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Center Theatre Group lays off a tenth of its staff*

June 11, 2009 |  8:45 pm

MarkTaperForum Center Theatre Group, the West Coast's largest nonprofit stage company, has laid off 12 employees -- a tenth of its full-time staff of 120. Those who remain will absorb one or two weeks' unpaid furlough in the coming year, with the highest-earning third losing two weeks. 

The cuts also include an end to automatic 5.25% contributions to employees' 401(k)  retirement accounts. Along with postponed shows and other reductions, they are expected to save the company $2.1 million during the fiscal year starting in July, officials said. Even so, CTG projects a $1.9-million deficit for the coming year. [An earlier version of this story made it sound as if the new cuts by themselves would save the $2.1 million.] 

The cuts were "across the board" in various departments, a spokeswoman said. Among those losing jobs is Ann Wareham, a 27-year veteran of the organization. She was one of three associate producers who help shepherd shows to CTG's three stages, the Ahmanson Theatre and Mark Taper Forum in downtown Los Angeles and the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City.

Artistic director Michael Ritchie couldn't be reached for comment Thursday. In April, he said donations were off 8% to 10% from the previous year and ticket revenues were down 5% to 10%.

Despite those declines, Ritchie said at the time, "all in all, this is a very solid organization financially."

CTG's most recent available audited financial statements show that it enjoyed surpluses of $6.2 million in 2006-07 and $4.9 million in 2007-08, the two years  before the economy began to sink. Expenditures totaled $53.3 million in 2007-08.

The staff cuts come on top of the previously announced postponement of one show at the Taper from this season until 2010, Martin McDonagh's "The Lieutenant of Inishmore."  Another production, "Heddatron," a robot-inhabited version of Ibsen's "Hedda Gabler" that had been scheduled for the Douglas, was postponed indefinitely, leaving that theater dark this summer.

CTG joins a long list of Southern California arts organizations that have laid off employees since last fall, including the J. Paul Getty Trust, Museum of Contemporary Art, Orange County Performing Arts Center, Pasadena Symphony Assn. and Los Angeles Opera. Opera Pacific went under entirely.

Among theaters, the Geffen Playhouse suspended its own productions on its smaller stage, the Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater, to cut costs, instead offering a guest production, "Louis & Keely Live at the Sahara." South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa dropped one of its traditional holiday shows, "La Posada Magica," from the coming season, and the Laguna Playhouse abandoned expansion plans, instead selling a property it had planned to convert into a second stage.

-- Mike Boehm

Related stories:

CTG drops another show, citing sour financial climate

Economic downturn isn't playing well in theaters

Taper postpones 'Lieutenant of Inishmore'

Photo: Interior of the Mark Taper Forum. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times

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