Theatre Aspen finds its path |

Theatre Aspen finds its path

Rick Carroll
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO, Colorado

ASPEN ” When Paige Price took the job as Theatre Aspen’s artistic director last fall, the nonprofit’s books weren’t exactly a model of financial success.

“It was a mess,” she said.

In fact, it was so bad that there were rumblings about whether the organization could stay solvent. But in December, Theatre Aspen’s board of directors elected to provide the organization a $125,000 line of credit, as well as a loan for $190,000, which is scheduled to be paid in full by January 2010.

Before that cash injection, Theatre Aspen was saddled with debt and barely getting by.

“It was like squatters coming in: They could only take care of the here and now,” Price said. “But through the determination of an amazing board and an incredible treasurer, we’re getting in shape.”

Lately Theatre Aspen has been trumpeting the fact that this summer marks its 25 season. Among its summer offerings are such productions as “Little Shop of Horrors,” “Rounding Third,” “Seussical” and “Crimes of the Heart.”

The nonprofit also recently announced the hiring of Jeffry George as its managing director. The current management structure does not include an executive director.

Price is upbeat that Theatre Aspen is turning the corner, but she also remains realistic.

“I recognize you get a honeymoon, and we’re in it,” said Price, a Broadway actress and a co-star in Theatre Aspen’s August 2007 production of “The Last Five Years.”

Last year, ticket sales brought in about $200,000. This year, Theatre Aspen has an operating budget of $1.1 million, of which $325,000 is expected through revenues generated from ticket sales, its camp and education program, Price said.

Theatre Aspen also has to house much of its talent and production crew. Many of its summer employees resided in the Holiday House, which was destroyed by a fire in November.

This summer, some 22 summer workers mostly will be residing in free-market units in Aspen. That cost alone will be some $70,000, said Price, whose job is seasonal ” from May through September.

Price said the chief goal of Theatre Aspen is to fill seats.

“One of the biggest missions is to find out what can be sustainable,” she said. “I want the tent to be bursting at the seams.”

Once that mission is complete, the organization will then set its sights on broader goals, she said.

“In the space of one year, the turnaround has been unbelievable,” Price said.