With a sketchy, self-imposed Nov. 10 deadline less than a day away, Todo Con Nada faces eviction by the marshall at its Ludlow Street theatre for unpaid rent. The theatre company has been fundraising aggressively in an attempt to raise more than $20,000 in back rent and utility charges.
Some of the money has been raised, but the company’s answering machine message now indicates that Nada may indeed close its 167 Ludlow St. theatre. The same recorded message implies that operations of some kind might continue on the second floor at Show World, located on Eighth Avenue between 42 and 43 Streets.
A call to Nada’s Aaron Beal was not returned by press time.
Working desperately to save his theatre space at 167 Ludlow Street, Beall [pronounced "Bell"] told Playbill On-Line two weeks ago that, “The judge gave us a little more time. She resigned the eviction order, but that was her way of extending us time because it takes about two weeks for that process to take place.”
Beal was hoping to repeat his year-end performance from 1999, when he was able to raise $16,000 in ten days to keep Todo Con Nada open. "Last year we were able to raise $16,000 at end of year, and I am hoping to do that again this year," Beall told Playbill On-Line in October. "It's important to me that the space at 167 Ludlow remain an arts resource."
While still shy of his financial goals of $22,000, Beall was optimistic he could raise the necessary funds before Nov. 10 when the Marshall is expected to show up.
"They have to serve papers and then I have six business days to respond," Beall explained. "It's funny, because everyone is working with us, hoping that we can raise the money and pull it out." Beall said the theatre's recent fundraiser was successful, but that "time goes by, and there's another month's rent in there." Beall said he was able to submit media clippings about his theatre, including stories such as these, which the court accepted as evidence of public interest in keeping the theatre space open.
"We've raised a significant sum," Beall added, "but not the full amount. I hope to close that gap within the next two weeks." *
As reported earlier, the Off-Off-Broadway Todo Con Nada has touched the careers and two thousand performers and theatre companies over the past 12 years. The theatre that launched a thousand shows, raised $2,000 at its Oct. 16 benefit staging of Frank Capra's "It's a Wonderful Life." Added to $14,000 collected by Nada founder Aaron Beall, that put the beleaguered theatre within realistic fundraising range of the $20,000 in back rent it needed to prevent the closure of its Ludlow Street space.
The theatre had been given a court date of Oct. 26 to decide the matter. The new date was awarded by a judge on Oct. 18 in response to the amount of money Beall produced.
Among those who attended the benefit were playwright Kirk Wood Bromley, whose early plays bowed at Nada under Beall's direction, and Obie-winning actor Matthew Maher. Actress Kate Hampton (Broadway's The Best Man) appeared in the production.
Several Downtown artists have received their start at the low-ceiling basement storefront that is Nada's headquarters. The Target Margin Theatre, which has since become the darling of foundations and The New York Times, had its first defining success at Nada with Titus Andronicus, as did the avant garde Elevator Repair Service, now a staple at P.S. 122. Brian Park's plays Vomit and Roses and Wolverine Dream (later joined under the title Americana Absurdum), which recently took home a prize at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, debuted on Ludlow. Nada was also home to some of the young efforts by verse playwright Kirk Wood Bromley and playwright screenwriter Todd Alcott ("Antz," "One Neck"). Obie-winning actor James Urbaniak often performed there, as did performance artists Deb Margolin and John Leguizamo and Drama Dept. director Randall Curtis Rand.
Beall and a few colleagues began the theatre company that would become Nada in the mid-1980s, with Beall eventually taking over as leader and renaming the troupe Nada, and then Todo con Nada. Beall's operation was primarily a presenting house, with performers and companies filling the space while Nada claimed the lion's share of the box office. This arrangement was useful to struggling artists, since fledgling groups often could not afford to rent a theatre on their own (although complaints surfaced in recent years that the artists were not receiving their share of the intake).
Beall put Nada on the map in 1995 with a three-month Hamlet festival, featuring Shakespeare's play and other Hamlet-themed attractions. The next season saw an ambitious, and ultimately financially unsuccessful, Faust festival. Since then, Beall has always thought in big terms, conceiving a new festival every few months. Over the years, the fluctuating Nada empire of theatres has included the Piano Store, the House of Candles Theatre, both on the Lower East Side; Nada 45 on W. 45 Street; and Nada Show World on Eighth Avenue in Clinton. Rent and fire law troubles have plagued Beall for years.
Along with John Clancy of The Present Company and Jonathan Harris, Beall co-founded the New York International Fringe Festival. However, during 1998, the second year of the fest, Clancy and Beall had an acrimonious falling out over financial and legal matters. The following year—in what many viewed as an act of naked aggression but which Beall said was simply an effort to keep afloat—Nada began the Pure Pop Festival, a multi show event which ran at the same time, and in the same neighborhood, as the Fringe.
For information call Todo con Nada at (212) 586-7829.
-- By Murdoch McBride
and Robert Simonson