Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

MTYP misses payroll as it struggles with finances

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MANITOBA Theatre for Young People missed paying its staff last week as it continues to grapple with a year-long financial crisis.

Board president Gloria Koop said Wednesday that the 30-year-old company, which is struggling with a debt in the $1.5-million range, has an annual cash-flow problem that typically emerges in late February. She said this is the fourth year in a row this has happened

"It's not unusual for us to have this problem at this time of year," said Koop, in her first year chairing the board of directors. "We are simply waiting on grant revenue and other receivables to come in. It's just a case of bad timing. It's a weak moment in time for us."

Earlier this year artistic director Leslee Silverman said the debt was bigger that the company could deal with and executive director Zaz Bajon added that the company was struggling to make ends meet.

The board met Tuesday night and went over plans being finalized that will improve the well-regarded theatre's fiscal picture. Much of the debt is a carryover from the construction of MTYP's home at The Forks in 1999. Fundraising is still the most pressing need.

"There are many things we need to do," Koop said. "We need to cut costs, we need to seek out new supporters and just become more sustainable. We are hard at work on a three-year development plan."

This is normally the time that Silverman announces MTYP's new season. One of the options still being considered is a reduced season.

Besides looking for money, the board is also searching for a new general manager/executive director. Koop said that Bajon is leaving MTYP in mid-April after being lured out of retirement -- following a laudable 30 years as the general manager of the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre -- last spring to take this new challenge. She called Bajon's contribution integral to the development to the company's plans.

"There are lots of good things in the works to look forward to," Koop said. "We are steadily moving towards sustainability."

The Mark of Zorro opens at MTYP March 1.

-- Kevin Prokosh

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 28, 2013 C18

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