Book-It to Close in 2023
BOOK-IT REPERTORY THEATRE ENDS PRODUCTIONS AFTER 33 YEARS OF TRANSFORMING LITERATURE TO THEATRE
- Click here for the official Press Release (PDF)
- Our final production, Solaris, will continue its run until its scheduled final performance on July 9.
- Our 2023/2024 Season (Frankenstein, Fellow Passengers, Crumbs/Migas and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea), has been cancelled.
- Book-It needs support to help retain a small team of employees for up to several months to close the 33-year institution. To donate – please click here.
With a heavy heart, Book-It Repertory Theatre is announcing that it is closing its doors after a 33-year membership in the Seattle theatre community.
Recovery from the pandemic, and a business model that doesn’t work in today’s environment, are at the core of our painful decision this week to cancel production planning of our 2023/24 season. We intend to continue through the run of its current production, Solaris, which opened June 17 and runs through July 9. Closing gracefully at the end of the show is the top priority for the Book-It board and staff as it develops a plan to cease operations after 33 years. The team at Book-It encourage theatre lovers to see the final show and donate to help sunset the organization.
A Challenging Time for Our Theatre and Others
In March of this year, Book-It’s Board hired an incredible interim artistic director, Kelly Kitchens, who has deep experience in Book-It’s mission of bringing literature to life through theatre. Feeling confident in the artistic vision, the board was fully invested in strategic planning for the company’s future and the 2023/24 season, as well as exploring new sustainable business models. But the runway was too short to let Kitchens create the magic that was intended. Sufficient resources were not generated to enable the board to financially commit to a new season. Ticket sales make up just 30% of this company’s budget, with the remaining costs subsidized by individual giving and grants. With theatregoers still slow to return to live performing arts, ticket revenue down, and individual giving not returning to pre-pandemic levels, forecasting is incredibly challenging. While forecasts for ticket sales and philanthropic funding were made and adjusted, the pandemic has left no margin for error. Not enough of those projections were achieved.
Our experience is similar to theatre organizations across the country that continue to balance increasing production costs and attempts to provide livable wages with an uncertain financial model and donations that have not returned to pre-pandemic levels. We are sadly joining many theatre organizations, locally and across the country, that have recently announced decisions to close, merge, or pause.
“This is an incredibly difficult decision to make. We know the reverberations this will have on the theatre industry in this town, on actors, stage managers, stage technicians and crews, writers, directors. We need mid-sized theatres such as Book-It for the entire eco-system to flourish,” said Christine Stepherson, Book-It Board President. “We have a dream team of artisans and staff at Book-It who believe in our mission and have gone above and beyond, we have a small but dedicated board, but we don’t currently have a model that works.”
What We Are Leaving Behind
In addition to employing 18 permanent staff and more than 267 cast members, designers, dramaturgs, artisans, technicians, directors, and writers, we provides shop space, scenic building and paint services, and other scenic assistance to local nonprofit theatre companies, as well as providing resources to schools and other community organizations. These services currently support roughly five to six local theatres per season. We are also known for our premier, cornerstone Arts and Education program which provided singular K-12 literary-based programming throughout Washington State, reaching tens of thousands of students and teachers annually.
We had begun outreach with other groups in the industry to strategize new ways of working together and sharing costs. There was a scenario where we could come back with a stronger, more sustainable model. But that would only be feasible if that strategy included paying a livable wage, meeting necessary protocols that protect artists, employing understudies, acquiring affordable rental, rehearsal, and venue space, and building a reliable funding model.
“In our board vote, we unanimously passed a motion to begin the process of closing Book-It. We all still believe in the art form and can’t help but hope that we will see a show in the Book-It narrative style on a Seattle stage again,” Board Secretary Becky Monk said. “And if it was brought to life by Kitchens, and the incredibly talented production team that has transformed these works for years, that would be a dream. But our focus right now is to close without undue harm.”