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Old Creamery Theatre in Amana closing doors permanently
Instead of celebrating 50th anniversary, professional troupe couldn’t outlast pandemic challenges
The final curtain has fallen on the Old Creamery Theatre.
The not-for-profit professional troupe, founded in Garrison in 1971 and relocated in the former Amana Colonies Welcome Center in 1988, intended to celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2021.
Instead, the pandemic pause pushed those plans to 2022 — but now, unable to financially sustain its operations, the theater is permanently closing. On Thursday, it returned the building to the Amana Society.
“It’s not a surprise,” Peter Teahen, president of the theater's board of trustees, told The Gazette. “We’ve gone almost two years now, coming up in March, with no productions. We ran out of money.”
A letter being sent to patrons Friday states:
“After an attempt at a partial re-opening this past fall/winter 2021 with roadshows, we had the hopes of putting on a regular season of shows in 2022. While the roadshows were considered a success, it was just too little, too late. The financial pressures endured during this extended closure have proven to be a catastrophe from which we could not recover. Coupled with the existing non-profit budget and all the usual expenses which were still incurred while closed, there was simply no way to continue to stay open.”
The organization did receive a $437,843 federal Shuttered Venue Operators Grant, intended to help arts presenters recoup losses and reopen doors after the early days of the pandemic.
But that money needed to be spent by Dec. 31, and the theater — which suspended operations and terminated all staff, except for the general manager, on July 1, 2020 — has been unable to resume production to the extent needed to become financially viable. Teahen said the organization is waiting to hear how much of the grant money will need to be returned.
In the meantime, physical assets such as office furniture, sound equipment, sewing machines and costumes have been donated to area schools and charitable organizations. If the troupe ends up with any excess funds, those, too, will be donated to nonprofits.
“It will take a while to wind everything down,” Teahen said, but the building was vacated Thursday afternoon.
“It’s a sad era,” he said. “When we closed the doors, it was the first time in years we were (financially solvent). Reserves were being built, all of our debts were all paid off, but there was never a foundation established, so we had no real reserves to pull from.”
Before the pandemic, the Old Creamery was exploring options to relocate to Cedar Rapids. But in October 2019, Kirkwood Community College withdrew from plans to site a new facility there, and discussions with Coe College were just beginning in February 2020 before the pandemic shutdown hit Iowa.
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