Shakespeare & Company announces furloughs, fundraiser

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LENOX — Many of the 26 full-time staffers at Shakespeare & Company will be furloughed through Oct. 4 as part of the organization's efforts to respond to losses spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a statement released early Wednesday, the company said it was cutting expenses and launching a "Springboard" fundraising campaign to help cover the loss of income from ticket sales this summer.

Administrative offices will be on limited hours and operations beginning Monday, and small team will remain active to handle administrative tasks, virtual programming, fundraising and property management. It was not clear how many of the employees would remain, but the statement said furloughed staff will continue to receive health benefits.

The company plans to resume education and performance programming come November, health guidelines permitting, according to the release.

"The Board deeply regrets having to impose a furlough on the extremely dedicated staff of the Company," said board Chairman Ken Werner in prepared remarks. "However, for the safety of our staff, artists, patrons, students, and volunteers, we have had to postpone our 2020 performance season, and our main summer fundraising event, as well as cancel all of our in-person education and professional training programs, all sources of critical operating revenue for the Company. We needed to take this measure to preserve the long-term financial viability of the Company and prepare us to come back strong for our 2021 summer season."

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"It is enormously disappointing to have to furlough our talented and devoted staff who pour their hearts into this company. And we regret having to suspend our normally scheduled programming due to COVID-19 this summer," adds Artistic Director Allyn Burrows in the release. "Nonetheless, to keep the wheels turning for the community, we're looking forward to our collaboration with Berkshire International Film Festival to host a drive-in movie theatre on our campus. We'll also explore ideas for simple, safe, outdoor programming on a per project basis as the conditions allow."

Managing Director Adam Davis called the move "a safeguard to our future programs."

He said goal of the Springboard campaign is to raise $500,000 "to help address this year's earned revenue shortfall and place the Company in the strongest position to reopen its facilities."

"Long-time friends of the Company launched the Campaign with a $50,000 matching gift to encourage others to support the Company during these unprecedented times," he said in the release. "We are incredibly heartened by the strong response so far to this critical fundraising drive."

Shakespeare & Company's education department is staying in close communication with local schools and remains optimistic that fall programming, including The Fall Festival of Shakespeare, can still happen in some form, the release said.


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