Balagula Theatre artistic and managing co-directors Natasha Williams and Ryan Case have resigned, leaving the company's future in question.
In a letter posted on Facebook, Case wrote, "The status of the company is such that it can no longer financially support my position. For the sake of my personal responsibilities, I leave in order to pursue full-time, paid employment elsewhere."
Williams said during a phone interview Monday night that she had founded the company with Case in 2006 to be a place "for Ryan and his tremendous talent." She said she resigned at the same Nov. 20 board meeting when Case did. Williams, Case and the board agreed to keep the resignations confidential until after the theater's latest production, Venus in Fur, closed Sunday.
Balagula Theatre became a formal company in 2006 after several years of productions at Natasha's Bistro & Bar in downtown Lexington. The theater specialized in edgy, avant garde fare by writers such as Samuel Beckett and Eugene Ionesco and contemporary writers including Amy Sedaris, Tracy Letts and Kentucky native Naomi Wallace.
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In August, the theater announced it was moving from its home base at Natasha's to primarily present its performances at the Central Library's Farish Theatre, with a few productions scheduled for the Downtown Arts Center. By then, the theater already was in financial straits. In June, Williams and Case asked the board to lay them off so they could collect unemployment and work for the theater as volunteers while it attempted to stabilize its finances.
"It became more and more obvious to us the board was not ready to reinstate us or pay us," Williams said Monday.
Said board member Evelyn Knight: "What was taken seriously was we needed to raise money to pay our staff. But our board was reorganizing at the same time, so we probably looked pretty pokey while we were trying to get a strategy."
None of the people involved thought the move from Natasha's exacerbated the financial difficulties of the theater. Immediate past president Bobbie Newman pointed out that Saturday night's performance of Venus was the best attended performance in Balagula history.
Asked about the future of Balagula, Knight said, "It is really difficult to say at this point. That's what we'll discuss at our next board meeting. My hope is that we will be able to maintain Ryan and Natasha's standard of presenting sophisticated art in our town with a visionary approach."
Balagula's next scheduled production is Friends by Kobo Abe, set for Jan. 21 to 31 at the Farish Theatre
Knight acknowledged that the theater was closely identified with its founding directors, and moving on without them would be a challenge.
In an interview, Case said, "It will survive. It can drive itself and speak for itself as a theater."
Williams lamented the difficulties of maintaining a theater company without major financial supporters but said she was proud to have maintained a vision for Balagula.
"I think we did damn good theater," Williams said. "But everything has a season."
This was the second major upheaval at a Lexington theater this fall. Last month, Actors Guild of Lexington laid off its artistic director, Eric Ryan Seale, the last employee on the payroll, and went into "hibernation," its board president said.