New Haven’s Long Wharf Theater to Become Itinerant

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The theater’s leadership, including not only Padrón but also the managing director, Kit Ingui, and the board chairwoman, Nancy Alexander, all said that they believe the institution is financially stable, and that it would benefit from the flexibility of its next phase. They said that the new arrangement should not only reduce its costs but also expand its reach to audiences who, because of geography, transportation or economics, have not found their way to the waterfront district from which the theater takes its name.

“There’s no sense that we’re hanging on by a thread or that we have to live on a shoestring,” Alexander said. “We have been blessed with some longtime givers who have created a strong endowment for us, and we are projecting budgets that will work.”

Long Wharf plans to stage at least two more shows at its current location — a new play called “Dream Hou$e,” by Eliana Pipes, which the theater describes as being about “the cultural cost of progress in America,” and “Queen,” by Madhuri Shekar, about “brilliant women confronting inconvenient truths.” The theater is still talking with its landlord about whether it might continue producing in the building later this year, but by the fall of 2023 the leadership expects to present full productions at other locations in and around New Haven — possibly in rented theaters, and possibly in spaces not traditionally used for theater.

“We believe you can produce theater anywhere,” Ingui said.

Long Wharf, which in 1978 won the Tony Award for regional theater, survived the pandemic with significant support from the federal and state governments. Its staff is less than half the size it was — about 30, down from 65 before the pandemic; the annual budget, which had been about $6.5 million before the pandemic, is now a little over $5 million.

The theater’s leaders said they have not yet decided whether they will remain itinerant long-term, or whether this will be a short-term phase. But they all said the crises faced by the theater were catalysts, not causes, for the move.

“We’re going into this with excitement,” Alexander said. She said that the theater’s pandemic performances in city parks demonstrated that new locations could attract new audiences, and that by moving around New Haven, Long Wharf is seeking to become “a theater that is much more widely in our community, and, we hope, valued by our community.”

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