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Boston Children's Theatre Files For Bankruptcy And Cancels Productions

The Boston Children’s Theatre is filing for bankruptcy, according to an email sent out late Wednesday night by Jim Solomon, the interim president of the BCT's board of directors. The nonprofit has also canceled all events for the foreseeable future.

“As of now, all classes, productions, trips, and birthday parties run by BCT are cancelled,” Solomon said in the email. “Many of you have asked about refunds, and we hope to provide these as soon as possible. These matters will be handled by Bankruptcy Trustee: Mark Degiacomo.”

The organization has been in the midst of tremendous upheaval after the resignation of former executive artistic director, Burgess Clark, last month. At the end of October, Clark resigned two days before Solomon received a letter that alleged inappropriate behavior by Clark. On Nov. 15, the board of directors announced its decision to part ways with the BCT’s former executive director, Toby Schine. Schine lives with Clark and Clark's partner in Beverly. In the email sent out last night, Solomon said the board learned of the BCT’s "precarious financial situation from Schine over the past couple of weeks."

One of the oldest children's theaters in the country, the BCT has worked with more than 1 million children since its inception in 1951 through classes, workshops, summer programs, field trips and live performances.

“We are sadly left with no choice but to file for bankruptcy while we investigate the factors that led to our dire financial situation,” Solomon said in the email, which included a link for people who believe they are owed money by the BCT.

In a follow-up email, Solomon said the numbers are being verified and creditors are being identified and confirmed. He would not confirm whether Clark, Clark's partner, or Schine are under investigation in relation to the theater's finances.

"It would not be responsible to comment while allegations are pending," Solomon said in the email. "Out of respect for the process, I will refrain from any subjective or objective remarks... It appears that financial mismanagement is apparent. While we have no specific indication of fraud, it will be investigated."

The Boston Globe first reported that more than a dozen former students at the Boston Children's Theatre made allegations against Clark and that the Essex District Attorney's Office was investigating those claims, which were forwarded by the Beverly police. Solomon said they continue to fully cooperate with law enforcement in all matters related to the investigation of Clark.

When reached by phone on Thursday, Carrie Kimball Monahan, director of communications at Essex District Attorney's Office, said that the Essex DA provided assistance to Beverly police to investigate the allegations by former students, but that calling it a full investigation by the DA would be an overstatement. The Essex DA is "providing assistance" to the Beverly police to follow up on information that the police have given them, Kimball Monahan said.

In the email, Solomon said that BCT families are “partnering with the executive director of MassKids, Jetta Bernier, to raise awareness and educate the public about making child-serving organizations safer for kids.”

He also noted that parents of children on the choir have raised money independently to hold their holiday concert, which is slated for Dec. 15 at the Old South Church.

“While separate from BCT, the Board supports the spirit of BCT’s former students and hopes this will be an event filled with love and songs for all,” Solomon said in the email. “Inspiring children to develop and share their musical talents with the Greater Boston Area has always been the core purpose of BCT. Our hearts are with the children and their families during this challenging time.”

Marci Johnson’s 15-year-old daughter has been a regular at the BCT over the past several years. Johnson heard about the bankruptcy in an email Thursday morning. Her daughter was supposed to play Lucy in the this year's production of "A Charlie Brown Christmas."

"I knew they were having financial difficulties... We've discussed it at meetings,” Johnson said in a phone interview with WBUR on Thursday morning. "Boston Children's Theatre is a nonprofit. It always for years would go into the hole, and then they would do a show and come out of the hole and pay everybody, and that's kind of how it's run, and how they've kept it afloat, from what I've heard."

Johnson said she's saddened by the closure.

"I find it really sad. You can't replicate the theater that Boston's Children Theatre provided. Children who want to go into theater professionally, there is not another program like it in Boston of its caliber."

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Cristela Guerra Twitter Reporter
Cristela Guerra is an arts and culture reporter for The ARTery.

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