Four months after opening the doors of its first permanent facility, Everyman Theatre is struggling to keep those doors open.
In a letter being sent today to 5,000 Everyman supporters and past audience members, producing director Vincent Lancisi has asked for help in overcoming a short-term deficit. "We're in need of thousands, not hundreds of thousands," he said yesterday.
The next production in the theater's four-play season was to have been "The Belle of Amherst," a one-woman show about poet Emily Dickinson, originally scheduled to play a three-week run in March. Instead, Baltimore actress Tana Hicken, a long-time member of the resident company at Washington's Arena Stage, will give two benefit performances at the theater on March 18 at 8 p.m. and March 19 at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $50.
Lancisi attributed Everyman's deficit to a combination of factors: 1) the high cost of preparing the new space; 2) the cost of maintaining that space; and 3) the unexpected delay of a private $10,000 donation that had been pledged for Feb. 1.
Everyman was founded in 1990 as a small, professional theater whose mission includes hiring actors exclusively from the Baltimore-Washington area and producing mainstream plays at affordable prices. It staged its first five plays in five different locations. The current season, including start-up costs, was budgeted at $110,000. The previous five productions cost a total of approximately $100,000.
In addition to its subscription season, Everyman has three outreach programs in the works. In April and May, local children ages 5-9 will have a chance to spend a day at the theater, culminating in a performance of "Aesop's Fables." A series of adult acting classes will also begin in April. Still in the planning stages is a program aimed at educating inner city high school students by creating audience-interactive theater pieces with a combined cast of HIV-positive teen-agers and professional actors.
In November, when Everyman staged its first production in its new home, at 1727 N. Charles St., it was hailed as a hopeful sign for a block whose future had been jeopardized by the threatening closing of the Charles Theatre a year earlier.
dTC Lancisi remains optimistic, but he also acknowledged the difficulty of raising money at a time when "the environment for the arts looks very bleak indeed. The only way we're going to survive is from the generous support of our patrons and those who truly care about theater."
For tickets or information about "The Belle of Amherst" benefit, call (410) 752-2208.