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From the archives: This day in Herald history

Feb. 20, 1977: ‘The Final Curtain at Trinity?’

By and
Senior Staff Writers
Thursday, February 20, 2020

This article describes a piece published in the Feb. 20, 1977 Brown Daily Herald.

On this day in history in 1977, Magee Hickey ’77 wrote “The Final Curtain At Trinity?” — an article covering the potential closing of Trinity Square Repertory Company, a theater organization known today as Trinity Repertory Company. The Company’s plight arose amidst a wave of similar financial crises for repertory companies across the country.

Following a Providence January plagued by snowstorms and ice, the Company faced immense losses in box office sales, threatening the jobs of 30 actors and many crew and administrative staff members. The responsibility to reconcile the box office losses fell on an affiliated fundraising group, the Friends of Trinity; this group had replaced the Foundation for Repertory Theater in Rhode Island the summer prior in response to fundraising failures and a threat by the Foundation to oust a Company-affiliated director from the Lederer Theater.

Consisting of a core group of 40 fundraisers who also served as board members, Friends of Trinity was headed by Dr. Mayer Levitt — a Providence dentist — who previously served on the board of the Foundation for four years. Hickey wrote that “Dr. Levitt believes the formation of ‘Friends of Trinity’ was the best thing that ever happened to Trinity Square (Repertory Company).” In order to increase community awareness of and involvement in the Company, Dr. Levitt urged Rhode Islanders to join fundraising efforts for the theater company.

The first fundraising event set for Jan. 10 — an evening of performances by Rhode Island artists — was canceled because of the snow. As Hickey noted, “How ironic that the snow may now cancel Trinity Square for a while!”

But this cancellation turned out to be a relief for the Company, since negligent publicity and scheduling resulted in low ticket sales. At the time of the article’s publication, the Company had already reported higher numbers in ticket sales for their new fundraising date of March 19.

Friends of Trinity continued to fundraise for the Company through a Valentine’s Day car raffle which boasted a 1977 Cadillac along with various cash prizes. The fundraising group also hoped to raise more money throughout the spring with a benefit piano recital, testimonial dinner and membership offerings to the Company. While actors worried about potential unemployment, Dr. Levitt and Friends of Trinity continued to focus on negotiating the lease to the Lederer Theater, which the Foundation still held.

The Company successfully weathered the winter and financial tribulations. Since Hickey’s 1977 article, Trinity Repertory Company has continued to entertain Rhode Islanders by showcasing regional talent and, starting in 2002, partnering with the University in a three-year MFA program.

Magee Hickey ’77 went on to become an Emmy Award-winning reporter and continues to work as a broadcast journalist in New York.

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