Short on money, Park Square Theatre has cut two productions from its season.
The theater won’t stage “Evita” or “Miss You Like Hell,” musicals that were scheduled to take its main stage Jan. 17-May 17. Because of larger casts, as well as musicians, musicals are generally costlier to produce than straight plays.
The savings of about $400,000 will offset a fundraising goal missed by $250,000 and ticket sales projections on this fall’s “Aubergine” and “Rocky Horror Show,” which missed by about $175,000, artistic director Flordelino Lagundino said.
“With the risk involved, ‘Evita,’ for sure, we couldn’t capitalize. And then, if we had taken similar hits [on ‘Evita’] to the ones that happened with ‘Rocky Horror’ and ‘Aubergine,’ it would have been extremely difficult for the theater,” said Lagundino of the St. Paul venue, which has an annual budget of $3.4 million.
The theater’s 45th season still includes “Pride and Prejudice,” which begins performances Nov. 15. It will resume with “Holmes and Watson” next June. Park Square also will continue its education programming and “Face to Face: Our Hmong Community,” a collaboration with legendary theater maker Ping Chong planned for March. Ticket holders are being offered options to exchange for other shows or get refunds.
This season is Lagundino’s second as artistic director, succeeding Richard Cook, but the first planned under his leadership. He said the fall shows hit targets in terms of attracting younger and more diverse audiences (for “Aubergine,” most of whose characters are Korean-American, 54% of attendees were Asian or multiracial), but that the lackluster sales will alter plans for the 2020-21 season. He said it might serve audiences better to program “five or six shows,” instead of this season’s originally announced eight productions, plus three “add-on” options.
“One artistic director said he was excited by the ambition of the season we planned but maybe our audience is telling us they’re more conservative than we thought,” said Lagundino, who plans to get to know the audience better as he re-examines Park Square’s place in the Twin Cities theater scene.
He’s also been calling theater artists who had already been booked to appear in the canceled shows, “some of whom were understanding and some, obviously, were really hurt.”
Tyler Michaels, who was slated to be in “Evita,” was disappointed to lose two months’ pay. However, he said he can use the time to create work for his own company, Trademark Theater, and he’s “happy to be out of a job if it helps a great theater institution stick around.”
Park Square is one of several area theaters facing a changing arts-funding landscape, with corporations and foundations directing arts money to other causes and changes in tax laws making individual giving less advantageous. This fall, Virginia’s Barter Theatre also canceled two shows, citing a need to counter a $500,000 shortfall. Last year, Arkansas Repertory Theatre shut down for four months, due to a $750,000 shortfall.