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updated: 5/13/2014 2:56 PM

COD sends Buffalo Theatre Ensemble packing

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  • Buffalo Theatre Ensemble won't be returning to College of DuPage. The group's last production at the Glen Ellyn school was "Leading Ladies" in September.

      Buffalo Theatre Ensemble won't be returning to College of DuPage. The group's last production at the Glen Ellyn school was "Leading Ladies" in September.
    Courtesy of Buffalo Theatre Ensemble

 
 

The curtain has dropped on the Buffalo Theatre Ensemble's days of performing at College of DuPage.

School officials have ended COD's relationship with the professional theater group, which had been in residence at the Glen Ellyn campus since 1987.

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"After careful review, the college has decided not to bring back the Buffalo Theatre Ensemble," said Diana Martinez, director of the school's McAninch Arts Center.

Instead, Martinez has been directed to develop ideas for live performances at COD that use the Chicago area's theater talent pool and are financially sustainable.

"We really want to support the concept of what they (BTE members) have done and build on that," Martinez said. "But we've got to find a way to make it sustainable ... and get a bigger audience base."

BTE Artistic Director Connie Canaday Howard said the ensemble is regrouping after the announcement.

"It (the ensemble) has a long history, and it has a really dedicated support," said Canaday Howard, one of two COD professors who are members of the ensemble. "So I anticipate that the ensemble will regroup and perform somewhere other than the MAC.

"We'll move forward," she said. "Exactly how we'll move forward, it's too early to say."

During its time with COD, the ensemble received half its revenue from ticket sales and the rest through contributions that include support from the college.

But the group had to cancel the rest of its 2013-14 season because it was facing the possibility of losing about $80,000 if it did the remaining shows.

Martinez said COD officials reached the decision not to bring back the ensemble after looking at the numbers, including the rising costs associated with each production.

"The difficult economics of the theater world is that the expenses go up ... but you still only have 200 seats to work with," Martinez said. "In a 200-seat theater, it's very tight margins."

Nevertheless, some students came out in support of the ensemble and started an online petition calling for the group's return.

The students said members of the ensemble have been role models for aspiring actors. In addition to watching the ensemble perform, students got the opportunity to work as assistant stage managers or crew members during shows.

Still, Canaday Howard said she accepts the decision that's been made.

"We feel it's a loss to the college," she said. "But we understand they have decided this is not something that they want to continue. It is what it is."

In the meantime, Martinez said her focus will be on finding a new model that is linked to COD's academic mission.

"We need to see what the landscape of the market will allow." Martinez said. "There's a lot of musical theater companies happening in the area. There's Drury Lane. There's the Paramount. We have to figure out where is our niche."

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