The New Repertory Theatre is closing its doors after 40 seasons, citing financial difficulties and dwindling donations. Located in Watertown, the organization bills itself as one of the Boston area's premier mid-sized theater companies with more than 300 productions to its credit.
In a statement, the New Rep's board of directors said fundraising with major donors had fallen short of their goals and that the organization could not sustain itself after the 2023 season. The board is now in the process of dissolving the nonprofit and does not expect to have any remaining assets once that process is complete.
Watertown's Mosesian Center for the Arts, one of the New Rep's primary venues, is an independent organization and remains in operation.
New Rep Board Chair Chris Jones said the pandemic was a “big factor” in the closure, because it changed how audience members attend shows and whether they sign up for season tickets. He said that exacerbated the challenge of running a theater that already had slim margins.
“You really have to have support from major giving and institutions to really make it work and to attain a level of stability,” Jones said.
The New Rep suspended production for nine months during the pandemic, after which the theater reopened with a commitment to inclusion, diversity and collaboration. Since then, productions have included sold-out shows, musical events, collaborative community performances and events with local organizations like Watertown's library and public schools.
Jones said he is proud of their 2023 productions, both from a ticketing and artistic perspective.
“I don't think there's any regrets from our board ,and certainly not from me, about trying to put everything all in,” he said.
Recent productions include showings of “A Raisin in the Sun” and “DIASPORA!”
Lois Roach, one of the resident artists at the theater who directed “A Raisin in the Sun,” said the closing hurts, but she hopes the partnerships and memories they built can continue on.
“We're losing a place of work,” she said. “We're losing a place for artists to continue to learn and practice the craft and gain the skills. We're also losing a place of communion and community. When I think about sitting in these spaces and witnessing the collective sighs, the laughter, and an entire audience holding its breath … we're losing these spaces where we can learn about each other and where we can understand that there might be more ways that we're alike versus being ‘the others.’”
Roach is proud of work like The Pipeline Project, where the New Repertory Theatre invested in local performing artists and provided them with pathways to put on professional productions, including works like “The Fatherhood Mixtape,” which explored the intersection of what it means to be a Black man and a father.
She said works like “Listen to Sipu,” a play about Watertown’s Indigenous history, will continue to live on as performances in the town's annual Indigenous Peoples Day observances.
“I'm hoping that folks will remember that we came at it with a lot of heart, and a lot of hope, and a lot of understanding of the role that the arts and theater play in knitting together our communities, our dreams and engaging people with ways to understand the issues,” Roach said.