After nearly 20 years as a fixture in Boston’s fringe theater scene, Zeitgeist Stage Company will cease operations at the end of this season.
David Miller, founding artistic director of the small but critically acclaimed troupe, said sagging ticket sales prompted his decision to shutter the company, which has garnered a variety of awards over the years for its politically charged productions.
“It’s strictly financial: We’ve been hemorrhaging money for the past two years,” said Miller. “We operate on a fringe budget. We’ve been able to make it work, but in the last few years it just became impossible.”
Zeitgeist, which opens its 18th season Friday with Jon Robin Baitz’s “Vicuna,” will close after its spring production of Jacques Lamarre’s “Trigger Warning,” a world premiere commissioned by the company.
Miller said his company receives little in the way of grants or foundation support and relies heavily on ticket sales, donations, and “micro-donations” solicited at the theater. He added that while Zeitgeist’s provocative shows have continued to garner positive reviews, the company began to lose its audience following the 2016 election — a condition he dubbed “Trump fatigue” — with two recent shows playing to single-digit houses.
“People are kind of overcome by the tweets and the news,” said Miller, 60. “Times have just changed, and no matter what we did over the past few years it didn’t seem we were able to create something consistently audiences wanted to see.”
Miller added that the theater company, which has an operating budget of roughly $75,000 and offers actors a small stipend, was negatively affected when the Globe’s main theater critic was unavailable to review a show last season.
“[It] really hurt us,” said Miller, who added that the Globe did not review the show because of a “policy that they wouldn’t send out stringers for theater reviews.”
Globe arts editor Rebecca Ostriker said the paper has no such policy.
“We believe Globe readers are best served when our superb staff theater critic, Don Aucoin, reviews performances, but there’s no ‘policy’ on this. While we’ve shifted the focus with our freelance writers to emphasize reported feature stories, we’ve published numerous freelance theater reviews, both this year and last,” Ostriker said in a statement. “Zeitgeist Stage Company has brought so much memorable theater to the Boston scene over the years, it will truly be missed. And while its revels may be ending, it will leave a legacy of timely, provocative, resonant work that has rightfully earned it esteem and applause.”
Miller said he was grateful for the support theatergoers have shown the company over the years.
“We’ve had some outstanding audiences and we’ve had some hits along the way,” he said. “That’s been very gratifying.”Malcolm Gay can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @malcolmgay