The Playgoer: A Pseudo State Theatre?

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A Pseudo State Theatre?

You may recall the ill fortunes of New Jersey's musical theatre mecca, Paper Mill Playhouse a couple of seasons ago--namely, that they were broke and could barely even get a bank loan.

Well the prospects for a bank loan, obviously, are no more feasible today. But the town of Milburn itself has now stepped in to the rescue, by buying the company's property and effectively leasing it to them for a...well, I guess for a song!

The township will now lease the property back to Paper Mill Playhouse for up to 75 years. The theatre will have an option to repurchase the land and buildings in year 11....

Millburn Mayor Sandra Haimoff stated, "This is a win-win situation for the Township of Millburn and Paper Mill Playhouse…Millburn will purchase a valuable piece of real estate while supporting the arts organization that economically drives our downtown."
Sounds like the town is taking a strictly business approach to the deal. But, hey, it's as close to a "state theatre" as we're likely to get these days, huh?

Although I guess you could argue we have our own examples in NYC, with downtown spaces like the Public, LaMama, and New York Theatre Workshop which were basically leased by the city to those companies for, like, a dollar back in the day. Weren't they?

You don't see that happening any more, do you? Too bad, it's probably the only way a new theatre in Manhattan could afford space now.


Anonymous said...

Well, just last year 6 groups on East 4th Street and ABC No Rio on the LES bought their buildings for a buck a piece, so it does still happen.

But Papermill has that added arson mystery from back in the day that even in nyc is hard to top. That's how ya get a nice new theater.

Eric said...

I think that locally subsidized theatre might be the best bet for state funded theatre. It's far easier for the local government to see an economic result of a working theatre, especially if the theatre has a long history. The Oregon Shakespeare Festival is largely sponsored through the state of Oregon and the town of Ashland, and provides, almost completely, the reason for the town's existence, and it seems clear the local governments know it.