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Lorraine Hansberry Theatre Under Stress (And The Bristol Old Vic)

June 21, 2007

It's proving to be a tough week for two unique theatre companies on both sides of the Atlantic.

The Lorraine Hansberry Theatre is going through tough times. The San Francisco-based company is one of the most respected producers of work by black theatre artists in the nation whose prolific output ranges from new plays like Bee by Prince Gomovilas, to classic African-American works such as Fences by August Wilson. It's also the only African-American company with a home in downtown San Francisco - a neighborhood flush with theatres but hardly ethnically diverse from a performing arts standpoint.

San Francisco Art Academy University has bought the company's building on Sutter Street and wants the 26-year-old theatre ensemble out. The Academy of Art University informed the theatre on June 5 of its intention to revert the theatre space to the private use of its students and end its use as a cultural facility benefiting the community and The City. A petition is going around to try to protest the takeover, which I just signed.

It seems ironic that a fight like this should be going on between two arts organizations. The Academy of Art should be supporting a fellow member of the local arts community, not acting like an ugly corporation.

Further afield in the UK, the Bristol Old Vic is on the brink of closure. The Bristol Old Vic is the oldest working theatre in the country. An article in The Independent says that the company "admitted that it was under threat of closing for good as it launched a last-ditch appeal to secure £2m for its survival."

"Despite mixed fortunes over its 200-year history, the Old Vic has managed to thrive in the most adverse circumstances, including the bombing raids of the Second World War, and has a distinguished record for nurturing many of theatre's biggest stars.But the now-dilapidated venue is depending on the goodwill of individual benefactors - and has even launched a telephone hotline for public donations - to save it from permanent closure by Christmas."

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