theater is working to ensure that it stays in the black.

“It’s gonna take a lot of discipline on our part and continued support from the community,” said Chris Widdess, who has been the theater's managing director since October 2005. “It’s humbling and inspiring at the same time.”

Penumbra begins the new fiscal year with a surplus, much of it from individual donors, a source that the company has been cultivating, especially as the demands on nonprofit dollars has increased for human services and education.

“When I began here, we were at about 9 percent, in terms of contributed income from individuals,” said Widdess. “We now have 45 percent of our income from individual donors and that’s well on our way to our goal of 60 percent.”

Penumbra just finished its Claude Purdy festival of solo plays. Up next on mainstage is a holiday concert of “Black Nativity,” which opens Dec. 12.

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