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Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre to suspend operations

It's a sad day for Shakespeare lovers in Philadelphia.

On Tuesday, Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre Artistic and Executive Director Carmen Khan released a statement announcing that, after two decades of dedication to the Bard, the company will suspend its 2016 season. According to her statement, rising rent costs, dwindling institutional support, and her personal battle with cancer last winter all contributed to the decision to temporarily cease performances.

Until this morning, its website was stuffed with programming through December, and when the Inquirer asked about the status of the theater last week, Khan insisted that nothing out of the ordinary was brewing.

In what Khan described as a "metamorphosis," the theatre will be moving out of its space at the Lutheran Church of the Holy Communion on Sansom Street. "It is a moment to pause; to look back at what's done and look forward to what's to come, as 'twere with an auspicious and a dropping eye," Khan wrote.

Meanwhile, the company will work to improve its effectiveness, concentrating on outreach and archiving.

"We will capitalize on our growing support and transform ourselves during this transitional period by focusing on expanding our much-demanded educational residency and tour programs," Khan explained. "And we will begin getting our celebrated plot charts and script analyses into publishable form, so that we can share with a wide audience the insights won during two decades of full-time study of Shakespeare's endlessly fascinating plays."

The Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre is the city's sole Shakespeare-only repertory company. Since 1996, it has staged 56 productions under Khan's leadership. During the ensemble's show cycle in April, Inquirer staff writer Hugh Hunter called their Twelfth Night a "sparkling, fast-paced revival," and Toby Zinman thought Macbeth was a "thrilling and savage production."

"I am filled with gratitude to all of you, and to the wonderful City of Brotherly Love, for welcoming me and giving me this opportunity which even many successful, lifelong theatre professionals never get: the chance to really do justice to these peerless scripts; to bring them to life on the stage, swept clean of four centuries' accumulation of dust and rust; to reveal in full light all the magic and power that Shakespeare imbued them with, as bright and fresh and glorious as on the first day they opened at the Globe," Khan wrote. "It has been a great honor and a privilege."