Frank Prosnitz is the news editor for What'sUpRhodeIsland. Prosnitz brings several years in journalism, including 10 years as editor of Providence (RI) Business News and 14 years as a reporter and bureau manager at the Providence (RI) Journal, to the What'sUpNewp and What'sUpRhodeIsland team. Prosnitz began his journalism career as a sports writer at the Asbury Park (NJ) Press, moving to The News Tribune (Woodbridge, NJ), before joining the Providence Journal.

Only two months after announcing an aggressive 2017-2018 season, featuring the likes of five-time award winning Titanic: The Musical, Warwick’s Ocean State Theater is closing its doors because of what the theater says are “ongoing financial struggles.”

The announcement came last night in a press release posted on the theater’s website. Earlier in the day a performer called Whats Up Rhode Island saying that the theater had canceled his show because it was closing.

At 4 in the afternoon, the box office line was still promoting shows, but not open during hours that it was listed as open. Calls to administrative offices also were only answered by voicemail. Messages left by phone and email went unanswered.

Both the Warwick mayor’s office and the city’s tourism office said they were unaware that the theater was closing. Tourism officials said they were in contact with the theater last week, and called the suggestion the theater would close as an unfounded rumor. However, they promised to be in touch with the ownership and call Whats Up Rhode Island if, in fact, the theater was closing. They never called.

In late afternoon, the theater’s website was still promoting a robust upcoming schedule. By late last night all references to upcoming shows was gone and the press release in its place.

On March 9, the theater was “thrilled” to announce its sixth season. “Get ready to meet some amazing characters next season – many of whom will be found in the new ensemble version of Titanic, which will launch our sixth season,” said Amiee Turner, Producing Artistic Director. That show was scheduled to run Sept. 20-Oct. 15. Also scheduled was the Tony-award Amaeus, Oct. 25 – Nov. 12. Lost in Yonkers was scheduled for Jan. 24 – Feb. 11, 2018; The Fantasticks, Feb. 28-March 18, 2018; Baskerville, March 28- April 15, 2018; Hairspray, April 25 – May 20, 2018.

Tickets to the 2017 – 18 season were scheduled to go on sale June 5.

The press release issued yesterday said that because of “ongoing financial struggles” the Ocean State Theatre Co, Inc. (OSTC)” would “immediately close the theatre on Jefferson Blvd, cancel its summer programs, and suspend the fall mainstage season. The future of the theatre company is under evaluation. As for the future of the theatre space itself, OSTC has not been given any information by the landlord, Mutual Properties.”

The release quoted the Board Chairman, Andrew Cohen: “It was a heartbreaking decision for those of us who are passionate about OSTC.”

The building, which was an empty garage and office when it was occupied by the theater company in 2012 was transformed into comfortable theater space. The release referred to difficulties in negotiating a lease, and a third party’s effort to purchase the building, saying “those negotiations were not successful.”

The release went on to say: “Mr. Cohen said that the company’s finance situation has been challenging for several years, in large part due to the impact of debt incurred when the company was forced to vacate Theatre By the Sea during construction of the Warwick theatre. The nonprofit theatre had hoped that the strong start to their 2016-17 Season, which has shown a tangible increase in tickets salehs, would attract more corporate sponsors, state and federal funding, and private donations to better support its ongoing programming. The inability to reach its projected goals for charitable giving, coupled with the inability to re-negotiate new lease terms and debt obligations, have led to this difficult decision.

“Ocean State Theatre Company is proud to have a group of individuals who have tirelessly supported the organization,” noted Mr. Cohen. “We also have a great team, which has been working diligently to find a path to success to meet our obligations. Time just ran out. We are eternally grateful to the supporters who have been there for us, our fellow artists, our audiences and our backers. We will always be proud of first re-opening the shuttered Theatre By the Sea in 2007, and the development of our current location in 2012, offering an additional quality theatrical venue to the State of Rhode Island.

“All patron records are being retained until such time as it can be determined what remediation will be offered.”

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