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Theater at Lime Kiln
Clock Strikes Midnight For Kiln
Published as part of the News Gazette December 5, 2012 edition.
Board Votes To Close Arts Venue
BY ED SMITH
The on-again, off-again campaign to save Theater at Lime Kiln has apparently reached the end of the road.
Two months after rejecting the advice of then-Executive Director Tony Russell to shutter the theater, the board of directors last Friday reversed course and chose to bring down the curtains for good.
“Nothing really changed other than we finally realized we couldn’t do it,” said board member George Huger. “Tony realized that before; it took us more time to accept it.”
The board also canceled the theater’s Classical Victorian Christmas that was to have taken place next Wednesday, Dec. 12, at Washington and Lee University’s Lenfest Center. Low ticket sales were given as the reason for the cancellation
Huger said the board explored different scenarios over the past several weeks: “We looked at how we could do the upkeep [for the theater’s facilities] in different phases, how we could downsize and maximize our income. The numbers weren’t going to work out. There’s a limit to how much community support we were going to get.”
Ultimately, he said, the board concluded that its plans to resuscitate the financially ailing outdoor theater were “just unrealistic.”
Russell had reached this conclusion in late September when a “Help Stoke the Kiln” fundraising campaign was falling well short of its goal to raise $100,000 by the end of the season, and an additional $300,000 by the end of the calendar year.
After being rebuffed by the local governments in a request for $200,000, Russell announced at the Sept. 24 meeting of the Rockbridge County Board of Supervisors that he would recommend the theater close following the final show of the season, a presentation of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” on Sept. 29.
When the board met on Sept. 28, the day before what was to be the final show, members declined to follow Russell’s recommendation, although they did lay off the theater’s paid staff, including Russell, while attempting to carry on with an all-volunteer staff.
The board plans to refund contributions that were made during the fundraising campaign. Huger said he believes the campaign had raised a little over $60,000 in donations and pledges, not much more than what had been raised by late September.
The board is to undertake a plan of dissolution that it hopes to complete by March, if not before. The theater doesn’t have a lot of debt, but what little it does, it will attempt to pay off, said Huger. He said he assumed that the kiln property would return to the Ford family that had been leasing it for use as a theater.
Built in the ruins of an old limestone quarry and kiln, just west of Lexington, the theater has been the venue for live outdoor plays and concerts since the early 1980s. During the first two decades of its existence, the unique outdoor theater staged original plays with professional casts and drew nationally acclaimed recording artists.
In recent years, the venue became more of a community theater, which turned out not to be a financially viable direction. The nearly three-decade-old infrastructure is in need of major improvements, and the financial resources to accomplish this just haven’t been available.
“Lime Kiln had some good years, a good run,” mused Huger. “Maybe it’s time to move on.”
‘The numbers weren’t going to work out. There’s a limit to how much community support we were going to get’
- George Huger
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