Warwick’s Ocean State Theatre Company abruptly closes

WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) —  After just five years at its location on Jefferson Boulevard in Warwick, Ocean State Theatre Company has closed its doors.

“It was a heartbreaking decision for those of us who are passionate about OSTC,” Andrew Cohen, chairman of the group’s board of directors, said in a statement.

The theater said the decision to immediately close was made following a late-night board meeting Monday evening, the day after the theater closed its production of the musical “Victor/Victoria.” OSTC representatives cited ongoing financial struggles as the reason for the abrupt closure.

Tax filings from 2014 show the theater was more than $2.2 million in debt at the time. Representatives of the organization said they could not successfully renegotiate their lease with the building’s owner, Steve Soscia, and third-party negotiations to buy the building at 1245 Jefferson Blvd. failed.

Soscia could not immediately be reached for comment.

In January, OSTC was the recipient of a Rhode Island State Council on the Arts state cultural facilities grant of $240,000; the theater was required to provide matching funds.

In a statement, Cohen said the theater’s financial situation has been “challenging for several years,” citing debt incurred when OSTC left Theatre by the Sea in 2012 when that facility’s now-producer, Bill Hanney, took the reins there. At the time OSTC had been the producing entity at the Matunuck summer theater since its reopening in 2007.

As for what will become of subscribers or patrons who held tickets to OSTC’s upcoming summer musicals “Shrek” and “Clue,” the theater said all patron records will be retained until they can determine “what remediation will be offered.”

It’s unclear if OSTC will attempt to relocate to a new theater space or if a new producing entity will step in to take over the theater.