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Originally published February 6, 2012 at 7:24 PM | Page modified February 6, 2012 at 9:30 PM

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Show will go on at Intiman Theatre

The Seattle theater, which shut last year, met its deadline to raise $1 million, and will produce a four-play festival this summer.

Seattle Times theater critic

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It came down to the wire, and an eleventh-hour contribution last Friday. But the show will go on: Intiman Theatre has made its do-or-die deadline to raise $1 million and stay in business.

The prospects for Intiman looked dim last April, when the Seattle theater curtailed its 2011 season and laid off its entire staff due to a severe financial crisis.

In November, the board of directors and new artistic director Andrew Russell (who succeeded Kate Whoriskey) forged a fresh plan, seeking $1 million by early February to revive the Intiman.

The whirlwind two-month campaign brought in $1,026,263 in pledges as of Monday, said board president and US Bank executive Terry Jones, who sees the outcome as a vote of confidence from nearly 1,000 individual donors.

The largest pledges were four $100,000 gifts from repeat Intiman benefactors Sue Leavitt and Bill Block; Eve and Chap Alvord; Marcia and Klaus Zech; and from an unnamed donor. The board also contributed $100,000. And $500,000 in sums of $5 and up was raised from hundreds of donors via an online campaign.

Jones says the money will be used solely to finance the four-play summer festival the theater will present at Seattle Center's Intiman Playhouse in July and August. Performed by a 12-member local cast in rotating repertory, it will offer new takes on classic works directed by Russell ("Hedda Gabler") and Allison Narver ("Romeo and Juliet"), with two more plays to be named.

The drive to restart Intiman was controversial. The Tony Award-winning theater had been on the financial brink numerous times in its 40-year history. Then, last April, supporters were stunned when, soon after opening its season with a hit staging of the play "All My Sons," the theater announced it was out of cash and deep in debt.

There were charges of mismanagement, and an outcry over the theater's inability to refund some 4,500 subscribers for a 2011 season curtailed after one of five promised shows.

Russell said a case was made to potential donors that rescuing Intiman is crucial to maintaining Seattle's nationally touted theater scene, and retaining top local stage artists in the area. Jones also stressed the board "felt a moral obligation to try to make it right for the donors and subscribers who put their faith in us." (2011 subscribers will receive free 2012 festival passes.)

Intiman intends to now operate on a pay-as-you-go model, with a shorter season, a smaller staff and strict financial accounting. "Our budget used to be five or six million dollars a year," noted Jones. "Clearly we could not sustain that and needed to dial it back."

Other challenges lie ahead, both artistic and economic. Intiman has just begun to pay $370,000 in back rent and utilities owed to its landlord, the city-owned Seattle Center. It also must devise a plan to retire more than $500,000 in debt owed to other creditors.

Jones said that all ticket and other revenues for the 2012 season will go toward debt reduction.

The company's current lease with Seattle Center runs into the fall. During that period, the Intiman Playhouse will also be used by Cornish College of the Arts (for spring student shows), and for activities related to Seattle Center's 50th anniversary. Said Russell, "In the future we'd like to maintain the space for four months in the summer, and some other organization would take it over the rest of the year."

Misha Berson: mberson@seattletimes.com

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