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Bay Area Children's Theatre

Bay Area Children’s Theatre shuts down: ‘We are heartbroken that BACT cannot continue to carry out its vital mission.’

on May 19, 2023

After nearly 20 years staging shows for and with children, Bay Area Children’s Theatre shut down Wednesday, citing “unsustainable debt,” brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The nonprofit, which started in Oakland in 2004, announced the news on its website and on social media, prompting an outpouring of affection from parents whose children have benefitted from its programs. Many called the closure heartbreaking and a huge loss for the community.

“BACT has been such a treasure to our family,” Krista Dahl Kusuma wrote on BACT’s Facebook page. “My son loves the theater and acting because of his time performing in shows and attending camps at BACT,” wrote Heather Mathews. “I’m so sad to hear this. Is there nothing we can do?” asked Natalie Foster.

The nonprofit mentioned in its statement that it launched a “Save our Stage” fundraiser earlier this month. “While many people offered to help, the growing, insurmountable financial burdens led to the non-profit’s closure,” the statement said.

BACT offered theater classes and camps, staged original productions as well as adaptations of children’s literature, and provided schools with creative programming. According to its website, BACT’s productions and educational programs reached more than a million children and adults.

All programs ended Wednesday, the statement said. BACT told patrons that information would be forthcoming about refunds for tickets and summer camps.

BACT board President Christina Clark said the decision was “incredibly difficult” for the board of directions. “Live theater has a unique ability to spark children’s imagination and creativity, and we are heartbroken that BACT cannot continue to carry out its vital mission,” she said in the statement.

The organization’s tax returns show that it lost more than $2.5 million in revenue from 2020 to 2021 and that it ended 2021 with a deficit of more than more than half a million dollars.

BACT offered free or low-cost live theater to school children, and its productions focused on themes of diversity and empowerment. For many children, BACT performances were their introduction to live theater.

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