.Santa Cruz’s Jewel Theatre to Close

The respected and beloved local theater company will close following its 2023/2024 season

The jewel in Santa Cruz’s theatrical crown prepares for an exit. The Jewel Theatre Company will end its innovative run of professional productions at the end of the 2023/2024 season. Even with preparation, the announcement came as a blow to the gut. Covid-created revenue losses, inflation, and the theater-goers’ reluctance to return to gathering in theaters—not to mention what has seemed like a lifetime of mask-wearing—all took their toll.

Jewel Theatre co-owner Mary James alerted us last week that an announcement was imminent. “The audiences just are not coming back after Covid, “James says, “not in numbers enough to sustain us going forward beyond next season.” The theater producer of two decades admitted that “it was a tough decision, but it is the financially responsible one, even though it pains us.”

As the company’s artistic director and frequent performer, Julie James, told me, “the challenge is multifaceted and long-term, and we don’t want to have to say the sky is falling every year.”

The plan is for a graceful exit, including a final season of productions to help the Santa Cruz community celebrate Jewel’s enviable track record of professional theater.

“In light of the slow recovery and soaring costs, we are choosing to act responsibly,” the artistic director says.

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Many theaters nationwide face similar dilemmas, including the internationally recognized Oregon Shakespeare Festival, cutting performances and personnel.

The Jewel bravely survived the 20-month Covid-forced closure and, upon reopening in September 2021, enjoyed the confidence of 80% of subscribers renewing for the 2021/2022 season

“However, for this current 2022/23 season,” James reveals, “only 70% of the pre-Covid subscriber numbers returned.” And for the future, it’s probably worse than these numbers show. “Many people just simply got out of the habit of attending performing arts events.”

The Jewel’s exit next year will create a massive gap in the cultural life of Santa Cruz. As many younger potential theater-goers spend more time on social media and device-driven entertainment, live theater, with all its costs and rewards, has a considerable challenge going forward. Sad news, indeed.


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