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« Lucky Spinster... | Main | David Sobelsohn »

Monday, 06 March 2006

Comments

NovaThespian

What baffles me is why is everyone coming down so hard on Bedrock Billiards and not on the staff of Source. Bedrock didn't run the theater into the ground. Bedrock didn't practice mismanagement. Bedrock didn't come in with guns and make people put the space up for sale. If everyone is so concerned they should buy the space from Source. What happens if Source doesn't sell the space to Bedrock? Source Theater has shown they cant run a theater in that location and decided to sell. Are these same folks going to tie the Source Theater management to desks and make them keep and run that space? If they want to sell let them sell. If others want it to remain a theater they should buy the space to insure it remains one.

WOV

RTFA, NOVA. No one's proposing the alternative that seems to raise your ire; in fact, what's being sought is a solution where another theater company or consortia thereof *does* in fact buy the building.

In fact, many have been pursuing this alternative for months with no response from Source, let alone any competitive bidding, RFP, etc. before the sale was announced. The effort here is to have a sale be an open and transparent one, and to determine where DC's public money went before the sale is finalized.

Again, read the articles carefully and be very careful to make the distinction between the Source theater company and the Source building - the latter is what people are seeking to save here.

As for Bedrock, I think there's ample cordiality being demonstrated to them - as you might expect. The principals are reasonable and savvy people that have done a lot for DC theater in the past.

Bob Anthony

I agree with NovaThespian. I was an actor at New Playwrights when we only had four attendees in the audience. I just reviewed Didactic and was the only one in the audience with three ushers. How can the actors and theater staffs complain about the Source situation when the basic problem has been their lack of support over the years. Yes, I have been to Source shows with less than ten in the audience. And I look at the back of theater programs and there are three and four pages of donors...why aren't they also filling the seats of the smaller theaters? Let's face it...theater is a commercial business...either support the smaller theaters or let profitable business move in.

Bob, you  of all people!

Bob, how well individual shows do is a separate issue from the fact that smaller companies have a hard time finding venues in D.C.

As has been pointed out, many of the people who are movers and shakers in local theatre cut their teeth at Source or places like that. The fact that they spent a lot of time playing to small houses...it's part of building character in an artist. (Of course sometimes a small theatre has a hit. It has happened.)

But the point is, feast or famine, the more small theatres out there, the better an exploratory phase young artists will have. The justification for keeping the Source building a theatre is not financial. It's more important than that.

I'm shocked because you are nearly alone as a critic who isn't hypnotized by glitz and who judges each production on its artisitc merit.

dcepticon

Why is my head aching and my sense of bs being pinged so loudly right now? Jesus Christ!

LuvDusty

I think it would be wonderful if the current Source Building was sold to another theatre company instead of a non-theatre related business.

And I do agree that the transaction details should be brought forward for everyone to see.

However, that being said, business is business, and it's high time us theatre folk understand that sometimes business takes precedence over artistic altruism.

If the smaller theatres in town rallied together and created a consortium, then maybe, all together, they could purchase the space and divide up the performance times so everyone could have a go.

But then again, that would require organization and teamwork...something you'd think would come easier than it actually does to theatre people.

Vladimir

Well, I think the point is that ATW and others HAVE put a group together to buy the building and were never given the chance. They gave repeated efforts to work out a deal with the Source board and were never engaged. It was a surprise to them when the deal with Bedrock went down, since they were planning on giving an offer for the building.

What The Source board does with its building is their business, but it's important to note that groups have organized themselves to make an offer--they were just shut out. They have no more right than any other group, they are just asking for a fair shot at a building that the government has labeled and zoned as an "arts building."

Ronnie

It breaks my heart when I review a show that talented people have worked so hard to produce and I see just a few people in the seats. I also reviewed "God Of Hell" although there were many more in the audience the day I attended.

I think that these are different issues. ATW is showing that, if managed properly, the "Source space" can be a successful venue. One must separate the venue from the company in this case of course. Many times fresh ideas and success are forthcoming when a change in management has new eyes looking at a failed situation.

There is no doubt in my mind that in order to succeed an umbrella org would be advantageous for the fringe companies that travel from venue to venue hoping that an audience follows them.

That said it is very hard to organize such an endeavor. There are some in the planning stages but the obstacles are many and varied in difficulty.

If nothing else I hope that this situation (Source)becomes a lesson learned in thue theatre community. Communication and teamwork in the DC Theatre Community is vital for future growth much less preserving present audiences and performance spaces.

Christopher Henley

i am surprised how many people with ideas one might associate with the cato inst. write in to theaterboy. yes, business is business, but it's an old and sad story, in this city, new york city, and many others, that artists move in (along with some intrepid small business owners and homeowners) to an, er, less than desirable neighborhood and turn it around, only to be squeezed out when the neighborhood has been "reclaimed." it was the actors and directors and designers and techies at source and studio (among others) and their audiences who took a risk back in the early 80s to come to a part of town that scared off a lot of other people. the risk was taken by david wildberger -- our s.m. whose jaw was wired after he was jumped on the way home from 'true west' at source in 1983 -- not by the nice people at bedrock billiards or peggy o'brien of the current source board. i applaud john mcgaw in the deputy mayor's office for working to save the source performance space. i pay taxes in d.c., and if a million of those d.c. tax dollars went into the space because the gov't thought it was worth supporting, it is good stewardship of taxpayers' money to try to save that rather unique amenity, rather than just lose it to be replaced by something that would be hard to distinguish from scores of other bars around town, some on the same street, and even a few on the same block. (it's my understanding that it's to be a bar, not a billiards hall.) also, i don't quite understand this "you had your chance" attitude toward people trying to save the space. even if things could have been done to prevent the current state of affairs, it is not a logical conclusion to do nothing now. and, even if some of this did not happen (as it did) without much warning, it is not always so easy for small non-profits with small, part-time, or volunteer staffs to turn every good idea into effective action. you know, the ideas of what should be done can be the easy part; marshalling limited resources to achieve the goals is what is difficult, more difficult than posting some advice on theaterboy. can't we agree that the effort to save a unique and historic part of our history and legacy is commendable?

WOV

Business *is* business.

And in business, you have to keep your books to generally accepted accounting principles, carefully document any expenditure of public money, adhere to public commitments, and perform sufficient diligence before selling major capital assets of the corporation - including examining more than one offer.

If those common practices can be realized, there's already some extant, well-developed consortia - with robust financials - ATW is not alone here - ready to take on that space as a profitable theatrical concern.

Ronnie

There is no doubt that the effort taken by everyone involved is far beyond commendable. Actually to get so much done in such a short time is incredible in a town where the red tape can choke any good intentions pretty fast.

The folks presently involved are working very hard to see a positive outcome even when the odds are stacked against them.

Does anyone know if there is a central place (online) to get information and updates and if not I would be hapy to donate the space on my server for such an effort.

Christopher Henley

business is business, but not everything in the world is judged by the same pay-your-way-or-clear-out standard. that's why the government does things such as designating non-profit status with its attendant advantages, or supporting arts and parks. those entities should be run well, sure, but they aren't just knocked off the field if something else turns up that can offer a wider profit, or a profit at all. it's called "non-profit" because it's acknowledged that not everything good for a community will turn a profit. otherwise, we'd get no theatre except star vehicles, musical revivals, and fluffy comedies. it would suck if theatres just did that kind of thing; that's why there are not-for-profit theatres.

(hey, wait...)

Too Old, Too Tired

I don't know that I've ever before heard ATW described as a company with "robust financials". Certainly you're not talking about the same company whose lackluster financial performance (while renting the Source) for "Naked Boys Singing", "The F Word" and other attractions contributed to the financial distress at Source. An objective reporter (Jane? Tboy? Bob? anybody?) would try to get that answer. They'd also publish the answer as to when Source last made a monthly mortgage payment. 1998? 1999? 2000?.

To be fair, Source's inability to properly manage and administer the contracts they negotiated with ATW and other tennants contributed to the morass. Source was never flush with cash, but didn't start to drown until after it decided to renovate its building, and then suffered from mismanagement and bad timing. The full story of the Source financial mess has yet to be written, and frankly, the root causes no longer matter. But it is unlikely that any consortium of arts groups could compete with the monies offered by Bedrock. It is unlikely that any consortium could even come up with enough money to buy the building from the mortgage holder, without assuming Source's other debts and obligations. If you think the money is there, you probably believe that Barry Bonds isn't on the juice, and that O.J. didn't do it.

The question for the city, and ultimately the taxpayers, is whether the city would gain more revenue by allowing the sale to Bedrock, restoring the property to the tax roles, and allowing the city to recoupe some of its investment from the sale price, or from "reposessing" the building and running it as a sort of community center. Unless there is a groundswell from the city's elites in an election year, Bedrock will win. But we all know how well run and accessible to local productions other city owned facilities have proven to be, or not to be. The question shouldn't be about "Saving Source" or "preserving the space", or even who's to blame, but rather, about ensuring that the distribution of any proceeds from the sales goes to benefit small theatres. And not to the benefit of the small handful of people who mismanaged the last years of Source Theatre.

NovaThespian

Chris,

I have no problem with the organizations trying to buy the space. But it has come across in both online posts here, articles in the Newspapers quoting people upset about the sale and in the e-mails from Dot N. That they feel the real villain in this situation is Billiards and not the Source Theater Company. I would strongly urge people to make an offer to buy the space from Billiards or to pay them a fee for not buying it if the same group could buy the space a keep it a theater.

As to money spent on the space by the City byway of the Source Theater Company I think the City should go through the books and see where it went and if it didn't go where it was earmarked for they should deal with it appropriately. The clauses they have now in their funding would have prevented Source Theater Company from making this sale. That's the way it should be.

I agree that the arts should not be pushed out when an area turns over. A culture is known and remembered by its art. There should be more funding for the arts in DC not less but my main point is that situation is not Billiards fault. It is the sole fault of the Source Theater Company and theirs alone.

CATO institute. roflmao. Love it. Guess I cant be in the theater and not be of the liberal political or fiscal point of view.

WOV

"Probably believe that Barry Bonds isn't on the juice, and that O.J. didn't do it."

Or, alternately, I've been reading the audited financial statements of proposed consortium partners.

It's definitely one of the two.

And I never said that ATW alone has suffficiently robust financials, but that it could, in partnership with others, swing it if the financials were made available.

As to the city "reposessing" the building and "running it as some sort of community center," I think that it's a terrible idea. Thankfully, you're the only person who has seriously brought it up.

What would likely help the city recoup (no e) more revenue for their tax rolls (no e) would be to have a well-managed, financially stable consortium of theater companies in that space, anchoring a thriving theater district that would provide a draw for local businesses like Bedrock.

sourcewasgreat.thespacewasnot

Does anyone have any real sense of what taking on source would cost? between the cost of the building, the land, and then taking on source's debts... i mean you are talking in the several millions of dollars.

That seems an absurd amount of money to spend on a space that, lets face it, isn't that great to begin with.

It's not as if we are trying to save some beautiful old vauldville theater. It is a renovated car repair shop that has MANY problems.

There has been much talk in these forums about seperating the source theater company and the space itself. Well lets do that... Source THE COMPANY did a lot of amazing things. A pioneer in DC theater, a place where many artists got their starts and produced some damn fine shows. But Source THE SPACE is a black box. Not a bad black box. But really nothing special.

with the amount of money it would cost to buy source and assume its debt, wouldn't it just make more sense to start fresh? If there is truly a consortium that can come up with 5 million dollars, why not put that money into buying a property that is actually still for sale and renovating it. Maybe you can find a new space that is truly astonishing and start something NEW and BOLD.

The source space is not that.

Ronnie

How many of the fringe DC companies that are looking for space can really raise the capitol to buy it?

And what is wrong with DC having theatre space available to fringe companies like across the river in Arlington? Without those spaces where would Fountain Head, Trumpet Vine, Synetic,Teatro De La Luna and ACT mount productions? It is okay for DC to sink taxpayer funds into Baseball but not theatre?

Now as to the space, nothing special.. ok.. how would you rate DCAC? or the small Warehouse space? ATLAS has not proven itself yet, ask anyone with Didactic. The fact is that Source is a better space than what many folks are renting for their shows.

When so many companies tell me they just cannot find performance space -- I just cannot buy into some of the arguments here just to let it go..

because

Based on that email Chris Henley posted and some other evidence it doesn't seem as if there would be a big savings in money to start from scratch elsewhere. Plus you would have to sacrifice location. Unless you are one of the big boys you are always going to be working out of converted warehouses. This one is already converted and it's on theatre row.

Christopher Henley

i think it's a very human impulse to care about places important in your past. have you ever seen a place where you used to live and thought to yourself, "oh, dear, they took that beautiful porch and enclosed it! what were they thinking?" of course, a new owner is perfectly within their rights to put on that clumsy addition that ruins that spacious yard. i am within my rights to think it's ugly and shows poor taste and judgment. it was not cvs's fault that the biograph theatre closed. maybe it wasn't exactly villainous to have turned that cool old theatre, full of memories and associations for so many people, into a drug store. i can, however, think of the person who walked into that space, looked at it and decided to do that, and who thought, "and, what fun to incorporate the old ticket booth into the new design!" and be saddened, even sickened, at the loss. maybe i will think that person unenlightened or even philistine. maybe it's not entirely fair or particularly generous to think that. but maybe i'll buy my floss somewhere else.

even though it's been 30 years, i still get a pang of regret whenever i pass the spot where the old apex theatre stood. such a beautiful, beautiful old-time movie theatre; i used to love walking out the intricate exits into the alley in the back; now, on that spot, there's a rather nondescript office building. will anyone mourn it 30 years after it's torn down?

i may be one of the few reading this site old enough to remember the circle theatre. it was one of those places in the 60s and 70s that made washington washington. there wasn't a place quite like it anywhere else: double features running all day; changing every couple or three days; you could find a packet of the "10 for 10 bucks" tickets years later and still get in with them -- the price didn't change. you could see old bogart movies and classics of film noir projected, without commercials and editing; you could see bergman and fellini and truffaut double bills; you could see the great culty american and british films of the 60s and 70s. sure, the owners expanded, started a chain, got into producing, and vcr's cut into the need for a rep cinema; there are lots of reasons that make sense why we lost it, but, sorry, i'm going to feel sad we lost it, and i pass the spot and feel a little bitter toward whatever law firm or lobbying firm is in the ugly nondescript successor building.

i suppose there are two kinds of people in the world, those who watch 'march of the penguins' and who feel upset or sad when the 'guins are eaten by the predators while trying to get food for the baby 'guins, and then there are those who are impatient with the first sort. the former, like me, remember the lower east side, filled with funky independent book and record and clothes stores, and are sad to go back and see so many of them gone and replaced by chains like the gap. the latter do not feel that sentiment and sense of loss; they presumably are moved by, and wipe a tear from the eye as they listen to, starbucks and walmart managers talking on cnbc about branding and economies of scale and efficient distribution. i'm just surprised to see so many of these social darwinists expressing on t-boy so much glee and satisfaction by another example of the loss of something a little more distinct and unusual to be replaced by something generic. i'm just surprised that it's so controversial and debatable to regret that everyplace is beginning to look just like everyplace else, that there are fewer and fewer of the places in our city that define the city in a distinct way for the community, places that are worth the effort to save from being turned into a rite aid or another swanky bar. so, i will pass the bedrock billiards bar, if it happens, and feel a tinge of bitterness, perhaps unfairly, and then be pissed off at them, perhaps childishly, and then get my white russian at saint ex instead, perhaps leaving myself open to b stanley's bitter attack on me because it used to be the javahouse. (is that the right name?)

a small non-profit arts group may have "robust" financials, or even just "bust" financials, and it may still be in the public good to support it. it may be within the rights of the louvre to decide to sell product placement opportunities in old masters -- maybe the mona lisa is drinking starbucks -- but it may still be in the public good to discourage or block it.

novathesp.: i feel like i'm in the parking lot at an n.r.a. rally; can't i be allowed to think, "wow...more kerry-edwards bumper stickers than you would expect to see at an n.r.a. rally!"? i don't mean to imply that a democrat can't be an n.r.a. member, or that you can't be in the theatre without being liberal. i just want to be allowed to be surprised at a consensus sentiment that seems at odds with what i expect. it is related to, but different from, implying that there needs to be monolithic thought among a group.

ronnie: the a.t.w. flyer has an e-address (SaveOurSource@aol.com) i don't know if there is a webpage associated with that or not; perhaps...

Here Here!

HERE HERE!

Well said Christopher Henley.

Christopher Henley

thanks very much, here here.

and, the venue that became saint ex (via an ethiopian restaurant) was called, i now remember, javarama, not javahouse. i did albee there in the 80s with the post-source bart whiteman.

NovaThespian

Chris.

I think you may be so liberal and I so conservative that we have come full circle and agree on a lot of the same things.

I cant go by the Post Office on Glebe Road and not regret that it isn't the old Buckingham Theater or go by Arlington Cinema and Draft and think well at least its still a theater but wouldn't it be nice if the Bob's Big Boy was still across the street. I would rather shop at the Delray Hardware Store then at Home Despot. And will never shop at WALMART because of its unethical business practices. And on a more personal note I will even miss using the urinal at Clark Street and wondering "is this damn thing going to overflow on my shoes?".

I would Love to see the Source Theater remain a theater. I just don't see how it can happen unless both parties decide to cancel the contract and allow a third party to buy it. Billiards may be reluctant to do so because of the time and money they have already invested in acquiring the property. I think the groups who are urging that should be kissing billiards ass to get them to do so and shaming The Source Theater Company for even thinking of selling it to anyone else besides another theater company or to the DC Government.

Hopefully the DC Government in the future will make it so things like this don't happen again.

Christopher Henley

NovaThespian offers good advice (above) to those who want to save the Source space, and to those who use the Clark St gents room -- be attentive, and plan to feel nostalgic in due course.

heihachi

"Wee Jane" writes in her backstage column today:

"Carla Hubner of the "In" Series has submitted a proposal to Source Theatre's board for a consortium of arts organizations to manage, perform in and rent out Source Theatre so the building owned by the debt-ridden company can remain an arts venue. The Cultural Development Corp., which runs the Flashpoint arts incubator at Ninth and G streets NW, also has submitted a proposal. The city, which has received copies of both proposals, has announced it would forgive Source's mortgage if Source were administered as a performing arts venue with an element of community service for low-income audiences."

WOV

I definitely do agree with Novathespian that people should kiss Bedrock's ass a bit about this, and certainly they shouldn't have to lose assets and money and time over the transaction.

I'm hopeful one of those proposals will end up being a way to a win - win - win that puts Bedrock in the neighborhood somewhere without tearing out the theater to do it...

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