Theater Alliance on Moving to Anacostia: “We’re Still Exploring Options”
Back in January, City Paper reported that the H Street Playhouse was being priced out of its digs on H Street NE, and it was looking for a home somewhere nearby—perhaps somewhere farther east around Bladensburg Road NE. But in July, Mayor Vince Gray broke the news at a press conference that the playhouse had found a new spot all the way across town, in historic Anacostia. The playhouse signed a five-year lease with Curtis Properties and Four Points Development, owners of the building at 2020 Shannon Place SE.
With that news, a lot of folks assumed that resident nonprofit company Theater Alliance would be shipping its operations over the river, too, says Artistic Director Colin Hovde. But that's not the case.
"We are actively exploring all possibilities," Hovde says in a phone call. Earlier this morning, the director sent out an email requesting feedback from patrons and supporters about the Anacostia question. "Although we are excited about the possibility of producing at the new Anacostia Playhouse," the email said, "we are also committed to exploring any options that might afford us the opportunity to continue producing in the neighborhood."
So far, a little bit of feedback has trickled in; he's hoping for much more. The company's board—which just added three members in part to help transition from H Street Playhouse to wherever its new home may be—has formed a space-search committee. "We can't make any decision lightly," he says.
Hovde isn't totally sure what the "ideal" future for the nonprofit is, aside from, say, a patron floating it a $10 million check that would permit the company to buy its own fabulous building, he tells me. But he does like the idea of maintaining Theater Alliance's relationships in Capitol Hill. Keep in mind, before it moved to H Street NE, the company operated at the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop from 1993 to 2002.
But he points out that no matter where the company exists full time, it plans to produce at least one show in Anacostia. The company received a $17,500 grant from the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities to underwrite, market, and pay artist salaries for Broke-ology east of the river.
Theater Alliance owns the seats, risers, and lights inside H Street Playhouse. When the building officially closes Jan. 1, the company has a month—until Feb. 1, officially—to move all of its assets to a new location. Its season at the playhouse will effectively end after an insanely busy winter that includes three holiday-themed shows, The Night Before Christmas, Black Nativity, and a co-production of Wonderful Life (but the troupe plans to return to H Street in the spring, to produce Word Becomes Flesh at the Atlas Performing Arts Center). Hovde is also planning to host a farewell party to say goodbye to the group's home of 10 years. Details will be announced closer to 2013.
If Theater Alliance doesn't find anywhere else to go, and must move miles from its longtime patron base to Anacostia, Hovde says he would be flexible. "There would be a lot of outreach to the people living in Ward 8 to find out what they want, what they need, and what they're interested in seeing onstage," he says. "It would involve a lot of conversations, a lot of dialog, and a lot of collaboration."