GARDEN GROVE — In the latest indication that the county's second-largest professional theater company is about to fold, the entire administrative staff of the cash-starved GroveShakespeare has been laid off.
"We're all gone," Don Hayes, a 12-year employee, said Friday. "I'm still here at the box office because I know people will be picking up tickets for tonight's show. But the board of trustees is nowhere to be found."
Hayes, his voice breaking, said he and four other employees were given notice Thursday night by business manager Steven Boyer on orders of the GroveShakespeare board of trustees. Boyer then laid himself off, Hayes said.
The action came just three days after the board president, David Krebs, and acting artistic director Jules Aaron announced an emergency fund-raising campaign calling for $80,000 in charitable contributions by July 1 to rescue the 1993 season.
Late Friday Aaron, Krebs and the other board members could not be reached for comment.
At a press conference Monday, Krebs had said "it is absolutely our commitment to continue" the Grove's operation even if the season has to be curtailed or canceled.
Hayes said he did not know whether the board had decided to cancel the summer season in the 550-seat outdoor Festival Amphitheatre, where "King Lear" and "A Midsummer Night's Dream" are scheduled in July and August.
But actors who were rehearsing "Lear" at the theater Friday afternoon left early with no explanation, Hayes said. "There's a rehearsal call tomorrow," he added.
Grove officials had noted earlier this week that if $52,500 is not raised by June 23, when "Lear" is scheduled for its first preview, the production would be canceled.
The 15-year-old nonprofit theater company has a current deficit of roughly $200,000, according to Grove officials. With the large cast of "Lear" in rehearsal, it costs the Grove about $10,000 a week to operate.
Hayes said he and several other laid-off employees turned up for work Friday "out of an obligation to our patrons. People are coming in to pick up tickets this weekend."
He said the box office would be kept open on a volunteer basis at the GroveShakespeare's 178-seat Gem Theatre until Sunday when "Scheherazade," a one-man show starring Ron Campbell, is supposed to end its run there.
A children's show, "Dream Street," is also scheduled for its last performance today at the Gem.
Hayes said the staff was told that Krebs had gone out of town for the weekend. Phone calls to his home went unanswered.
The Grove board left no instructions to keep the theater open, Hayes said, adding that no board members or volunteers from the theater's advocacy group, The Shakespeare Guild, had shown up to take over the box office.
In addition to Hayes and Boyer, the staffers who were let go are publicist Eric Kerns, accounting assistant Julia Vexler and technical director Richard Hess.