Meadow Brook Theatre, the Detroit area's only LORT playhouse, could become a commercial roadhouse or be closed altogether, says the venue's owner, Oakland University, which like other state universities in Michigan, is facing major budget deficits. The university's board of trustees is scheduled to vote on the fate of the 37-year-old theatre on Wed., June 4.
A vote had originally been scheduled for Wed., May 7, but a hastily formed group of employees and supporters called the Committee to Save Meadow Brook Theatre asked the university for time to put together a proposal to preserve the venue as a not-for-profit local producer. Also on the trustees' table is a proposal from Detroit producer Joseph Nederlander to lease the 600-seat theatre and present shows there, paying the university $1,000 for each week of performances, plus 50 cents for each ticket sold. Nederlander has formed a separate company for the venture, distinct from his family's other theatrical interests.
Although its current season has been one of its more successful, with such shows as "Meshuggah-Nuns," "The Foreigner," and "Wait Until Dark" drawing substantial audiences, Meadow Brook has continued to operate at a loss. Its current cumulative deficit is about $320,000. The theatre also has some 40 employees, from seamstresses and carpenters to designers, stage managers, and administrators, and it is a mainstay for the Detroit theatre community, paying the highest actors' wages around under its LORT B contract.
Actors' Equity is equally eager to preserve Meadow Brook as a local employer. "We are ready to do whatever we need to do to make [Meadow Brook] economically viable," said Kathryn V. Lamkey, Equity's central regional director, who is based in Chicago. "We are not going to dig in our heels and say it has to be as it is—or nothing."
Among the possibilities: Meadow Brook operating under an URTA contract, or under another Equity arrangement less financially onerous to the cash-strapped university.
The Committee to Save Meadow Brook Theatre has scheduled a support rally for May 28.