Arizona Theatre Company expects to end its 2013 fiscal year $1 million in the red — more than double the deficit when ATC’s managing director took over two years ago.

Robert Glaser, chair of ATC’s board, blames the losses on low tickets sales and disappointing fundraising.

“We had a really difficult time this year, surprisingly,” Glaser said.

But compounding the financial crisis is a fractured board, the potential loss of significant donors and what one board member calls “a failure of leadership” by Mark Cole, who took over as managing director in August 2011.

“The number one priority has to be survival of the theater,” said board member and former University of Arizona President John Schaefer, who called the company “one of the cornerstones of the cultural activities in the state.”

But, added Schaefer, who ends his term on the board at the end of this month, “Morale is low, there’s a significant deficit, and I see no evidence that a long-range plan has been developed that anybody can buy into, and I think that’s a failure of leadership.”

When Cole started with ATC, the deficit was $570,000. A $500,000 anonymous donation in June 2012 lowered last year’s deficit of $221,800, but the deficit is on track to increase by more than fourfold when the fiscal year ends June 30.

Cole’s three-year contract expires in June 2014, but the board must tell him a year in advance whether it plans to renew it.

“There’s been a significant fraction of people involved with the theater who have lost confidence in Mark’s ability to lead,” said Schaefer.

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Senior Editor, News, Arizona Daily Star, Tucson, Az.