Citing “a combination of challenging economic times and an inefficient operating model within the downtown theatre space, and the cost of temporary production facilities”, the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company announced yesterday that tonight’s show will be its last. The organization apparently couldn’t continue to shoulder a rumoured seven-figure debt.
In a city that cannot afford the cultural loss, the institution lasted 49 years. The closure is particularly saddening as, compared to Vancouver’s other big theatre company, the Playhouse had the riskier, more challenging programming. I have fond memories of seeing many great plays there–and less fond memories, too, of less successful ones.
Skimming their impressive production history, they’ve produced some truly wonderful works of the past couple of decades: The Syringa Tree, Copenhagen (my favourite contemporary play ever, as it happens), Oleanna and so forth. I reviewed a couple of shows recently: This and Beyond Eden.
So what’s the bigger lesson we can take from this sad event? Is it the natural outcome of a time-shifting, cocooning culture with more and better entertainment options at home? Is it reflective of Vancouver’s ethos, which focuses on communing with nature or a vodka tonic, but not so much on connecting with the arts? Or maybe there’s no lesson at all, and the company’s closing is the result of over-spending and under-performance?
In any case, I applaud what the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company has done over its nearly-fifty years in the city, and mourn its passing.