Report: Struggling Theater Ventures May Merge

CLEVELAND (AP) - This city's two professional theater organizations may merge to reduce debt, a newspaper reported Sunday.

The Cleveland Play House has mortgaged its 300,000-square-foot theater facility, one of the largest in the country, to help cover $3.5 million in debt after three losing seasons.

Great Lakes Theater Festival, a smaller, more classical venture, had to borrow $350,000 from its own working capital fund to make last season's books balance.

The Play House has a $7 million endowment to fall back on. Great Lakes can continue to dip into its working capital fund, which still has about $450,000.

The two nonprofit companies are talking about merging, The Plain Dealer reported. There have been similar talks in past years.

"But I've never seen it so serious," said Dean Gladden, Play House managing director for 16 years.

While some Cleveland-area people apparently are turning their backs on local professional theater, many are streaming to Playhouse Square Center downtown to see tours of Broadway hits, whose producers take profits back to New York.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)