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Originally published Saturday, April 16, 2011 at 5:37 PM

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Intiman Theatre cancels remainder of season citing continuing money woes

Intiman Theatre, a Tony Award winner and one of Seattle's "Big Three" professional regional theaters, is canceling the rest of its season and laying off all its employees because of its financial problems.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Intiman board statement

www.intiman.org

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The financially beleaguered Intiman Theatre, a Tony Award winner and one of Seattle's "Big Three" professional regional theaters, is canceling the rest of its season and laying off all its employees.

Intiman's board made the decision Saturday morning.

"Our primary intent has and continues to be to preserve the future of Intiman — and our hope was to save the season, too," the theater said in a statement on its website. "Simultaneous efforts to accomplish both are simply unattainable."

"With our current income limitations, there's no alternative" to canceling the other four shows planned for the season after the final performance Sunday of its current production, "All My Sons," the statement said.

The theater, which hopes to come back with a new season in 2012, had recently announced reaching an emergency fundraising goal. But that wasn't enough to keep the rest of the season alive.

"It was my recommendation based on the numbers and what we would need to do to get through 2011," said consulting managing director Susan Trapnell. "I've been through this enough to know it will wear out everybody if it's not really possible" to raise enough money to get through the current year.

"So we just decided that a healthy 2012 is more important than continuing 2011," said Trapnell, a veteran arts administrator and consultant who was recently engaged by Intiman.

The approximately 20 employees at Intiman will be receiving two weeks' notice.

The theater will work with ticketholders to "honor our subscribers for this season," though details are still being worked out, Trapnell said. Intiman currently has about 5,000 subscribers.

Trapnell is working with other theaters in town to see if they will honor Intiman's tickets.

Other likely choices will be for ticketholders to either write their ticket costs off as a donation to the theater; or to apply the cost as credit for the 2012 season.

Intiman, founded in 1972 and winner of a 2006 Tony Award for outstanding American regional theater, has debuted important stage works that went on to national acclaim, been a showcase for major talent, and provided educational and outreach programs.

But it's also had a history of financial fragility, with the situation growing more dire recently.

According to IRS filings, it ended each year from 2003 through 2009 in the red. By November 2010, it had an accumulated debt of $2.3 million. The theater owed back rent and utilities to Seattle Center, and had owed money to creditors.

In public statements about its financial state, the theater had blamed "management missteps" and lapses in oversight.

Intiman's endowment had fallen from $3.6 million about two years ago to $1 million last fall. The endowment is now essentially at zero after using the money to secure, and then pay off, a $900,000 line of credit, said board president Bruce Bradburn.

The theater has also not had an external audit of its finances in about 21 months because it changed the dates of its fiscal year, which threw the auditing schedule off. Such an audit will hopefully take place this year, Bradburn said.

In recent days, the theater had announced some good news: That it had just about reached its $500,000 March 31 emergency fundraising goal. (It had hoped to raise another $500,000 by September.)

But "the goals weren't set high enough — it wasn't what would really get the theater through" the rest of the season," Trapnell said.

Trapnell said the theater's leaders are "going to really look at what caused this to happen. It's not just one cause. Every part of the theater is complicit in some ways."

As far as she can tell, there was no malfeasance or malice.

Bradburn, the board president, said: "If we are going to survive as a theater, we have to look forward and we have to recognize the mistakes that were made, and put procedures in place to make sure they don't happen again."

Janet I. Tu: 206-464-2272 or jtu@seattletimes.com. Information from The Seattle Times archives was used in this report.

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