Friday, August 29, 2014
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News: Philadelphia Theatre Alliance folding up shop

The service organization for the region's theaters, which has spearedheaded many projects including the Barrymore Awards, is dissolving. Inquirer theater critic Howard Shapiro reports.

News: Philadelphia Theatre Alliance folding up shop

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.
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.

By Howard Shapiro


   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

About this blog
Toby Zinman's night job since 2006 is theater critic for the Inquirer. She also is a contributing writer for Variety and American Theatre magazine. Her day job: Prize-winning prof at UArts, author of four books about four playwrights (Rabe, McNally, Miller, Albee), and doer of scholarly deeds (winner of five NEH grants, Fulbright lecturer at Tel Aviv University, visiting professor in China). Her 'weekend' job as a travel writer provides adventure: dogsledding in the Yukon, ziplining in Belize, walking coast-to-coast across England, and cowboying in the Australian Outback.

Wendy Rosenfield has written freelance features and theater reviews for The Inquirer since 2006. She was theater critic for the Philadelphia Weekly from 1995 to 2001, after which she enjoyed a five-year baby-raising sabbatical. She serves on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, was a participant in the Bennington Writer's Workshop, a 2008 NEA/USC Fellow in Theater and Musical Theater, and twice was guest critic for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival's Region II National Critics Institute. She received her B.A. from Bennington College and her M.L.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She also is a fiction writer, was proofreader to a swami, publications editor for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and spends all her free time working out and driving people places. Follow her on Twitter @WendyRosenfield.

Jim Rutter has reviewed theater for The Inquirer since September, 2011. Since 2006, he covered dance, theater and opera for the Broad Street Review, and has also written for many suburban newspapers, including The Main Line Times. In 2009, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a Fellowship in Arts Journalism. Thames & Hudson released his updated and revised version of Ballet and Modern Dance in June, 2012. From 1998 to 2005, he taught philosophy and logic at Drexel, and then Widener University. He also coaches Olympic Weightlifting for Liberty Barbell, and has competed at the national level in that sport since 2001.

Merilyn Jackson regularly writes on dance for The Inquirer and other publications. She specializes in the arts, literature, food, travel, and Eastern European culture and politics. In 2001, she was dance critic in residence at the Festival of Contemporary Dance in Bytom, Poland; in 2005, she received an NEA Critics’ Fellowship to Duke University’s Institute for Dance Criticism. She likes to say that dance was her first love but that when she discovered writing she began to cheat on dance. Now that she writes about dance, she’s made an honest woman of herself, although she also writes poetry.

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