Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Shakespeare and Company crisis

The sad news of the financial crisis at Shakespeare & Co. didn't surprise me; rumors of the eccentric management of that institution have been rife for years (and years). At the same time, however, whatever their management lapses, the group's purchase and renovation of its expansive new digs (after being booted from The Mount, which has faced its own fiscal problems) put an understandable pressure on their finances. Still, it's striking how the public face of the situation parallels that of the North Shore Music Theatre - full-steam-ahead, business-as-usual behavior masking a mounting deficit, followed by the sudden announcement of an enormous debt load, and a last-minute pitch to raise a huge sum of money just to stay open (in this case $2.3 million by March, although the Globe article seems to equivocate on that deadline).

Sigh. More "boards behaving badly," I suppose. And history doesn't offer much hope in scenarios of this kind. On the other hand, the group has enormous popular support (although I admit I'm not really a fan), and is certainly a driver of the Berkshire summer economy. And with the stock market in something of a recovery, perhaps new donors can be found, and a restructuring may stave off the financial deadline. With Shakespeare, hope springs eternal.

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