The Playgoer: Tale of 2 Cities

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Tale of 2 Cities

Backstage reports on yet another small NYC company losing its space:

Ginny Louloudes, executive director of the Alliance of Resident Theatres/New York, a service and advocacy group, said small theatres have always struggled to acquire and maintain space, but the problem has gotten worse during the real estate boom in large urban areas (the current home-mortgage crisis notwithstanding).


For the Women's Interart Center in NYC, a happy ending is far from certain. Its conflict began in 2001, when the company entered into a contract of sale for 549 W. 52nd St., a property then owned by the city. In 2002 the city canceled the contract, sparking a series of lawsuits by WIC against the city. In August 2007, WIC received eviction notices from the Clinton Housing Development Co., a nonprofit organization that now owns the center's rented spaces.

The battle has been fought at the federal and state levels. The city and the CHDC won in U.S. District Court, and the decision was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals. Three related cases pending in New York State Supreme Court may be combined into one. Despite a request from WIC, the eviction notice has not been stayed, though no date has been set by which the company must vacate the properties.
Meanwhile, from Chicago comes news of new theatres being built!
For $3 million, a group of eight principal investors have purchased the grand (19,000 square feet), recently landmarked classical revival-style building at 1425 W. Fullerton that was briefly the home of the Fullerton State Bank. And, under the auspices of a unique not-for-profit foundation, the 1923 building (designed by K.M. Vitzhum & Co.) will be transformed into the Lincoln Park Theater, a new cultural center in the heart of that North Side neighborhood.

Porchlight Music Theatre -- the enterprising musical theater company responsible for recent hit revivals such as "Ragtime" and "Nine" -- will be the principal anchor of the space, with other theater companies, chamber music groups and even small dance troupes invited to rent the planned 299-seat proscenium space with its small balcony, fly space, trap and orchestra pit.

Behind the project is a consortium of investors (who prefer to be unnamed) who were wooed by Porchlight's tireless artistic director and producer, Walter Stearns (who had been searching for a permanent home for his company), and who decided to take advantage of a depressed real estate market.

Okay, knowing some rich people willing to pool together $3 mil doesn't hurt. And I'm sure things aren't all rosy in Chi-town.

But I can't imagine $3 million even coming close to making such a thing happen in Gotham. Am I right?

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