"I was going through my cards to show identification," she recalled. "I saw my Blue Cross card, and it hit me: 'We're back. We have a medical plan. We exist!' "
Garonzik is a fan of David Mamet, who wrote Speed-the-Plow. In early 1989, her company staged a successful production of the playwright's Glengarry Glen Ross, and Speed-the-Plow was scheduled for PTC production last spring. It was one of four plays the PTC did not stage after the 1989-90 season was stopped.
But Garonzik said she rescheduled Speed-the-Plow, Mamet's most recent Broadway success, not only because she and her audience like Mamet's work. It also delivers the message that the PTC's artistic policy is unchanged, she said.
"What I wanted to say to everyone is: We are coming back, and we are coming back the way you know us," she said. "We aren't going to turn into something else because we had financial problems."
The PTC will present the same "mix of established and new contemporary works" as it previously did, Garonzik said, but it will produce only three shows instead of the five of past seasons. (She hopes to return to a five-play schedule in a couple of years.) From Nov. 16 to Dec. 9, Celeste Holm will appear in a production of A.R. Gurney's The Cocktail Hour. The season will conclude with Pill Hill, a new drama by Sam Kelley about black mill workers,
from Jan. 25 to Feb. 10.
The abbreviated season is the one operational change visible to the theatergoing public. More significant for the PTC's future, however, are behind-the-scenes changes in financial procedures aimed at preventing a recurrence of what happened last year. Tea, the second production of the 1989-90 season, was canceled the day before public performances were to begin. Several days later, the board of directors canceled the remainder of the season and laid off the staff.
The PTC was not dead, however. The board never disbanded, and Garonzik and other staff members kept in touch, hoping that a way could be found to revive the company.
A couple of weeks after the closing, Garonzik said, she received a phone call from Donald Rosenblit, then president and now chairman of the PTC's board of directors. Rosenblit said he and another board member, Kenneth S. Kaiserman, had been asked by so many people to keep the company going that they had decided to try.
"Listen, there is definitely a mandate for this company to return," Rosenblit said, according to Garonzik. "Would you be interested in leading it?"
Smiling impishly, Garonzik recalled that her immediate, unspoken thought was: "What took you so long? I've been waiting two weeks."
Although the immediate cause of the company's financial failure was a lack of ready cash, looming in the background was a sizable accumulated deficit. When the company folded, the deficit was reported to be about $300,000. Garonzik says that it was about $260,000.
Reducing and eventually eliminating the deficit were vital if the theater were to continue. With the help of William H. Tennant Jr., a volunteer from Business Volunteers for the Arts who ended up joining the board, the debt was restructured. Some of it was forgiven; some was paid off with $41,000 raised at an April benefit gala. The remainder, about $50,000, was consolidated into a three-year bank loan.
Garonzik said the days of building a deficit were over. "We will not accumulate any deficit," she said. "I can't accumulate one penny of deficit. I have to turn in a balanced budget to the board that includes the payments to the bank."
Another thing management will not do, Garonzik said, is borrow against anticipated income. Cash flow in the nonprofit theater tends to be erratic: Money from subscriptions, box-office sales, government grants and private and corporate gifts arrives at different times, and loans provide ready cash between infusions of funds.
"We will never borrow again," Garonzik said.
Nor will the company scramble all its available eggs at once. The immediate cause of the company's grounding last season was the poor box-office performance of the first production, The Middle of Nowhere, a revue of the songs of Randy Newman. "I chose a musical that I loved and absolutely still love," said Garonzik, defending her decision. "It took a lot of money and didn't do as well as it should have at the box office."
By the time the Newman show was mounted, the company had spent all the money it had collected from its then-3,000 subscribers for a five-play season, counting on strong box-office receipts from The Middle of Nowhere to help refill the coffers. Without that money, and without additional income anticipated from other sources, the PTC was broke. Ira Schlosser, then managing director, went to the final Tea rehearsal to tell the director and five actresses that there was no money to pay them and that the production was being canceled.
The new financial structure prevents premature spending of subscription money, collected before the season begins. Garonzik said the money from the 1,700 subscribers to the three-play season - most, she said, are former subscribers who have returned - has been put in a restricted account earmarked for all three shows.
"When we have finished a show, we can dip into (the account) for one-third of the money," Garonzik said. "Once we have made our bargain with the public and given them the show, we can spend their money."
The board, Garonzik said, now is actively involved in supervising the theater's financial affairs. The finance committee, headed by Tennant, meets every other week, and Garonzik speaks with Tennant and board president William F. O'Donnell almost every day.
Garonzik said the board contributed about $50,000 to the company in the fiscal year that ended in August. A major contribution in the comeback period,
from Henkel Corp., also resulted from a board connection: Birgit Wulff, wife of Henkel chairman Harald Wulff, is the board's vice president.
Garonzik declined to specify how much Henkel contributed, but said that it was "more than $30,000" and that the firm was continuing its financial support.
Active fund-raising by both the board and Garonzik is necessary for the company's continued survival. The PTC's budget for this season is $491,000, compared with $750,000 for the curtailed five-play season last year. About 55 percent of that figure must be raised from donated funds - government and foundation grants and business and private donations. "The board members we have now are strongly committed to fund-raising," Garonzik noted.
So devoted is Garonzik to the PTC that she and three other staff members worked without pay until May. Now there is a staff of seven in offices on the ninth floor of the Bourse - space donated by Kaiserman, who owns the building.
A Philadelphia native and a 1972 graduate of Temple University, Garonzik has been artistic director of the PTC since 1982. Now, as producing artistic director, she is responsible for business operations as well as artistic matters. And she says she's as dedicated to the financial success of the company as she is to maintaining the company's artistic standards.
"I am determined to do whatever it takes to make cuts and keep that budget on track. I will do anything to deliver the three plays and keep a balanced budget," she said.