After 34 years, the
"I'm just devastated right now," said producing artistic director
News of the theater's death sent shock waves throughout the valley's tight-knit arts community. "This is disastrous," said
The cash-strapped company's board of trustees said the move was taken reluctantly after a long, hard struggle to stay afloat. The board considered an emergency fundraising campaign but decided the finances were too much of an uphill battle going forward.
"It's heartbreaking that the Rep can't survive, but the reality is that the community just doesn't have the drive to support it," said
Founded in 1980 on a shoestring budget, the Rep, which presented a mix of seven dramas, comedies, musicals and classics annually, has been financially flailing in recent years. In 2006, on the edge of insolvency, the theater, which had a
Theater officials estimate total debt at about
"They've had a lot of ups and downs over the years, so I can't say I'm entirely surprised, but I am very disappointed," said
As for the fate of the iconic blue theater building, which the city owns, officials say there is every intention of maintaining the 535-seat venue as a cultural gem of the downtown. Currently, the space is occasionally used by local arts events such as the
"There are a lot of creative possibilities," said
Some observers complain that the Rep never connected deeply enough with its audience. Several recent productions, such as the Indian call center drama "Disconnected," drew poor ticket sales. Others suggested the Rep's programming didn't incorporate enough minority themes or playwrights.
"This is what happens when your theater is deliberately indifferent to the diversity of your city," said director and scholar
"This is a wake-up call for all
"It's a shame that there is not enough support for the arts in this community. But there aren't enough big donors who step in to save the day," he said. "What we need is a few white knights charging in to save the arts."
Reed agrees that big-ticket donors for the arts are hard to come by in the valley.
"There's a lot of philanthropic money in this valley," he said, "but there's not as much as you might think because a lot of that money gets invested globally and not locally."
Pending completion of the Chapter 7 liquidation process, it remains unclear whether patrons will be refunded for tickets already purchased. A production of
The city may also have to eat much of the
Many see the loss to the fabric of the valley's cultural life as far bigger than any dollar amount. Long a cornerstone of the cultural scene, the Rep, which at its peak could cast such big names as
"Its vibrant and adventuresome productions have given a technology-driven city an artistic soul," said
No one was harder hit than Reber, the company's founder.
"It's a total shock," he said. "I can't make sense of it. I feel numb. It can't be real."
(c)2014 the San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.)
Visit the San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.) at www.mercurynews.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services