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WJT dismisses artistic producer Nathanson, cancels final show of season

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The Winnipeg Jewish Theatre has let artistic producer Michael Nathanson go and cancelled the final show of its 2013-14 season.

A short note that went up on the WJT website Tuesday afternoon stated that board members were examining the theatre’s financial position and considering how the company can go forward. They also apologized for the abrupt end to its 26th season.

"We look forward to returning to the stage in the future," read the statement.

There was nothing said about Nathanson’s sudden departure after seven years. Ivan Henwood, WJT’s associate artistic director, refused to answer questions other than to say the organization is involved in a legal process. Nathanson could not be reached for comment.

Nathanson, a Governor General Award-nominated playwright, joined WJT after the organization had a near-death experience in 2005-06 when the season attracted less than 50 per cent capacity.

This time it appears WJT never got over the critically acclaimed but financially costly Angels in America: Millennium Approaches in the spring of 2012 and the follow-up Perestroika, which kicked off its silver anniversary season that fall.

WJT was to close its season April 2 with the premiere of the Shiksa by Winnipeg playwright Cairn Moore, one of the so-called group of seven female local playwrights who were opening new plays in the city this season.

"They have no money, so they are not doing my show," said an obviously dejected Moore. "I thought they would finish their season but they’re not, which tells me they are in real trouble. The theatre is in jeopardy."

The announcement comes almost one year since the Manitoba Theatre for Young People imploded from a financial crisis that led to the dismissal of founding artistic director Leslee Silverman. MTYP, however, finished the year and offered a smaller 2013-14 playbill.

Moore is particularly upset because she opted to have WJT produce her play over three other suitors. Many theatres are putting the finishing touches to 2014-15 seasons, so it is unlikely Shiksa will be staged even next year.

"I’m bummed for myself but I am more upset for the wonderful actors who are also my friends and won’t be getting a paycheque," she says. "I hope someone will come in and save the day. Last year we were celebrating the 25th anniversary and now that might be it."

Moore is also upset that no board member called to let her know what was happening. She called a WJT board member to see if there was anything to the rumours she was hearing and was told to talk to the board president. Henwood phoned Monday to give her the bad news.

It’s another setback for the theatre community.

"The now-group of six are all up in arms," says Moore. "I’ve been getting calls from them all day."

kevin.prokosh@freepress.mb.ca

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