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New Spaces

July 31, 2007

I always get excited when I hear news of new performing arts spaces opening up in our area. It serves as a much needed antidote to the usual Bay Area story of companies being thrown out of their homes (a la TheatreFirst in Oakland and Lorraine Hansberry in San Francisco) and spaces just shutting down and staying empty for years.

The SOMA area of San Francisco has become a hotbed for alternative theatre in recent years, what with the C.A.F.E/Off Market Space, Counterpulse and The Garage at 975 Howard joining stalwarts like 111 Minna and The Yerba Buena Center for the Arts as venues for live shows. The latest addition to SOMA's underground performance scene is Boxcar Theatre's space at the former Bindlestiff Studio.

The Boxcar Playhouse is a 49-seat black box theatre at 505 Natoma Street. The company is taking a long-term lease on the space, renovating it, and establishing the venue as it's permanent new home for productions. The company is launching the new space with a fund-raising gala and season preview on August 18. The press release says there'll be a chocolate fountain. Enough said.

In other "new space" news, I just received the latest bulletin regarding the Lorraine Hansberry's battle against The Academy of Art University regarding custody of its home in downtown San Francisco. Seems like the parties are making some progress with their discussions.

The Academy of Art University has reportedly offered the Theatre a financial package that will provide upwards of $125,000 to secure a new space. The principal terms of the offer are as follows:

· The term of the Theatre's lease will be extended from July 31, 2007 at a below market rate rent of $10,000 per month, in order to allow the Theatre to complete its holiday program and to locate new space;

· The Academy of Art University will reimburse $50,000 to the Theatre once it fulfills its rent obligations and vacates the space by a date certain in January 2008.

· The Academy of Art University will pay up to $25,000 for the Theatre's relocation expenses.

· The Academy of Art University will pay up to $50,000 for the cost of building out its new theater space.

We'll see what happens.

3pm: Just received the following update from Marc J. Paquette of the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre. Seems like the progress I mentioned earlier is in its infant stages. Here's what Mr. Paquette says:

Yesterday (July 30, 2007), the lawyer for the Academy of Art met with our attorney to present their opening settlement proposal. That was the beginning of the discussion, not the end of it, and the Academy knows that. Our attorney told the Academy's lawyer that we would respond with a counter-proposal as soon as we were able to do so, and we intend to convey our proposal today or tomorrow. We were therefore surprised to learn that the Academy of Art has sent out a public statement, and has broadcast emails to perhaps hundreds of individuals in the community, in which they present the details of their proposal and urge the community to pressure the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre to accept it. That is not the behavior of someone trying to resolve a problem. Deceiving people into thinking that this proposal makes sense for the Theatre, and then inviting them to pressure us to just accept it, is not a sign of good faith. The fact is that the Art Academy's proposal would not allow the Theatre to survive. We will be making a reasonable proposal to the Art Academy in response to their proposal, and we hope that they will consider it in good faith. We have always believed that two institutions devoted to the arts should be able to work out a solution that avoids irreparable harm to either of them. That is still our goal, and we hope that the Art Academy shares it.

Baby steps.

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