The Cheltenham Center operates a visual arts program - consisting of classes for adults and children and a gallery - and a professional, producing theater. Brown said the annual budget is $600,000, of which $225,000 is devoted to the theater.
The theater mounts four productions a season, and last year attracted 6,000 theatergoers to the center at 439 Ashbourne Rd., in the eastern end of Cheltenham Township. Under artistic director Ken Marini, who took over the theater six years ago, the theater space was renovated, and the troupe has come to rank with the best in the Philadelphia area.
Marini's direction of a production of Kindertransport last season was nominated for a Barrymore Award for Excellence in Theatre. Two actresses in the show also were nominated for awards.
Brown indicated that keeping the theater operating - two shows remain on this season's schedule - was a top priority. ``We're desperately trying to keep the theater open right now,'' he said.
Brown said the theater, which has several hundred subscribers and has been successful in raising money to support its operations, is breaking even. The visual arts portion of the operation, however, is running a deficit and, Brown acknowledged, has had difficulty meeting its payroll. Including the theater, the center has six full-time and four part-time staff members.
Although Brown wants to keep the theater operating, he said he did not envision it staying open and the rest of the center shutting down. ``I don't think we can close a section of the organization and expect it to come back,'' he explained. ``I do think some of the programming can be scaled back in the visual arts area.''
Brown said the board meeting at the center at 6 p.m. Monday is open to the center's 350 members. He indicated that the situation is critical and said ``the board is going to have to make a decision one way or the other. I've made it clear to them that they have to intervene.''