Read our full announcement at tctwentypercent.org/sunset.
- Is this decision being made due to COVID-19?
No, this was decided prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- How was this decision made?
The board and staff determined last fall that there are not enough feasible revenue sources — grants, individual donations, sponsorships, ticket sales, and others — that will allow us to continue operating sustainably beyond 2021. 20% is a lean organization with a small staff. Even while cutting all costs that are not critical to our operations, we cannot run the organization and our programming for more than one more season. We are making the decision to gracefully sunset the organization rather than take on any debt.
- Why is continuing to operate unsustainable now?
There are many compounding factors at play here. We continue to produce high quality work, empowering queer & trans artists and early career artists. While we believe people want to support this work, there simply aren’t enough funding opportunities. The grants environment has become increasingly competitive, and unfortunately, funding for the arts has seen a steady decline in recent years. Despite our amazing efforts and history of receiving grants for our productions and operations, we have not had the same luck in the past year. In addition, times are hard for all of us humans. Pandemic or not, unemployment crisis or not, the communities we serve have been struggling. Despite our best fundraising efforts, donations have been declining steadily for several years, as have ticket sales. Our commitment to pay artists and staff equitably has not changed, but the income to match those expenses is simply not there.
- Is 20% Theatre Company in financial trouble?
No, and we don’t want to be. We have always operated from a place of integrity. Our organization operates on a lean budget and we simply don’t have significant revenue to continue operating sustainably. In addition, we don’t have a large enough budget to be eligible for more substantial grants, despite many years of trying hard to grow. We currently have cut all costs that are possible to cut, and cannot make any additional cuts to our budget that will result in our ability to sustainably operate the organization moving forward. Any further cuts would also prevent us from paying artists fairly, a value that remains extremely important to us.
- Why did you take so long to tell us if you knew about this in fall of 2019?
We intended to announce this important news earlier this spring but delayed the announcement due to many unknowns related to the Covid-19 pandemic and how the pandemic would affect our final season.
- Why didn’t you ask the community for help? Isn’t there some way to save the organization?
We have worked tirelessly to look at every option available that would allow us to remain operational. Even with significant donations from our community, after much number crunching and brainstorming, the company realized it would not be able to sustainably operate and uphold its values beyond 2021.
- Weren’t you going to hire a new Executive Director awhile back?
Yes. The original plan was to hire a new Executive Director in the fall of 2019, and eventually an Artistic Director in 2020 as well. As the board and staff realized the organization could not be sustained beyond a 15th season, plans shifted to keep the founder and existing Executive Director, Claire Avitabile, in her role through the organization’s closing. A decision was also made at that time to hire Marcela Michelle as Artistic Director for the final season. Marcela has been serving as Artistic Producer for the majority of productions over the past several years and has been doing incredible work to to support our community of artists.
- How will 20% Theatre Company engage the community during the sunsetting process?
We are exploring options to safely connect with our community over the next year, which may include Town Hall events (in person or virtually), community conversations, and/or events linked to 15th season productions.
- Do you still need financial support?
Yes, absolutely! We rely on the support of the community to do this work, as ticket sales and grant funding only account for about 50% of our annual budget. Every production is a labor of love, and the best way to love our artists is to compensate them for their work. If you have experienced a 20% Theatre production — from a seat in the audience, on-stage or behind-the-scenes — you know first-hand how important our work is. Especially now. We need to raise $20,000 in support of our final season. Please consider making a donation today!
- What’s next for the 20% Theatre Company staff?
Founder & Executive Director Claire Avitabile will discover what it’s like to only work one full-time job after having two for the past 15+ years! Post-pandemic, she also hopes to get back to her original love - directing, and there may be grad school in the near future for her as well! Artistic Director Marcela Michelle looks forward to upholding the fierce legacy of 20% Theatre as a freelance Director and Producer, and also as Director of Programming for Lightning Rod, where she will oversee the continuation of Q-STAGE: New Works Series. She may be found performing on occasion, namely in Anne Carson’s Norma Jean Baker of Troy with Rough Magic this winter, and in The Paradox of Stillness at Walker Art Center next summer. Marketing & Communications Manager Kristen Stoeckeler has spent much of 2020 so far training to become a software developer, and she is excited to pursue this new phase of her career! She will remain on staff through this final season with reduced hours to assist with all marketing efforts for the organization. While documenting 20% Theatre performances, Kristen also discovered a love of photography and she's excited to continue pursuing this newfound passion in new contexts.
- What other theatre companies or performance projects supporting queer & trans work should I know about?
We encourage you to check out and support Lightning Rod, Naked Stages at Pillsbury House Theatre, Gadfly Theatre Productions, Umbrella Collective, Uprising Theatre Company, Mother Goose’s Bedtime Stories, Pangea World Theatre, and Sandbox Theatre in the Twin Cities.
- How can I share my memories with 20% Theatre?
It is up to every one of us to keep the legacy of 20% Theatre Company living and breathing in the world. Start sharing your memories on social media by tagging @20percenttheatretc or using the hashtag #20percenttheatrecompany. Be sure to make your posts public! Staff will do everything they can to harvest, share, and archive these memories. You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Who should I contact with questions?
If you have questions related to 20% Theatre Company’s sunset or the final season, please connect with us at email@example.com.