WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) – The Attorney General’s Office is seeking records from Ocean State Theatre Company after the Warwick arts organization abruptly closed its doors last month.
In a civil investigative demand obtained by Eyewitness News, the AG’s office says they’ve received 54 complaints from consumers who said they paid for summer camps and performances that will no longer be happening.
“Upon preliminary investigation, it has been determined that it would be in the public interest to further investigate and inquire into these allegations,” the court documents state, alleging that the theater is in violation of the state’s Deceptive Trade Practices Act.
Representatives for the theater are now being ordered to meet with the AG’s consumer protection unit next week to try and resolve the complaints. The AG’s office is also ordering theater representatives to produce documents related to all performances, events and camps that were scheduled to be held, as well as records of money they accepted for these events and services. The theater will also be required to show copies of their lease agreement for their Warwick building, financial statements and other legal documents. In May, Eyewitness News reported the landlord of the Jefferson Boulevard theater was suing OSTC for nearly $900,000 in back rent. The landlord is also seeking legal fees.
Tax filings from 2012 show the theater company was upwards of $2.2 million in debt at the time.
In a statement released at the time of their closing, OSTC board chairman Andrew 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.
The theater had been planning two summer productions, the musicals “Shrek” and “Clue.” At the time of their closing, OSTC representatives said all patron records would be retained until they could determine “what remediation will be offered.” So far there has been no further instruction from the theater, though other local companies have stepped in and offered free admission to their shows with OSTC tickets.
It’s still unclear what will become of the Jefferson Boulevard performance space.
A secretary for an attorney representing OSTC said she had no comment.