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Surflight Theatre Emerges from Bankruptcy

LBI venue planning next year's season following approval of payoff plans

Surflight Theatre representatives announced Monday that, after 10 months of negotiations, the theater has emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and is planning its 2012 season.

The popular Beach Haven community theater, founded in 1950, filed for bankruptcy in February 2011, said Tim Laczynski, who took over leadership of the company along with artistic director Roy Miller in September 2010. Laczynski, a Broadway and off-Broadway producer, said the pair inherited a theater overburdened with short-term debt that threatened to destroy it.

“They’d pretty much maxed themselves out,” Laczynski said. “We were in a cash pinch and had about $3,000 in the bank.” A public appeal drew a lot of support from the community, he said, but ultimately the theater had to declare bankruptcy.

The process of freeing themselves from protection has been a tough one, said Laczynski.

“It was far longer than we expected it was going to take,” he said. “It took a lot of people to get us to negotiating to get creditors’ consent.” Meanwhile, the theater cut back. Its productions were on a smaller scale in 2011, with smaller casts and less elaborate sets. “We tried to counter that by putting on first-class productions with national celebrities,” Laczynski said.

But on Dec. 8, a federal bankruptcy judge in Trenton confirmed the theater’s reorganization plan, the theater said in a press release. Now, the focus is on the season ahead.

“In 2012, we’re going back to big musical numbers,” said Laczynski. “It’s comfort food for the musical theater soul.”

Family favorites Annie and The Sound of Music will hit the stage next year, as well as two musical revues, an original musical comedy called Once Upon A Time in New Jersey, a crowd pleasing musical I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change and the award-winning plays Steel Magnolias and Barefoot in the Park.

“I want Surflight to be just crawling with families this year,” Laczynski said. To that end, the theater will offer youth and student ticket pricing, he said. “We want to make it affordable for anybody to come see theater.” 

He said Surflight also plans to expand its internship program, which gives local youth the chance to work alongside professional actors on the summer stage.

“We really want to leverage what we have coming from Broadway and give people an experience they can only get at Surflight,” he said.

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