UPDATED: Watertown’s New Rep Theatre Announces it Will be Closing Down

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After 40 years and more than 300 productions, New Repertory Theatre announced that it will be closing its doors.

The company has been located for many years at the Mosesian Center for the Arts, and it expanded beyond the walls of the theater at the Arsenal Center for the Arts to put on a pair of moving plays during the Pandemic, Listen to Sipu and the Charles W. Lenox Experience.

The company Pandemic also brought financial woes for New Rep, and it suspended operations for nine months beginning in July 2021. In 2023, the company’s season included three plays, including Tony winners. However, those will be the final productions for New Rep.

On Oct. 18, New Rep sent out the following announcement:

After 40 seasons, over 300 productions, and a smash 2023 season, New Repertory Theatre’s Board of Directors has determined that it is not possible to sustain the organization going forward. Audiences and critics have responded enthusiastically to New Rep’s relaunch, but fundraising with major donors has fallen short of the theater’s goals for a sustainable path.  

The Board has therefore initiated the process of formally dissolving the organization. It expects to have no assets at the conclusion of this process.  

New Rep takes great satisfaction in its history and in particular the 2023 season, however it is subject to the same converging realities that have impacted so many theater companies throughout the country: post- pandemic economics, changes in the philanthropic landscape, challenges with the business model of regional theaters, and other factors beyond its control, along with the ending of emergency Federal support for the performing arts. 

“We are so proud of the artistic excellence of our 2023 productions, the casts, design teams and staff, the rave reviews and strong ticket sales, and the fact that the theater is going out on the highest possible note,” said Board Chair Chris Jones. “Our artistic team has embodied the essence of New Rep’s Renewal Vision with excellence, professionalism, quality and spirit.” 

Board Vice Chair Danielle Galligan expressed gratitude to the Greater Boston community that embraced New Rep’s vision and supported New Rep in attendance and financially over the years. “We are saddened by this outcome, yet grateful for the long run of this wonderful theater.”  

As one of the Greater Boston area’s premiere mid-sized regional theater companies, New Rep has been an artistic haven for writers, performers, and audiences. For 40 years it has entertained theatergoers, premiered new work as well as classics, and provided educational access for children to the experience of live theater.  

Said Resident Artists Lois Roach, Maria Hendricks and Michael Hisamoto “It is that fitting we close New Rep’s long and storied history with plays that encompass the battles we have fought throughout history and the hopes we have for a more beautiful future. And we reflect with pride on all the community work & cultural expansion we have impacted in Watertown and beyond that will resound in years to come. We celebrate all the artists involved in the history of New Rep and know that New Rep lives on through the people that have made the company what it is and was.” 

After a nine-month suspension of productions during the pandemic, New Rep recommitted itself to a Renewal Vision of inclusion and diversity and a collaborative process centered on new work, new voices, and creative programming. Since re-opening, productions have included new works in the Pipeline Project, musical events, and collaborative community performances and events with local organizations including the Watertown library and public schools, as well as a world premiere and sold-out Tony award-winning shows.  

“On behalf of the entire Board and organization, I express our deepest gratitude to our patrons and donors, to the artists whose work we have been privileged to share with this community, and to an amazing staff that consistently made it all happen,” Jones added.  

More information on New Repertory Theatre at www.newrep.org

New Rep sent out the following letter on Oct. 17:

To our dear Watertown friends,

The entire Artistic Team here at New Rep would like to express our gratitude for your partnership over the past eighteen months, as reflected by the press, audiences, new and town events as well as direct feedback from our very own Watertown citizens.

You have been an exemplary group to work with and we have enjoyed collaborating with you – which is why we wanted to tell you directly, and before we share this news publicly that, sadly, after our 40-year history, New Rep will be closing its doors. 

Thanks to you, the company is going out on the highest possible note, with your collaborative efforts having embodied the essence of New Rep’s renewal vision with excellence, professionalism, quality and spirit. 

After 40 seasons, over 300 productions, and a smash 2023 season, New Repertory Theatre’s Board of Trustees has determined that it is not possible to sustain the company going forward. Audiences and critics have responded enthusiastically to the company’s relaunch, but fundraising with major donors has fallen short of the Company’s goals for a sustainable path. New Rep takes great satisfaction in the Company’s history and in particular the 2023 season, however it is subject to the same converging realities that have impacted so many theater companies throughout the country. 

In addition to the beauty and magic created on stage over the last 18 months, we are reflecting with pride on all the community work & cultural expansion we at New Rep have impacted in Watertown and beyond that will resound in years to come. The popular annual Watertowns Indigenous Peoples Day and incredibly well received Watertown Multicultural Fest/Noche de Dominó that are shining examples of this.  Thanks to you, our partnerships, collaborative community initiatives, development of new works, performances & events curated with various Watertown organizations: ranging from grassroots to library & public schools will stay with us always. We have also made lifelong friends in the process. After 18 months, the growing interest and traction of all our successes as of late is truly bittersweet.  However, we can also be truly proud of the impactful impression we have made and the legacy you will continue to forge here in Watertown. 

Also, there will be an invitation only event celebrating New Rep where we look forward to recognizing the history and joy of this wonderful organization and celebrating you all on Monday December 11th. An announcement on those details will be forthcoming.


Maria Hendricks, Lois Roach, Michael Hisamoto, Angelica Potter

30 thoughts on “UPDATED: Watertown’s New Rep Theatre Announces it Will be Closing Down

  1. Shocking! This is a major disaster not only for our town, but for the greater Boston Arts Community. Is there no intervention that can avert such a loss?

  2. Oh, I am devastated. We’ve been attending New Rep productions since they were still in Newton, and think so very highly of everything they do.

  3. This is sad news, indeed, for all those who have supported and enjoyed the quality and professionalism of the New Rep.

    • Hello, Carolyn. I completely agree with you. In the nearly 22 years that I have lived in Watertown, I have enjoyed so many productions at New Rep, and it saddens me greatly that they will no longer be a part of my life.

  4. Such a big shock to hear! I was just there on Sunday for a great performance of Diaspora! Is there anyway that a big corporate sponsor or state & federal funding could save the theater? You have created a great community in a Beautiful & welcoming space. So sad, was just planning to see more shows with friends.

  5. Is there not one company in this city that can step up financially and help? This is what helps make this city thrive! Corporate sponsors, step up to the plate! Don’t let our arts community wither and die. If you’ve had a good financial year, spread the wealth. Please.

    • Yes, it is discouraging that, given all the money bouncing around Watertown, that a solution that could have preserved New Rep was not found. What a loss.

  6. I though they were OK, until I saw their revisionist version of 1776 about five years ago. I walked out during intermission; such was the revulsion. Never went back to see anything else there again. Given this recent development, perhaps I was not alone.

    • Are you confusing New Repertory (New Rep) with ART? I don’t believe the revisionist version of 1776 was done in Watertown. I believe you are referring to the ART in Cambridge version.

        • Sounds dreadful, glad I missed it. There’s some dispute over who first said the following, but it’s as true today– truer, probably– than then: ‘If you want to send a message, use Western Union.’ Like Cleopatra, sounds like New Rep held an asp to its breast; only New Rep’s asp was wokey. What a shame. See Variety: ‘New Rep goes woke, goes broke.’

          • But there was nothing wrong with celebrating slave-owning founding fathers. Only a reinterpretation that offended some people is a bad thing. If that’s woke, then keep it coming.

          • Right, Kevin. And that’s exactly what happened. Woke, broke, and gone. It’s funny how those who didn’t see the 1776 revision will seek to find poor arguments [removed from the issue at hand] to justify this sort of thing.

    • So we should never look at historical events through a different lens. It’s very upsetting to some people apparently. I enjoyed the original show very much. And I’m sure the revision was quite different. Just not upsetting.

      • Where to begin.

        Two male homosexuals portraying Thomas and Martha Jefferson while embracing and French kissing on stage? Not quite my cup of tea (and the dresses did not look quite right on them). Morbidly obese women singing mediocrely while playing male historical characters? I don’t think so. Benjamin Franklin played by an old woman didn’t look that good either. I could go on, but I won’t.

        I bet you can’t wait for MLK the musical, with Britney Spears as the main character. Right?

        • I didn’t see the new version. I wasn’t interested. But it didn’t trigger me to have a different interpretation of history. The events of the original musical codified slavery into our government. Should that have been celebrated?

  7. What a great loss for the arts and culture community in Watertown. New Rep’s staff, creatives, and artivists have helped make this a more vibrant place to live. Over the years, the performances have inspired and taught us, and left us with many unforgettable memories. It’s hard to accept that with all the resources in Watertown, we cannot find another way forward to keep New Rep and its extraordinary Team here. A deep bow of gratitude to Maria Hendricks, Lois Roach, Michael Hisamoto, Angelica Potter and all who held the space for cultural expression and expansion here.

  8. We here at the Mosesian Center for the Arts are sorry to lose New Rep from our stages.

    For the past three years, theaters and other arts organizations have had to shutter their doors at an alarming rate, and every closure has been a loss to our industry. The closing of New Rep Theatre, for obvious reasons, hits us in the heart. When Mosesian Arts opened in 2005 (then, as Arsenal Center for the Arts) New Rep was a partner as resident theater company. For nearly fifteen years, until March 2020, New Rep was the primary producer of new and classic works on our stages, and the company contributed toward bringing hundreds of thousands of visitors through our doors. When we were able to reopen during the pandemic, New Rep, Mosesian Arts, and other nonprofit arts organizations were forced to examine and reimagine our business models. For too many, continuing the work was not financially sustainable. As venue, partners, collaborators, and friends, we’re grateful to the New Rep artists and arts administrators who have shared their talents with us, we salute the board and staff members who have helmed the organization through the past three years, and we applaud their work and wish them much future success. If and when the opportunity arises, we’d proudly share the stage again with any of them.

  9. We appreciate all the comments. (Even the 1776 hangover one of you has. It’s a free country, as they say, especially in “Comments.”) Especially grateful to the team at the Mosesian Center for all the flexibility in supporting us in the last few years. We will miss being part of the action at MCA. Hopefully the New Rep history made there will now live on in a new form and new ways with our Watertown friends.

      • The loss of the New Rep has nothing to do with one play, which actually received wide acclaim for its reinterpretation of history. The spurious “woke” claim, which most of its users can’t even define, is used as a weapon against decency and good intentions. It’s dishonest and exhausting.

        • Thank you, Mr. Fahey. Many arts organizations are shutting down and not because of a stupid word. I personally know a Broadway producer who told me that Broadway audience numbers are much lower than pre-pandemic levels and they can’t figure out how to bring people back into theaters. I’m really sad to see this phenomenon has toppled another arts organization right here in Watertown.

          • It is actually two words: Not Profitable. And for many reasons, the “stupid word” maybe among them. Blaming Covid for everything is running a bit tired.

          • I have been in the performing arts for over 40 years. As many predicted, the next two years will see many arts orgs vulnerable and perhaps closing. Pandemic funding has dried up and audiences are slow to return. If you want arts in our community, support them now. And urge our legislators to support them as well.

            When the word woke is used these days it is usually a sign of overly simplistic thought. I think that there are grounds for debate about many trends in the arts and otherwise. But to dismiss without thought and consideration is not helpful and just dumbs down the debate. The whole point is to make people think.

          • “ Broadway audience numbers are much lower than pre-pandemic levels”? I don’t think so. And many are still in business.

            ˆˆˆˆThe 2022-23 season was the first full season since Broadway came back from the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown. Shows continued to be affected by COVID, however the industry did not experience the extensive illness-related cancellations of the prior season. Tourism was stronger but not back to pre-pandemic levels, particularly in terms of international tourists. The season had fewer playing weeks and performances than in the (record-breaking) full seasons that pre-dated the shutdown, which contributed to lower attendance than in those seasons, but the % of capacity for the season was strong at more than 88%.

            Season Gross
            *(by millions)
            *(by millions)
            Playing Weeks** New Productions
            2022-23^^^^ $1,578 12.28 1,474 40
            2021-22^^^ $845 6.73 946 39
            2019-20^^ $1,358 11.14 1,282 33
            2018-19^ $1,829 14.77 1,737 38

        • Wow there seems to be seasoned Broadway Producer among us! Everyone in the business knows that the economics of Broadway differ from the performing arts almost everywhere else and that few Broadway shows actually result in ROI for investors. One backs a Broadway show for other reasons.

          If Broadway fare is your cup of tea, then by all means go. But don’t think that conditions on Broadway (and New York arts in general) have much to do with other locales.

          We’re dealing with issues that are complicated. Simple answers aren’t helpful.

          • No. What we have here is someone who cannot follow the string of discussions.

            My Broadway stats were directed to Ms. Breen, (not you, to be clear) who injected Broadway in the commentary, comparing its woes to what happened to NewRep. Can you read my reference in quote to her?

            Misguided comments are worthless; so are sarcastic histrionics.

      • The situation is more complex than some make it out to be. The pandemic is certainly a factor, unless one has an agenda clouding one’s analysis.

        The fact is that, currently, cultural assets that many in our community value are at risk. This situation was predicted by many of my colleagues as early as two years ago.

        If we want the cultural enrichment as well as the economic stimulus that arts organizations bring, we must take action before additional established organizations are lost. It takes a long time to get an arts org to a stable, mature stage.

        At a time when Watertown is seeking to establish a cultural district, losing a major cultural institution is a big setback. One can quibble about content, but there is little doubt as to the value that arts orgs add to a community–both intellectually and economically.

  10. Interesting Revelation: What the U.S. Census calls us.

    United States Census Bureau
    What’s New & FAQs
    Watertown Town city, Massachusetts

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