May 23, 2014 at 3:18 pm

Ann Arbor's Performance Network shuts down

Ann Arbor’s equity theater, the Performance Network, announced Thursday afternoon in a short release that it was suspending operations immediately.

The 34-year-old theater’s board of directors said they were closing because the nonprofit theater in downtown Ann Arbor “is not currently financially viable.” Actors and staff have taken their personal effects home.

Artistic director Carla Milarch calls the closure tragic.

“It’s 34 years of people’s heart and soul,” she says. “The conviction is that something just has to be done, that this can’t be the final word.”

She adds that the possibility of reopening or reconstituting as a new company is under consideration, but that no decisions have been made.

Milarch was starring in the current gender-bending run of “Richard III,” which was to have run through June 1. All remaining performances have been canceled.

Milarch adds that it’s her understanding the theater was about $250,000 in debt.

“Part of that is a $90,000 credit line,” she says. “The rest is IRS debt and federal withholding — things like that, as well as some vendor payables.”

The Performance Network was a much-loved Ann Arbor institution that, before it moved into the first floor of a former hotel, staged performances in a ramshackle factory complex on the city’s west side.

“It’s tragic for so many different communities,” says former board member Keith Orr, “certainly for the actors and other theater people.” Referring to “Richard III,” he adds, “To stop in mid-run is just incredible to me.”

On hearing the news, local theater enthusiast Tom Mull says, “My God, that just breaks my heart. It’s a really big loss for the town.”

MHodges@detroitnews.com