American Cabaret in transition

January 22, 2009
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UPDATE: More news from ACT.

The changes at American Cabaret Theatre go well beyond cancelling a single production (see original post below). Information released today states that the company is under new management and will leave its home at the Athenaeum.

Shannon Forsell--a familiar face and voice from previous ACT productions--is the new Managing Director. She says the company will focus on "smaller, more intimate and authentic cabaret shows."

Among the casualties of the transition is Bob Harbin, Artistic Director of ACT, whose position was among four full-time jobs eliminated.

As to venue, Forsell says that "...rising lease fees, restrictions that exclude ACT from receiving beverage revenues, and sound issues from outdoor concerts have made this no longer a viable space for the organization.” New performance spaces are being considered, with an announcement hoped for within weeks.

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Earlier post.

In a Jan. 20 letter to cast and crew, ACT board of directors chair Barbara Weaver Smith announced the decision to cancel the theater's upcoming production of the musical "Cabaret."

"In the current economic climate," she writes, "we do not have the resources to accomplish this plan, which seemed reasonable several months ago but is now impossible."

The production, scheduled to open March 27, included local actors Charles Goad (now in "To Kill a Mockingbird" at the IRT), Marni Lemons, Jill Kelly (current in Beef & Boards' "Don't Dress for Dinner") and Miki Mathioudakis.

"We are committed to preserving American Cabaret Theatre, and I hope there will be future opportunities for you to perform on our stage," writes Smith.

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Your thoughts?
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  • Didn't I hear that ACT lost its CEO recently? Any connection?
  • Reading this information along with the news that New York Theaters are having to change their plans and that museums are curtailing their expansion plans (e.g. St. Louis and Indy art museum), I fear this economic downturn will have lasting impacts on the arts that are unprecedented. Priorities for businesses and individuals are going to be reshuffled and the arts may end up being bottom on the totem pole. The same goes for the government. It will not be able to make up the lost funding.

    On the upside, the arts may become more community oriented and regional which would result in more direct citizen involvement. But, I'm afraid a lot of artists, organizations and administration are going to get hurt in the short term.
  • So all the $$ that Claude & Co. raised and put onto that space and now they are out??? Who owns that space? The Atheneum Foundation? Very curious!
  • I agree with Adam, that seems odd. And the departure of Bob Harbin is an absolute tragedy. I felt that Bob moved ACT out of the dark ages of the mindless review. Now are they headed back to primordial ooze of the slapped together Claude shows? It will take seconds for the Rathskeller to start booking bands in that space... look for it next weekend. Sad... very sad.
  • ty, you cut me to the quick. I was involved onstage and off for nearly a decade, swimming through that primordial ooze. As did thousands upon thousands of happy patrons. I will admit that shows were hit and miss...true at EVERY theatre that has probably ever existed. But to put a blanket statement out there that all programming prior to 3 years ago was the dark ages is inaccurate at best. There was some darn good, professional musical theatre going on in it's prime, with some of the best talent this city has seen (I am not counting myself in that elite group). I have a lot of respect for Bob Harbin, and many, many fond memories of that space. I am sad to think of any local theatre company going south, even though I felt the sting of having my position eliminated at the same theatre. Life will go on for those affected, as did mine. I respect your opinion, but I am happy in the fact that I don't feel as though almost 10 years of my life was simply participating in mindless reviews.

    P.S. You are correct. The Rathskellar management will pounce on the space...they have wanted it for years and years. I hope there is a way to keep real theatre in the space in some way.
  • GD,
    You know I have nothing but respect for your work and others that came out of the ACT machine (Shannon, Dave Ruark, Amanda Lawson to name others). And I will admit my words were harshly composed here after 2 phone calls that directed me to the reading of this post. And the fact that now the entire staff with the exception of Shannon and part-time box office have been ...uh eliminated. (Though I will say again, yours was a different situation and not done well. Former managing Director R B had that stroke of genius.) I encourage everyone to support the remaining shows. You well know my opinion of your departure and with this cut Rodney Toliver and John Austin Butsch (both institutions) are left jobless. And I think my angst was being vented towards a vary sad situation. I only saw shows towards the end of the old Claude days. The 2 that stick were a version of Christmas Carol and a show about Indy.
  • Its a shame and handly VERY POORLY! The current cast of thier upcoming gospel show Never even rec'd a letter form the board informing them that their show they were rehearsing for is cut. 2 months of volunteering their time for rehearsals- never to see a dime for their work and not even told in a timely manner. Sad indeed
  • Return of the slideshows! Sad.

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