This Thursday morning, the entire staff of the Lucas Theatre for the Arts was terminated with no advance notice, in a stunning and possibly wide-ranging decision from the board of the nonprofit that runs the beloved downtown performance venue.
While the Lucas Theatre technically owns itself as a 501c3 organization, The Savannah College of Art and Design has a working majority presence on the board of directors.
A source among those fired tells us, "The college has terminated all our positions and is taking over the building."
Technically the decision would have to be made by a majority vote of the board of directors, however.
A SCAD spokesperson says in a statement:
"The Lucas Theater is a beloved historic landmark that has received tremendous support from donors and community members for nearly a century. SCAD will continue to provide quality programming, as well as financial and operational assistance for this important pillar of the Savannah community."
That is the entirety of the formal statement from SCAD at this point.
As for specific events already on the calendar, the school tells us "programming and events will continue as scheduled."
An August booking by the band Spoon at the Lucas was suddenly vacated several weeks ago, with the band saying on its Facebook page that they would not be rescheduling that date in Savannah.
Built in 1921 as a movie theatre and vacant by the 1970s, the Lucas was restored in a unique partnership between the City, fundraisers, County taxpayers, and SCAD beginning in 1986.
The unique nature of the arrangement also allowed the Local 320 union chapter of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees to be limited to the Lucas Theatre, rather than extending union shop status to SCAD's other venues, which would have been the case had the school acquired it directly.
In 1997, the wrap of the Clint Eastwood-directed Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil enabled the fundraising to reach critical mass, as star Kevin Spacey notably made a sizable contribution to its preservation.
In Dec. 2001 the venue was open to the public. Most recently it hosted many shows of this year's edition of the Savannah Music Festival.
In 2002 the agreement was amended to identify the theatre as an "affiliate" of SCAD, formalizing the college's control of the board. However, none of the nonprofit's outstanding debt was assumed by the college, which took responsibility for day-to-day operations and expenses.