Before COVID, Los Angeles’ Open Fist Theatre Company typically produced four or five major shows a year, with sold-out crowds for its musicals. It broke even or made a tiny profit most years.
This year, the nonprofit company is losing about $20,000 a month, a considerable sum on a $250,000 annual budget, said Martha Demson, Open Fist’s producing artistic director who runs the company in residence at Atwater Village Theatre. It’s down to two major productions, selling a little more than half the available seats for its now-running sci-fi fantasy musical “Starmites.”
More than three years after the pandemic’s onset, many live performing arts venues and nonprofit arts organizations throughout California are struggling to stay open, scaling back performances and even shutting down — and it’s not just because of COVID’s devastating toll, said Demson, who’s board president of Theatre Producers of Southern California, a regional trade association.