According to Ashley, the immediate challenge is to raise $50,000 by the end of March, but the company will also need to raise an additional $150,000 by the end of July, the end of their fiscal year.
“Simply put, unless we can do so, the doors will close,” he tells the GA Voice.
According to Ashley, “bad news hit in succession” — funding that did not come through and revenue not being met on certain shows.
“We knew this was different than things being tight; there were too many body blows,” he says. “We had to take measures to address them.”
Ashley admits that it’s been a rough few weeks, but has been encouraged by an outpouring of support from the community. At press time, Ashley says $18,000 has been raised and many individuals have expressed interest in helping.
“This is not unique to Atlanta or Actor’s Express; other organizations have been through this,” he says.
Actor’s Express still plans to stage a show in March. The company is getting ready to open the musical “See What I Wanna See,” written by Michael John LaChiusa and directed by out director Melissa Foulger. Scheduled after that is the gay-themed “The Judas Kiss,” starring Ashley and Clifton Guterman. Not staging the plays they had planned would be “pulling the rug out from underneath subscribers,” says Ashley, and would “hurt our reputation.
Actor’s Express has long been one of the city’s most respected theater companies. “We have been around for 23 years and we’ve been doing some of the best work in town,” says Ashley. “No other theater has our track record.”
On an LGBT front, the company has long been known for productions such as “Jeffrey,” “The Harvey Milk Show,” “Rescue and Recovery,” “Love! Valour! Compassion!” and the recent “Fair Use.”
According to Actor’s Express board chair Bruce Cohen, who is also gay, the company started doing work no one else would do.
“Think of the plays Express started staging — they were very much out of the mainstream,” he says. “Now plays like that are done by Horizon and Alliance and others. ‘Take Me Out’ was done at Theatre in the Square, and I don’t think they would have done a show like that if we hadn’t started doing them.”
But being a theater that takes risks can be a double-edged sword, says Cohen. “Not everything we do is a big hit,” he says. “If everything we do is a big hit, then we are not taking risks.”
As Actor’s Express works to raise the needed money, Ashley says leaders are also focused on insuring future sustainability. “We need to make sure we don’t get here again,” he says. “This is not the kind of appeal you can make more than once.”
Top photo: Actor’s Express is known for edgy and LGBT-inclusive fare, including the 2008 production of ‘Hedwig and the Angry Inch.’ (via Facebook)