The long-troubled Circle in the Square theatre has returned from the dead. Theatre founder Theodore Mann and former producing director Paul Libin have announced they are looking for commercial tenants, as first reported by Variety.
"People have come to us," Libin told Playbill On-Line (Aug. 12). "We're going to make a decision very soon as to who will go in this coming season." Libin said producers of both musicals and straight plays had inquired. While he did not identify specific parties, he did confirm Variety's report that Off-Broadway's Manhattan Theatre Club has taken a look at the space. "They're interested in it, sure," he said, added that the company was evaluating the theatre as a possible permanent home. MTC is currently situated in the City Center on West 55th St.
There were some signs of interest in the theatre earlier this summer when Houston's Alley Theatre inspected the space as a possible New York home for its production of Tennessee Williams' Not About Nightingales. Libin said he had not heard from the Alley since their initial visit.
It was rumored months ago that a commercial production of the Bat Theatre Company's Off-Off-Broadway hit Bedfellows would come to the space, but that project fell through, apparently for reasons not connected to the venue.
Circle's new lease of life follows two years of short-lived artistic administrations, bankruptcy, and a Byzantine fight over the space's lease. Last May, Tina L. Brozman, chief judge of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan, dismissed a case brought against Mann and Libin by a group of the theatre's creditors and left the two men in possession of the only tangible assets left from the legendary nonprofit theatre: the 1633 Broadway space itself and the company's name. The creditors committee had solicited proposals last fall from potential purchasers of the theatre, in hopes of recouping some of the $4 million in debt left when Circle closed in 1997. Standing in their way, however, were Mann and Libin, who still held the lease through their company, Thespian Theater Inc.
Much of the dispute surrounding the lease centered around a complicated 1993 transaction, in which Thespian granted a license to the Circle in the Square school for use of the premises. That same day the school granted a sub-lease to the theatre company.
-- By Robert Simonson