The Charlottetown Festival would have a hard time surviving if it produced only Canadian musicals, says the head of the theatre program at the University of Prince Edward Island.

The festival at the Confederation Centre of the Arts has been criticized lately for staging a number of foreign productions, and one playwright has launched a petition demanding the centre honour its mandate to showcase Canada's visual and performing arts.

UPEI professor Greg Doran helped make some of the recent programming decisions as a non-voting member of the centre's Board. He's heard the demand for the festival to move to 100 per cent Canadian content, but he said it's already difficult getting audiences.

"I think the Centre has done a very good job of attempting to balance the practical needs of keeping the place open with attending to its mandate," said Doran.

"I don't know that if we had stuck to the mandate solely the doors would still be open."

Even with the non-Canadian shows, ticket sales at the Charlottetown Festival are four per cent lower this year than they were two years ago.

Doran said the Charlottetown Festival isn't alone in its struggles. Ontario's Stratford Festival announced recently it is laying off some staff because of lower than anticipated ticket sales.