By George Hoover
“This is our 75th production in 17 years, and we are realizing that our pre-pandemic audiences are not returning,” said Hans H. Gruenert, Producer at off the WALL Productions.
Performing arts companies are struggling to deal with declining audience attendance and subscription sales. Strategies have included reducing the number of season offerings, producing “simpler” shows, and re-thinking venues all while attempting to balance revenue and expenses.
off the Wall is the latest company to announce changes, in their case curtailing productions presented in Pittsburgh, focusing instead on New York City.
“Currently producing two new plays for different audience tastes and having the worst attendance in our history was the wake-up call we needed. Some [of our] select productions have been moved to New York stages before, which is also true for our two current productions. In addition, since our personal re-location to Iceland, we have re-staged (so far) 3 of our earlier shows in Reykjavik with wonderful support from the local artists community.” said Gruenertin in an email to onStage Pittsburgh.
“We have never produced theater with financial success in mind. From the start, we believed that theater only works if the artists, including designers, techs, and staff, are taken care of. Our progressive approach didn’t overall endear us to the powers that were and still are in Pittsburgh. We never received any financial support that made a difference, which was fine as long as we could make a difference in artists’ lives and engage our audiences. Ticket sales income is not the issue; it was never more than 20% of our cost, but producing art for empty chairs is not fair to the artists who put their soul into the work.
off the WALL will continue as a theater production company, but our next large project (another world premiere) will be staged exclusively in New York. We will continue introducing our particular approach to theater to Iceland and hopefully some other European countries. In addition, we are working with Icelandic artists on adapting plays, reflecting the Nordic culture. “
off the Wall’s principal venue in Pittsburgh, Carnegie Stage, is an independent entity and will continue to function as a rental facility to theater and dance groups and individual artists.