Arts Desk

Lincoln Theatre Board Blames Mayor For Possible Shutdown

Robbins and Lee at today's press conference at Lincoln Theatre

There was a lot of blame swirling around at today's press conference outside the Lincoln Theatre. Okay, the blame wasn't exactly swirling—it was pointed directly at Mayor Vince Gray.

Without an immediate source of funding, the historic theater on U Street may be forced to shut down—and soon. "Shame on the District for knocking the theater instead of helping it," said board member Rick Lee, who also owns Lee's Flower & Card Shop at 11th and U streets NW. He went on to criticize Gray for letting the theater "fall apart," possibly enabling it to fall into the hands of "insensitive individuals." Earlier on, Lee described the Lincoln Theatre's relationship with the District government as "a dysfunctional partnership that needs to be fixed," adding that the mayor had not returned any of the board's phone calls, preferring to speak to them "through the media."

The board is asking for a $500,000 cash infusion from the District government before the start of the next fiscal year. In other words, by Monday, the first business day in FY 2012. Board secretary Cynthia Robbins said that money would go toward simply "keeping the doors open." She could not specify when exactly the theater would shut down if it did not get immediate funding.

The mayor's office has no official response just yet. A staffer says a press release may be in progress.

Update: The mayor's office says they never received the board's request for a meeting. Mayor spokesperson Dr. Linda Wharton-Boyd said the administration tried to contact the board, but never heard back.

The original version of this post misquoted board member Rick Lee. He criticized the mayor for potentially letting the theater fall into the hands of "insensitive individuals," not "less sensitive individuals."

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  • Plea$e

    The shit that comes out of people's mouths around here is just funny. "Less sensitive individuals" is code for anyone that's not black.

  • RT

    Plea$e- you're absolutely right. Can you imagine if a white guy said that? LOL

  • dcvoterboy

    Maybe if the Lincoln Theatre were actively managed by a professional Board and professional managed like a theater they wouldn't be looking to DC for operating subsidies. The neighborhood has been frustrated by the lack of programming at the Lincoln for years.

    This neighborhood landmark sits dark all often, Why in the world are there only 4 events booked for the next 60 days? This means over the next 60 days, the Lincoln is dark for 93% of them. No wonder they have no money!

  • Rob

    How can all of this blame suddenly be thrust upon an administration that has only been in office for less than a year? I'm sure that the Mayor will address this issue as he deals with the more pressing matters first. While I too have become discouraged with all of the missteps of this administration, I and many others are willing to give him the opportunity to make things right. Now if only you "less sensitive individuals" would back off and stop hoping that Mayor Gray fails, we can begin to move this city forward.

  • green team member

    In case you don't remember Lee had Gray banners hanging from his business and outside of his Ward 5 home. He ain't hoping that Gray fails, he is a big fan. He just knows the truth.

  • Crook

    Wow never though I would see Lee blaming Gray. BYE BYE #1city

  • Tim

    "...Rick Lee, who also owns Lee's Flower & Card Shop..."

    aka these people have NO IDEA how to manage a theater. If they did, they'd be able to take advantage of their prime location and historic facility to book more than 4 events in the next 60 days. It's pathetic. The Lincoln Theatre should be a thriving cultural center that would have no need for gov't handouts. The entire board needs to resign.

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  • Fan

    Maybe the problem is thinking of it as a "black" theatre. It's a space that's roughly the capacity of the National Theatre, but in some ways more comfortable, with a deeper orchestra level and better sight lines from the balcony. A Metro stop is across the street, and it's surrounded by restaurants and clubs. There's no reason why it couldn't be busy every night if it defined its mission more broadly. It could be promoted as a hall for music of all varieties, for touring stage productions that now bypass D.C. because the National and Warner are too expensive, for author readings of the kind that Lisner Auditorium attracts, and really for performances of all kinds. Maybe the Lincoln could partner with some of the suburban venues, like Clarice Smith Center and George Mason U., to share the expenses of bringing a big name to town for shows at both venues. Music and theater are enormously popular in Washington, and the Lincoln could be a great venue for them if somebody would market it properly.

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