Processing Your Payment

Please do not leave this page until complete. This can take a few moments.

August 5, 2020

Amid layoffs, Hartford Stage sues ‘King’s Speech’ play for $145K in unrefunded payments

Photo | Hartford Stage Hartford Stage is one of many theaters in Connecticut’s vibrant arts-and-culture industry.

Hartford Stage filed a lawsuit Wednesday seeking $145,000 from a production company that it says failed to refund payments after shows were canceled during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The downtown nonprofit arts organization, which recently announced it will not be hosting live in-person performances until fall 2021, filed the lawsuit in state district court against King's Speech on Stage LLC seeking to get paid back as the coronavirus shutdown has forced it to reduce staff by 75% and "jeopardized the viability of Hartford Stage's future operations."

The lawsuit claims “The King’s Speech" play was supposed to run March 19 to April 19. However, the shows were canceled just days before production amid Gov. Ned Lamont’s ban on gatherings of 250 people or more to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Hartford Stage said it exercised its termination rights under a Nov. 2019 agreement between the two parties, seeking to recoup a total of $225,000 for all deposits and payments it previously made to the New York-based group. The agreement, worth a total of $350,000, requires all monies to be refunded within five business days of cancelation.

HBJ Photo | Joe Cooper
A sign outside Hartford Stage and the 20 Church St. office tower warns residents to stay safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Among other reasons, Hartford Stage argues that its termination of the agreement was justified under a provision that allows for cancelation if there is a risk of disease or injury to the staff or members of the audience.

Hartford Stage said it notified the company of the cancelations on March 12, or two days after Lamont declared a public health emergency due to the coronavirus crisis.

On April 7, officials from The King's Speech informed Hartford Stage that it was not in a financial position to pay the requested $225,000 because it had to "rebalance and organize its cash flow" to cover required union termination, healthcare insurance and pension payments to its terminated employees. 

Weeks later, Hartford Stage asked for proof of all insurance policies and endorsements naming the organization as an additional insured. Officials from the King's Speech provided the insurance documents, but they failed to name Hartford Stage as an additional insured as required, and Hartford Stage was prevented from directly making a claim under the insurance policy. 

King's Speech on Stage LLC, which could not be reached for comment, in June repaid $80,000 back to Hartford Stage, but still owes $145,000, the lawsuit states.

Officials from the roughly 500-seat Hartford Stage, located at 50 Church St., declined to comment on the ongoing litigation.

Last week, Hartford Stage announced it canceled its entire 2020-21 season running through June 2021 after revising schedules and postponing performances several times since March. Officials say the theater will hold four online events this fall, and are currently developing outdoor events for 2021.

The theater said its ability to reopen next fall is "highly dependent" on the success of its newly launched “Raise the Curtain” fundraising campaign.

“Hartford Stage will rely on its patrons, community members, and corporate partners to donate generously to sustain the theater during this difficult time,” the theater wrote on Facebook last week.

Meanwhile, a new survey of National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) members projects that 90% of independent live entertainment venues in the U.S. will close permanently in the coming months without federal funding.

Sign up for Enews

Related Content


Order a PDF