Portland’s Artists Repertory Theatre suspends upcoming season, due to lack of funding

By Rob Manning (OPB)
Aug. 15, 2023 11:58 p.m. Updated: Aug. 16, 2023 12:41 a.m.

The 40-year-old Portland drama company blames the cancellation on a “national crisis” and the absence of financial assistance from the state.

Leaders of Portland’s Artists Repertory Theatre announced on Tuesday they are canceling the 2023-24 season, just as the company was beginning rehearsals for one of the shows it planned to produce.

According to a statement on the 40-year-old theater company’s website, “crucial funding has not materialized” in time to salvage the season.

Artists Repertory Theatre in Southwest Portland has a central location that preserves some of the gritty character of old Portland, even through several stages of redevelopment.

Artists Repertory Theatre in Southwest Portland.

April Baer / OPB

The challenges aren’t unique to ART. The Oregon Shakespeare Festival had to launch a fundraising campaign earlier this year just to complete its current season in Ashland.

“The ongoing national crisis among regional theatres has presented us with significant obstacles that require careful consideration and action,” said Artists Rep board chair Pancho Savery in the statement posted to the company’s website. “To navigate these challenges successfully, we believe it is crucial to take this strategic pause in order to focus on key areas that will shape the future of ART and ensure its sustainability.”


The Artist Rep statement, which was signed by managing director Aiyana Cunningham and artistic director Jeanette Harrison, takes specific aim at the Oregon Legislature; a bill to aid arts organizations failed in the most recent session.

“House Bill 2459 was not passed by the Oregon Legislature and resulted in $250,000 not being awarded to us as part of the proposed recovery funding for the arts and cultural sector,” the statement said. “The bill would have appropriated monies to cultural organizations in response to the negative impact of the pandemic on organizational finances.”

Not receiving that revenue from the state added to other financial problems, including “escalating operational costs, decline in ticket sales, and reduced staffing capacity” according to the Artist Rep statement.

The decision comes at an otherwise auspicious time for the company, as construction is underway on what’s projected to be its $30 million new home. Cunningham, in an email to OPB, said funds raised for the building project “are dedicated for this use,” leading the company to now raise money for two purposes.

“Ongoing fundraising strategies for the full completion of the building project are happening adjacent to fundraising and revenue generation for our general operating costs,” Cunningham said. She expressed optimism that the building project will be completed, but said the timeline for completion might change as a result of upcoming discussions during “this strategic suspension of the production season.”

The theater directors say the decision to pull the plug on the upcoming season is “particularly difficult” because they were preparing for rehearsals with Native playwright Dillon Christopher Chitto on his play, Pueblo Revolt.

The statement holds out hope for “the potential to represent work later in the planned season,” as theater leaders evaluate their options.