CITING RECESSION, ALAMEDA CIVIC LIGHT OPERA TO CLOSE
Alameda Civic Light Opera, which has offered musical theater for more than a decade here on the Island, has made its final curtain call, its leaders announced Tuesday.
“After thirteen years of bringing great Broadway shows to our community, ACLO does not have the financial wherewithal to continue or produce a 2010 season,” a statement released to The Island and on ACLO’s website announcing the closure said. “Despite our best efforts, we have been unable to find a way to continue to fulfill our mission of bringing the best of Broadway theater to our city and community.”
The theater company has faced smaller audiences and a drop in contributions and grants over the past few years, they said, and they were unable to increase ticket prices or to raise enough money through fundraising efforts to fill the gap. The company’s 2008 tax form, filed in June 2009, showed a deficit of $62,014 at the end of that year. Their expenses that year were $310,037, on revenues of $286,320.
The company is seeking donations to help pay off its debt. Contributions can be made through their website or can be mailed to them at 875-A Island Drive, Alameda, CA 94502.
The Island reported on the theater company’s financial woes in March, when a reader said the company’s phone number had been disconnected and its e-mail box was full and not accepting new messages. At that time, an ACLO spokesperson said the company’s kids’ summer camp had been canceled and that its 2010 season was “up in the air.” The company had been selling off its sets and other assets in an effort to raise money and consolidate, and had also shut its box office down.
Apparently, the company’s leaders – one of whom called the decision to close down the company “very painful” – considered shutting ACLO down before the start of its 2009 season. They made the decision to close in January, waiting until Tuesday to make the announcement in an effort to tie up loose ends.
Mayor Beverly Johnson, who co-chaired the company’s honorary board with opera star Frederica von Stade, said she was impressed with the quality of the productions the company put on over the years. She said the company’s leaders “really made an effort to keep it going” in the face of tough economic times, out of sheer commitment to providing performing arts to the community.
“It’s always sad and it’s a shame when an organization that’s played such an important role in the community shuts down,” Johnson said. “It leaves a void that can’t be filled.”
The company was co-founded in 1997 by Frederick L. Chacon, who got a startup loan from the city to get things going, company leaders said. They said the company was started to bring more professional-quality entertainment to Alameda and the surrounding area. Chacon, who is now the artistic director at Altarena Playhouse and is a drama teacher at Alameda High School, did not respond to a call Tuesday evening seeking comment; his wife Carol, who answered a reporter’s call Tuesday and identified herself as a co-founder of the company, said she didn’t want to comment.
During its years of operation, ACLO put on 40 full-scale Broadway shows with other, small-scale performances in between. The company’s 2009 season included productions of “Ragtime,” “Annie” and “Hair.” The shows featured performers and directors from the Bay Area and beyond.
The company also hosted a kids’ summer camp which started in 2003 and an internship program offering production training for high school and college students that served as a step in the path some took to a professional theater career. Kris Matarrese, who serves on ACLO’s board, said one of the students in that program went on to a job at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek.
Jonathan Spencer, who performed in the company’s 2009 production of “Ragtime,” said that ACLO’s ability to put on big musicals in a large space – Kofman Auditorium – was unique, and he’s sad to see the company go. He said these last few years have been, financially, tough ones for theater companies, and that starting over again now would be tough to do.
“I felt like I had discovered something totally wonderful, and I’m regretting that it’s not around anymore,” Spencer, who learned of the closure from a reporter, said. “I’m sorry to hear they’re not going to be a resource for the community anymore.”