Ashley blames the shortfall on “decreased discretionary spending and reduction in philanthropic support,” and says the upcoming 2011-2012 season won’t happen unless funding comes through.

Read the full e-mail:

Dear Friend of Actor’s Express,

Our theatre is at a critical juncture – a true life or death moment. As you know from our many recent calls for support, we are fighting to make it through an extraordinarily difficult time for the arts in Atlanta. Decreased discretionary spending and a reduction in philanthropic support have dramatically impacted our revenues. Our staff and board have worked tirelessly to do more with less – cutting our spending while continuing to present works of the highest quality and importance. In spite of our efforts, though, we are faced with an impending deficit that quite literally threatens our existence. Without immediate additional support – above and beyond that already projected – we will be forced to close our doors. Specifically, to save Actor’s Express, we need $50,000 over the next four weeks, and an additional $150,000 over the next four months.

To be sure, the situation is dire, but it is far from hopeless. We take some comfort in the fact that we are not alone – theatres and arts organizations throughout the country have struggled, yet time and again their patrons and supporters have rallied to save them. We also know that our foundation is stronger than ever: we have an active, engaged board as well as the most capable business management in our history. Additionally, we are in the midst of an in-depth strategic planning process that is helping us to lay a solid platform for our 24thseason and beyond. And most importantly, we continue to raise the bar of artistic excellence, and the work we are doing stands with the strongest in AE’s history.

We know that our roots are deep and our legacy is strong. Consider just our most recent accomplishments:

• Winner of the Audience Choice Award for Outstanding Overall Season from the Suzi Bass Awards in 2010

• Three AE productions named to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s top 10 theatre events list of 2009, more than any other theatre

• Fair Use named by Creative Loafing as the top Atlanta theatre production of 2009

• Eight AE shows named to Creative Loafing’s list of the top 50 Atlanta theatrical productions of the decade

• Co-hosted the 2009 National New Play Network showcase attended by 36 theatres from across the country

• Staged our most commercially successful show of the decade, Grey Gardens, in 2009

• Became home to the Essential Theatre festival and Libby Whittemore’s cabaret

• Received specific grants to upgrade our infrastructure, including a new seating system; upgraded sound system; refurbished lobby and signage; the addition of a permanent concession bar; and a new customer management database.

A further look into our history reaffirms what a critical touchstone we are in the city’s creative landscape. Our production history includes classics like A Doll’s House and The Cherry Orchard; American landmarks such as Picnic and Suddenly Last Summer; musicals including Hedwig and the Angry Inch, The Harvey Milk Show, and Gypsy; regional premieres of major new works like I Am My Own Wife, The Goat or who is Sylvia, and Mauritius; and more than a dozen world premieres, including the long-running Rescue & Recovery and the hit Octopus, which has been produced nationwide since its AE debut.

As a member of the National New Play Network, we are a critical player in helping to maintain and advance the vibrancy of American theatre. Our commitment to emerging theatre artists is also exemplified by our Professional Development Program, which offers interns the opportunity to spend a year in residence at the theatre, immersed in all workings of professional theatre and bridging the gap from college training to the professional world. This program has made a difference to hundreds of young theatre artists and has fed the local arts community with well-trained new talent. Likewise, the Turner Voices In The Works program, which has offered readings and workshops to emerging American playwrights like Sarah Gubbins, Lauren Gunderson and Steve Yockey, further exemplifies the theatre’s commitment to new work.

I can’t say it any more plainly or sincerely. Actor’s Express is a cultural jewel and an Atlanta treasure. Twenty-three years ago, founder Chris Coleman had a vision for a dynamic and innovative theatre and spent the next decade building it into a vibrant institution that reached out to many diverse areas of our community. The team we have in place today considers it an honor to build on that legacy, to maintain the national reputation for excellence that Actor’s Express has earned, and to move the theatre toward a bright future.

For the upcoming 2011-12 season, we are planning two recent Broadway hits, a great American classic, and also some exceptional new work – in other words, a season full of all the things that have made Actor’s Express special for 23 years.

That season will not happen, however, unless we raise $50,000 in the next four weeks and an additional $150,000 over the next four months. Your investment in this work will be shepherded with utmost care, and we promise to make every penny of your gift count towards stellar award-winning theatre.

Help us get there by donating now. Share this message with your friends and family and encourage them to support Actor’s Express at this critical time. With your help, Actor’s Express can overcome the financial crisis it faces and continue to produce exciting theatre experiences for years to come.

Actor’s Express is worth saving.

And if we all work hard together, it WILL be saved.

Donate online here, through PayPal here, by sending a check to the address below, or by calling us at 404.875.1606. And don’t forget to forward to your friends by clicking the forward button at the top of this letter.

With deep gratitude,
Freddie Ashley
Artistic Director

Actor’s Express
887 West Marietta Street NW, Suite J-107
Atlanta, GA 30318
404-875-1606 administrative office
404-607-SHOW box office

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