Zach Theatre Furloughs Majority of its Staff


After cancelling its spring schedule of shows because of the coronarvirus pandemic, Zach Theatre announced today that it will furlough 75 percent of its employees to “temper the loss in revenue.”

In a statement, Zach Producing Artistic Director Dave Steakley and Managing Director Elisbeth Challener said that furloughed employees will continue to receive 100% of their current health benefits.

“Remaining staff will work on reduced salaries with leadership taking the largest cut, preparing for the return of programming this summer and producing virtual content to connect with the community until performances resume,” the statement reads.

Zach is one of the larger arts organizations in Austin, and is the largest producing theater in the city. Its annual budget is about $11 million, according to its most recent publicly available IRS Form 990. More than 50 percent of its income comes from ticket revenue. Steakley’s salary is listed as $188,699; Challener’s, $171,812.

“The most important thing is that our staff have a home to return to and the best way we can assure that is to make hard choices now, so Zach can make a strong and vibrant return this summer,” the statement from Steakley and Challener statement says.

A spokesperson for the organization said that the furlough and salary reductions impact a staff of nearly 200, though many are contract and part-time positions. A staff directory on the Zach web site lists about 66 people.

The production crew at Zach are unionized, represented by IATSE, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees. The theater also employees actors who are members of the Actors’ Equity Association.

The announcement from Zach is just the latest round of layoffs to hit nonprofit cultural organizations in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Last week, the nonprofit Austin Film Society laid off one-third of its permanent staff and all of its hourly workers at the AFS Cinema. AFS management also has been furloughed one day per week.

Jeanne Claire van Ryzin
Jeanne Claire van Ryzin
An award-winning arts journalist, Jeanne Claire van Ryzin is the founder and editor-in-chief of Sightlines.

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