Council Keeps Grove Festival Alive--Till Friday

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The City Council came to the partial rescue of the Grove Shakespeare Festival on Tuesday night, enabling the financially troubled theater company to operate until Friday.

The council voted 4 to 1 to provide $7,248 for the theater. Councilman Raymond T. Littrell cast the no vote because he said the measure did not solve the long-term problem. The council will take up the issue again Monday.

The Grove's general manager, Tony Maggie, told the council during a lengthy presentation that unless it obtains $32,157 by Oct. 5, the Grove "won't be able to maintain our operations."

Theater officials, faced with a cash shortage over the next six weeks, had asked for $50,000 to cover basic expenses, such as salaries. Without it, they said, the two remaining shows would be canceled and staff laid off.

The 12-year-old, nonprofit troupe, Orange County's second-largest professional company, operates the indoor, 178-seat Gem Theatre and the outdoor, 550-seat Festival Amphitheatre under a municipal contract. Both theaters are city-owned.

The troupe produces a six-play season running from May to December. The operating budget for the 1990 season was projected at $699,000 before the season began, at $721,000 during the season, and in the latest Grove estimate on Tuesday at $726,739.

According to figures filed with the California Arts Council in April, the Grove believed expenditures would be met from two major sources: admissions (subscription and single-ticket sales) of $450,556, and contributions (foundation and government grants and private donations) of $223,056.

On Tuesday, however, Maggie provided figures indicating that total admissions are now projected to bring in $378,519, a shortfall of $71,977 due primarily to fewer subscriptions.

The crunch is not the Grove's first. In the summer of 1988, it nearly canceled its season when the City Council did not to renew a customary subsidy of about $85,000. After a bitter dispute, the council relented and gave $53,000. That, coupled with an outpouring of community support, notably $30,000 from the Strawberry Festival Assn., kept the Grove open.

But the victory cost the theater a promise that it would not come back to the city for more money. Moreover, it signed an agreement that the subsidy would be phased out by 1991. The subsidy declined from $35,000 in 1989 to $23,000 this year, and is supposed to drop to $15,700 next year for the final amount.

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