Shakespeare & Co. looking for partner

Shakespeare & Co., a Lenox nonprofit that produces the Bard’s plays, educates teachers, and trains actors, is looking to diversify.

Like most artistic groups, Shakespeare & Co. struggles to make ends meet. According to Charity Navigator, the arts organization ran a deficit in fiscal 2018 of nearly $346,000. Its program revenue totaled $2.5 million, but its program expenses were more than $1 million higher. Donations and government grants offset most, but not all, of the deficit.

The company’s strategic plan calls for upping the nonprofit’s artistic game, performing plays by new playwrights and taking them on the road to New York City. The plan also calls for a 50-50 split between earned and contributed income, and lists monetizing the organization’s property as one way of doing that.

On Monday, the nonprofit invited political, cultural, and business leaders to take a tour of the property to see its potential. Interested parties are being asked to submit statements of interest by November 14. Shakespeare & Co. will look over what comes in and request full proposals from those that make the most sense. A final decision is due in the spring.

The nonprofit’s property, located between Tanglewood and Jacob’s Pillow, has already paid big dividends for the organization. The original 63-acre parcel was purchased in April 2000 for $4.1 million. Five years later, 30 acres were sold for $3.9 million. The remaining 33 acres are home to 17 buildings, of which five have been condemned and are slated for demolition.

The property is zoned R1-A, which permits single-family residential homes on a minimum lot size of one acre. Office, retail, and industrial uses are prohibited. Shakespeare & Co. is also considering seeking a 40R designation, which would allow for residential and mixed-use development. Market-rate housing or a hotel would also be considered, although those proposals would require town approval.

Shakespeare & Co. officials say they don’t have a firm plan in mind. “Everything now is kind of a blue-sky conversation,” artistic director Allyn Burrows told the Berkshire Eagle. “We’ve been hesitant, we’ve been recalcitrant to come down hard on any one idea, whether it be housing or lodging or another nonprofit endeavor.”

Adam Davis, the organization’s managing director, said everything is on the table. “We want to be transparent. We’re not hiding anything,” he said. “In fact, we’re showing it all. We’re showing you where the skeletons are, where we need help. We believe that we can’t do it on our own. We need a community to help us make that happen.”



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