Fans of the Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre were dismayed to receive this letter from artistic director Carmen Khan. It looks like this season will be the last in a while. We wish the best to Carmen and everyone at the company.
Dear Fellow Shakespeare Lover:
The Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre is entering a metamorphosis.
Three forces have presented themselves in combination that we need to address. Due to rising overhead costs and rent, we need to leave our location at the Lutheran Church of the Holy Communion, which has been our host for twenty years. Second, although individual and corporate support is stronger than ever (thank you!), institutional sources are retrenching, so the already excessive burden on our private sponsors is set to jump even higher. Third, I had cancer surgery last winter, and although I am cured, I need real time to exercise and recover my health and strength.
If only one or two of these fresh challenges were before us, we would plunge once more into the breach. But with all three combined, the message is inescapable: it is time to reinvent ourselves.
So, we are leaving our home at 2111 Sansom Street. We are suspending productions for this year. We will capitalize on our growing support and transform ourselves during this transitional period by focusing on expanding our much-demanded educational residency and tour programs. And we will begin getting our celebrated plot charts and script analyses into publishable form, so that we can share with a wide audience the insights won during two decades of full-time study of Shakespeare’s endlessly fascinating plays.
In the future, as my health is restored and as individual and corporate support continues to grow and a more appropriate permanent location is found, we will again be honored to entertain you on the public stage.
It is a moment to pause; to look back at what’s done and look forward to what’s to come, as ’twere with an auspicious and a dropping eye.
Looking back, we can celebrate twenty years of great Shakespeare. Fifty-six unforgettable productions. A hundred thousand theatregoers have climbed our well-worn stairs, to laugh with us, cry with us, and go home entertained in the very best sense of the word. Broadened. Soothed. Able to see ourselves and those around us with new eyes. A hundred thousand school students have arrived grumpy and wary, then departed wide-eyed, bubbling over with excitement about how “awesome” Shakespeare is. And this last season was our best ever – unanimous rave reviews and sold-out houses. I am filled with gratitude to all of you, and to the wonderful City of Brotherly Love, for welcoming me and giving me this opportunity which even many successful, lifelong theatre professionals never get: the chance to really do justice to these peerless scripts; to bring them to life on the stage, swept clean of four centuries’ accumulation of dust and rust; to reveal in full light all the magic and power that Shakespeare imbued them with, as bright and fresh and glorious as on the first day they opened at the Globe. It has been a great honor and a privilege.
Looking forward, you can hardly imagine how much time and energy will be liberated by this transition. Fantastic possibilities are taking shape on the horizon to be announced in the future.
With love and gratitude,