Crisis for Boston Theatre

Huntington Theatre Company and BU to End Relationship

By: - Oct 09, 2015


For the past 33 years the partnership between The Huntington Theatre Company and Boston University has provided superb theatre to audiences of up to 200,000. In addition to the Huntington Avenue venue it created the Calderwood Pavilion in 2004 in Boston’s South End.

The letter below details what will occur immediately as well as plans for restructuring with the hope of saving the Huntington.

Dear Friend of the Huntington,

As you know, the Huntington Theatre Company is one of Boston’s major cultural institutions, providing world-class productions and public service benefits to over 200,000 people a year across the city. For over three decades our relationship with our founding and grand sponsor, Boston University, has been robust and mutually beneficial.

As you may have already learned from numerous press reports this morning, it has become clear that BU and the Huntington both have needs that the partnership can no longer meet. BU needs to better serve its theatre arts students and thus relocate its production, design, and black box facilities to its Charles River Campus. The Huntington needs a first-class mainstage theatre in which to present its plays and enhanced function spaces for its patrons. Neither BU nor the Huntington have the resources it will take to renovate and modernize the BU Theatre within the constraints of our current partnership.

After extensive discussions, BU and the Huntington have decided to dissolve our partnership. We reached the conclusion that we are both far more likely to achieve our different goals in the future by proceeding individually rather than together. This has been a difficult decision to make, but we both believe it is the right one. In implementing this decision, we are acutely aware of the need to move thoughtfully and in ways that give both of us the time to transition to our respective next steps. To that end, the University will immediately put the theatre and two adjoining buildings on the open market, and BU will require any buyer to guarantee the Huntington’s use of the facility through June 30, 2017. This guarantee provides a reasonable amount of time for the University and the Huntington to plan and implement our next steps. The Huntington will have the time to either look for a new theatre in which to present its programs after 2017, or talk with potential developers and buyers of the BU Theatre properties about establishing a new partnership. BU students will continue to have a place to participate in scenery and set design work while the University builds new production, design, and black box facilities on its Charles River Campus. (Read the joint statement from BU and the Huntington.)

The Huntington respects and appreciates our relationship with BU, values the substantial financial support that we have received, and is proud of our work on behalf of the University and its students during the past 33 years. At the same time, we are eager to revitalize the theatre we’ve called home for those 33 years and want to continue to produce ambitious, large-scale works at that location in a way that enhances our services to audience members, young people, and the theatre community of Boston.

Therefore, the Huntington will continue to pursue the purchase of the Huntington Avenue properties on our own or in partnership with others. As interested buyers and potential developers emerge, we will connect with them to emphasize the historical and cultural importance of this landmark theatre, our record of service to our city, and our belief that our participation will add value to the eventual development program for the property. Our strong preference is to remain in and improve our longstanding Huntington Avenue venue.

The Board of Trustees of the Huntington stands ready to be a partner in any purchase or development of these properties. Our Board is prepared to undertake a capital campaign to fund the significant investment which will be needed to convert the current theatre into a first-rate, modern venue, similar to the campaign we undertook to finance the Calderwood Pavilion in 2004.

The Huntington is strong and vibrant, and one of the region’s premier cultural assets. This year we expect 130,000 people to see eight different Huntington productions, ranging from exciting new works to classics made current, and to serve over 80,000 others at the Calderwood Pavilion. For the past 11 years, the Huntington has operated the Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA in Boston’s South End, subsidizing costs for a wide range of other organizations and hosting over 834,000 audience members at 5,000 performances of 355 productions by dozens of performing arts groups.

The Huntington also has one of the most extensive, impactful, and admired theatre education departments in the country. Our partnerships with the Codman Academy Charter Public School, Boston Public School system, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and over 150 community-serving organizations have enabled us to provide access to the arts and educational productions for over 32,000 young people and limited-income theatregoers each year throughout the Greater Boston area.

We are confident that we will move forward with a newly revitalized mainstage theatre venue, either on Huntington Avenue or elsewhere if need be, and with both a renewal and an expansion of our services to this community.

Thank you for your continued support of the Huntington. We will keep you abreast of our future plans as they develop.