Missouri Western State University has suspended operations of Western Playhouse, the summer theatre company, due to recent state budget withholding. Auditions scheduled in St. Joseph and Kansas City in February for this summer’s planned production of “West Side Story” are cancelled.

“Western Playhouse has been a tremendous artistic success for five seasons, with high-quality productions staged by talented cast and crew from around the nation,” said Dr. Gordon Mapley, dean of the Western Institute and Western Playhouse executive producer. “Unfortunately, we are unable to continue operations under the university’s current budget situation. We will evaluate the possibility of resuming the Playhouse if there are more favorable financial conditions in the future.”

Western Playhouse was founded in 2012 to enhance the St. Joseph arts scene with professional-quality summer productions. It also provided many Missouri Western students with their first professional theatre opportunities both on stage and behind the scenes.

“Each year, more than 20 Missouri Western students have been part of Western Playhouse, with many earning Actors Equity points toward their Equity card” Mapley added. “Many of our graduates have noted how their Western Playhouse experience has helped them advance in their professional careers.”

Over its five seasons, Western Playhouse produced nine shows, most recently “Fiddler on the Roof” in 2016.

“I’m proud of the work we did at Western Playhouse,” said Dr. Bob Willenbrink, founding dean of Missouri Western’s School of Fine Arts and Western Playhouse producing director. “We made it possible for St. Joseph audiences to see gifted professional actors from New York, Kansas City and elsewhere while nurturing young talents just embarking on their careers. I’m very grateful to those who made it possible.”

While Western Playhouse will not operate this year, Missouri Western’s School of Fine Arts will continue to be a strong presence in the local theatre scene through its Department of Theatre, Cinema and Dance’s Theatre Season. The department presents four productions per year. The spring semester shows are William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” Feb. 24-March 4 and “The Wedding Singer” April 21-29. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit mwsutix.com.

Missouri Western State University is a comprehensive regional university providing a blend of traditional liberal arts and professional degree programs. The university offers student-centered, high quality instruction that focuses on experience-based learning, community service, and state-of-the-art technology. Missouri Western is located in St. Joseph, Mo., and is committed to the educational, economic, cultural and social development of the region it serves. Visit www.missouriwestern.edu.