For Petersburg's only theater company, the question of "to be, or not to be," now has an answer. Sycamore Rouge is closing after 11 years, a cultural cornerstone that helped a multitude of actors to begin their careers.
Local actress Carolyn Mohr is one of hundreds who began at Sycamore Rouge, performing in five productions ranging from "The Crucible" to "The Odyssey."
"They actually called it, the ‘Rouge Family,'" Mohr said in an interview Monday. "Once you were cast in a show, you were part of the Rouge Family… That was the atmosphere."
Sycamore Rouge began in 2002, but according to Elise Boyd, one of the Theater's former board members, the Company struggled when a major source of funding dried up in 2012.
"We had a grant from the Cameron Foundation for $100,000 in 2011," Boyd said in a phone interview Monday. "Then at the beginning of 2012, the Foundation focused on health and human services, and we can't support a theater with ticket sales alone."
The stage will fall silent in just a few days, but Mohr will remember the standing ovations, and risks the Theater took to bring culture to the community.
"[Sycamore Rouge] did free Shakespeare, and we didn't know how well it would go in Petersburg," Mohr said. "And we had packed, packed houses every night."
In early June 2013, Sycamore Rouge announced it was searching for a partner to keep the Company running. In an email statement, the Theater said none of the options were viable.
"We ultimately realized that the long-term resources and leadership just didn't exist to maintain and operate a theatre program under the Sycamore Rouge name," the statement reads. "However, we're optimistic that there may be some other theatre groups that will look to this space, stage and infrastructure to operate new live arts program."
Sycamore Rouge plans to donate equipment and funds to performing arts groups throughout the region. The last performance was more than two weeks ago on July 13, but few knew the production of "Twelfth Night" would be the last from Sycamore Rouge. Doors will shut next Wednesday, July 31.
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