an update from the artistic director

Dear Friends of the Salem Theatre Company,

Despite a year of hard work and dedication on the part of our staff, artists, and supporters, the reality is that we simply cannot sustain our theatre space at Shetland Park. In the interest of the continued existence and financial health of our organization, Salem Theatre Company will no longer maintain a physical theatre space as of April 30. This, however, is not the end of STC.

In looking back at the history of this company I recall, fondly, our scaled back, simple but well executed, nomadic beginnings. When STC began 15 years ago the company was a mobile one that produced theatre in found spaces – everywhere from church basements to store fronts to coffee houses and restaurants and even outdoor spaces around Salem. While we will obviously miss having a permanent home in Salem, there is still art to be made and stories to be told. The remainder of April will be spent packing up our space putting our equipment into easily accessible storage that will allow us to go “on the road.”

If you donated to STC during our drive to save our space, I promise you it was not in vain. Your support allowed us to finish out our 2016 season with minimal challenges; your generosity allowed us to reduce a portion of our inherited debt; your contributions have allowed me to begin planning and preparing – not just for the remainder of this year, but for the next one too! Because of last year’s fundraising campaign we are able to stay committed to our community – partnering with local organizations to give everyone a voice. In fact, recent conversations about “what is next for Salem Theatre” have led to an expanded outpouring of support from artists, local business owners, and community leaders.

In addition to restructuring our programming we are also reworking our financial model. The small group of us that remain involved with Salem Theatre, inherited a model that simply became unsustainable. Artists involved in specific projects will be compensated through a percentage based, profit sharing model based on ticket sales and sponsorships. In an ideal world we could pay union rates or better; we’re just not there yet. We are a community theatre that is committed to keeping ticket prices accessible to a broad audience, so that theatre is accessible to a broad audience. Ours is an emotional currency is in the stories we tell, the impact they have on our audiences, and the experiences for our artists and technicians.

STC’s production hiatus will continue through the end of May; with the exception of our annual presence at the Boston Theatre Marathon. During this time we will be finalizing the details of programming for 2017 and beyond. We are postponing our production of Waiting for Godot until a later season. Currently in our pipeline for this year we have a series of staged readings to be held in spaces all over town; we are on the hunt for the perfect space for what is going to be powerful production of Othello; the magical details of our winter journey to Narnia are in discussion; and we are collaborating with two playwrights on two new original works that we hope to see continue their development later this year and into 2018. All of the creative programming will revolve around themes and topics that have become even more important to discuss and give voice to since the 2016 election: from stories of protest to LGBTQ themed work, to the opioid crisis in our nation, which our community is battling every day. We are coming back, bold, later this year with work that will engage, incite, and enthrall.

We are thrilled about our plans for STC, and we hope you are too! We do need your help to make it happen! Some of our needs include the following:
Board Members! This company requires a fully functioning Board of Directors to help produce theatre. The Board helps with everything from fundraising to hauling equipment to planning events to support the theatre. This is a familiar, but new leg of the Salem Theatre Company journey and we are excited about it. But we need people to help make it happen. Creating theatre truly takes a village.
Moving On Out! We need volunteers to help us clean up the space at Shetland Park and find new homes for all our equipment and props.
Space! We need temporary spaces for rehearsals as well as performances and readings.
Creators and Theatre Makers! With a new flexible model of producing theatre and telling stories it opens up more opportunities than ever before for artists! Send us an email if you have a story you want to tell or an experience you want to create!
Marketing Support! We are looking for a volunteer to help maintain a consistent social media presence as well as help maintain our website.
Financial Support! Becoming a mobile theatre company relieves us of the fixed costs of maintaining a physical space, but we still need funding to cover costs associated with making theatre: royalties, artists, materials, and rent for individual productions.

It’s been a wild, exciting, challenging, and inspiring ride over the past few years. Two and a half years ago, I came on board immediately following a 100% turnover of staff which was closely followed by the turnover of the Board of Directors; the STC bank account didn’t have enough money in it to cover the monthly operations of that coming month; and there was no budget in place that reflected how the upcoming season could be fiscally possible. It was scary and daunting to say the least. Yet I could step back and recognize that, often, small nonprofits like STC go through major transitions and upheavals as they grow and evolve. We have yet to fully recover, but we our currently finding our way to the next leg of the journey. I have stayed on board to figure out how to further the evolution of the company and make it work again. I refuse to walk away. I have faith in this company and the artists involved and am driven to see it succeed.

The theatre, globally and historically, has a responsibility to tell stories that are relevant, to act as a mirror for the audience, to ask hard questions, and to inspire. As Artistic Director, Salem Theatre Company has become my personal responsibility to this community. We will be coming out of hibernation soon and when we do, it will not be quietly. “Bold,” “intrepid,” and “fearless” are just a few of the words used to describe the recent work our teams have staged. And those are the words I am inspired by as STC continues to evolve.As a culture, we are on the precipice of great artistic change. As always, perhaps more than ever, our community deserves to have access to quality theatre in Salem’s downtown, to participate in the performing arts - to share our human experience. Please join us.

Yours truly,
Catherine Bertrand
Artistic Director, Salem Theatre Company