By Beverly Friend, American Theatre Critics Association member
It was April 1 when I heard the news. I hoped it was not true – only an April Fool’s spoof. The delightful Broward Stage Door Theatre was closing. Why, after 25 highly successful years in South Florida?
The first, and most obvious guess is that they had bitten off more than they could chew when they left their jewel box of a theater on Sample Rd in Margate to head for the much larger, elaborate venue in the new Lauderhill Performing Arts Center.
That is certainly a major part of it.
Why, or why did they ever leave Margate?
According to Bill Hershberg, writing in Florida on Stage, the city of Margate actually considered buying the original venue and renting it to Stage Door for $1 a year in order to promote the city’s cultural image. Oh – if that had only happened!
But it didn’t.
The new digs had so much to offer – Beautiful. Bigger. Better. It could accommodate an audience of over 1,000 – even though Stage Door cordoned off the seats to hold the usual attendance of around 400.
One big question is whether the audience – mostly senior citizens – would follow them via the Turnpike or driving down State Rd 7, to stop just short of Sunrise to reach the theater. It was a long trip for Wynmoor residents and others. Subscriptions – the life blood of theaters — fell off.
Equally bad were two calamities – a performance that had to be cancelled when the lead actor failed to show up, and another performance that started one and a half hours late. Ticket prices were refunded for both.
Now, they are lowering the curtain on the last three shows of this season. No one will ever see them perform Ghost the Musical, Thoroughly Modern Millie, or The Soul of Motor City. What a loss this is – after all their successful artistic successes –highlighted by both traditional and new, original musicals that set hearts racing, hands clapping and feet tapping in time with the rhythms.
According to Hirshberg, in 2000 Stage Door had about 10,000 season subscribers. This fell to 3,000. Unlike many other companies, Stage Door earned 94 percent of its budget from ticket sales.
As a reviewer for ChicagoOnstage.com, I was delighted to be welcomed to review their plays over these past 13 years. This modern approach transcends newspapers by providing links to on -line reviews when they are posted on the theater’s web site – making them available to all readers – not merely those in Chicago or in any distant location.
Along with many other theater aficionados – I will sorely miss them.
Here are their final, sad words, posted on their nearly empty web site:
Stage Door has passionately pursued its mission to preserve the Great American Musical. We have shared the stages with thespians, creators, writers, directors and crew from all walks of life and from all corners of the globe. The unforgettable memories will forever define a generation.
The Stage Door Theatre made its final curtain call on Wednesday March 20th, 2019 with our finale performance of My One and Only, as we call a wrap on 26 seasons serving the South Florida community.
While the stage is darkened, the beating heart within our nonprofit organization remains as we attend to many financial obligations yet to fulfill. Your continued donor support will help us make a graceful exit from the stage. Please donate today.