Arts Desk

Spooky Action Theater Receives $1.6 Million of Stuff

Life just got a lot easier for Spooky Action Theater. The frequently experimental troupe announced this morning that it's received a $1.6 million gift—in stuff.

A donor has given Spooky Action a collection of paintings, prints, antiques, furniture, and other items—and extended the small troupe a valuable lifeline. Artistic Director Richard Henrich says the more valuable works will be sold at auction houses—and the rest at a Spooky Action gala in March—with proceeds going toward an endowment for the troupe.

Although the donor has given to the company in the past, "this came as a complete surprise, but it’s a wonderful gift," says Henrich. The donor, who asked the theater not to reveal his name, does not live in D.C.

Henrich says an endowment will provide for about 15 to 20 percent of Spooky Action's annual budget, which he hopes to initially expand to about $150,000 a year, and eventually $250,000. Plans include more productions, additions to staff, more staged readings, and developmental workshops. He says he'd also like to rent out the troupe's black box space at the Universalist National Memorial Church on 16th Street NW to small companies at reasonable rates.

Spooky Action's  last few seasons have been slim—a product, Henrich says, of the loss of its home at Montgomery College amid that institution's bureaucratic and budgetary turmoil in 2009, followed by the troupe's move to 16th Street in 2010. The group presented Horus earlier this year at Capital Fringe and a co-production of Einstein's Dreams, but spent much of 2011 figuring out what to do with the anonymous gift. This season it'll mount David Mamet's The Water Engine, beginning Feb. 16. By next year, Henrich says, he hopes Spooky Action will return to staging three plays a season.

The donated collection, which includes more than 1,000 items, includes drawings by Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Art Deco furniture by Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann, modern furniture by Wharton Esherick, and more. Asked if there's anything in the collection he wishes he could keep, Henrich says, "Well, yeah, there are some really lovely paintings. And there’s a great sports car, but I can’t afford it."

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