On Tuesday, Zach Theatre became one of the first large performing arts companies in Austin to furlough a majority of its staff due to the coronavirus crisis.
"Last week we made the difficult decision to cancel four of our season shows, our spring break camps, student performances, postpone our annual fundraiser Red, Hot & Soul, and pause our subscription campaign," managing director Elisbeth Challener and artistic director Dave Steakley said in a joint statement. "The financial impact of these cancellations has had a profound effect on our organization as a whole and the way we will need to operate for the time being."
Last week, the Georgetown Palace Theatre, which had been in expansion mode, reduced staff pay by 50 percent. Also last week, the company held live Facebook auctions of Palace-related items that raised tens of thousands of dollars. Another is planned for April 30.
According to GuideStar.org, a group that tracks nonprofits, Zach Theatre recorded almost $10.5 million in gross receipts to the IRS during the most recent reporting period, while the Georgetown Palace Theatre declared $2.7 million.
Zach furloughed 75 percent of its employees, who will continue to receive 100 percent of their current health benefits. Remaining staff will work on reduced salaries. Challener and Steakley are preparing for a potential return to Zach’s core business in the summer.
"While we are doing everything we can to support these employees in the coming months, they do not deserve this," Challener and Steakley continued. "The Zach staff work with a passion, creativity and dedication that is unmatched and delivering this news to them is the low point of our careers. The most important thing is that our staff have a home to return to and the best way we can assure that is to make hard choices now, so Zach can make a strong and vibrant return this summer.
"The perseverance of the Austinites who founded our city's theater during the height of the Depression had the courage and forbearance to create a home for artists, and we are inspired in this crisis to live up to their example. We will do everything in our power to continue to be a creative home for our neighbors, educate Austin's youth, and above all else: create exceptional theater."