A funny thing happened on the way to going broke

It’s a notoriously long-running play about the theatre group that never makes money. But not for the Avon, at least, not this time around.

Bruce Dow as Pseudolus

STRATFORD, Ont. — It’s a notoriously long-running play about the theatre group that never makes money.

But not for the Avon, at least, not this time around.

The Stratford Shakespeare Festival says it has seen a “dramatic turnaround” at the box office and is poised to end the year in the black.

The renowned theatre festival in southwestern Ontario closed its 2009 season last weekend with sold-out performances of West Side Story and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.

Those were two of the 30 performances the festival had initially put hold in April due to the slumping economy but later reinstated.

Festival officials says ticket sales “rebounded dramatically” since the spring due to positive reviews, word of mouth and a boost in marketing funds from the federal and provincial governments.

The festival says it sold more than 509,000 tickets this year, which is still lower than the attendance of 534,000 it reported last year.

Still, general director Antoni Cimolino says they “are on target to end the year in the black.”

“It is important to note that November and December are crucial months in our fundraising campaign,” he said in a release.

“A significant amount of money is still to come in and, frankly, we are reliant on these donors to ensure a balanced financial position.”

In March, the festival announced it had declared a $2.6 million deficit for the fiscal period ending Dec. 31, 2008, and a four per cent decline in attendance over the year before.

But executives said the entire deficit amount was offset by a stability fund.

And after a slump in advance ticket sales for this season, the federal and provincial governments provided the festival with funding for marketing totaling more than $3.5 million.

The 2010 season begins April 10 and includes The Tempest, starring Christopher Plummer, and Peter Pan and King of Thieves, starring Sean Cullen.

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