News: Philadelphia Theatre Alliance folding up shop

By Howard Shapiro


Leaders of stage companies met Wednesday at the Wilma Theater on Broad Street to consider the fate of the Barrymore Awards and get an update on the closing of the Greater Philadelphia Theatre Alliance, the umbrella group that provided services for them.

   The Theatre Alliance of Greater Philadelphia -- an umbrella organization that has served the region's stages through a period of record growth -- is dissolving.

   In an e-mail that will be going out Wednesday to the organization's member theaters and individual theater artists, the Alliance's board chairman writes that the board met on Thursday "and determined that the important work of the Alliance -- to engage new theatre audiences and provide support for the extraordinary work of the community -- could be accomplished more efficiently and more effectively by other organizations in the community."

   The chairman, Wendy White, writes that she is following up on an initial message members received from Margie Salvante, Executive Director of the Theatre, which indicated changes in future of the Alliance.

  In Wednesday's memo, White writes that "in a time when resources for the arts are constrained, it is important for service organizations like the Theatre Alliance to ensure that available dollars are spent to best support the artistic work of the membership." She writes that the decision to fold the Alliance as of this summer was "recognizing that reality."

   The closing of the Alliance comes at a time when the area theater community is at its most vibrant, still growing, and a minor industry heavily supported supported by corporate and private donations as well as audiences willing to take risks.

   Metropolitan Philadelphia has 51 professional stages -- the most in its history -- and the Alliance supports them and non-professional companies as well. In addition to the annual Barrymore Awards that honor local theater artists, the most visible of the Alliance's programs, the group runs an extensive ticketing service, an auditions program, a project for building and engaging new audiences and a number of projects that have provided skills to leaders of smaller companies as they grow. Theaters sell more than as million tickets a year in the region.

   Theater company managers were meeting Wednesday morning at the Wilma Theater on Broad Street to attempt to chart a course for the future of the Barrymore Awards, a huge project that includes many sponsors, some who give cash prizes. The awards have come to be an October fixture for the theater community, held in the last few years at the Walnut Street Theater.

   The Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, which represents a panoply of arts organizations in a broad arena, is exploring taking on the Theatre Alliance's audience engagement initiative. The Alliance was looking to double the Philadelphia-area audience for theater in the next decade with marketing and other efforts.

  The Wilma will take over the Alliance's Tessitura Project, which is its ticketing program.  The Walnut Street Theatre will run the auditions program, White wrote Wednesday morning to the members. 

 "The process has just begun," she wrote.


Contact Howard Shapiro at 215-854-5727 or