NYC's Michael Weller Theatre Will Shutter; The Framer Is Final Show There

News   NYC's Michael Weller Theatre Will Shutter; The Framer Is Final Show There Off-Off-Broadway's tiny Michael Weller Theatre will close its doors June 30 owing to the building management's wish to offer the space for lease to potential office tenants.

The 50-seat theatre, its office and rehearsal space, will be vacated by Broken Watch Theatre Company, which, since 2005, has operated the venue on the sixth floor at 311 West 43rd Street in the Manhattan theatre district.

Broken Watch took over the rehearsal space and offices of the Shurin Theatre in 2005. Soon after, the theatre was re-christened the Michael Weller Theatre, "in honor of the playwright's contributions to the world of dramatic literature, the theatre community as a whole and for his continued support of Broken Watch."

In addition to hosting Broken Watch productions, the space has been used by many troupes on a rental basis in recent years. These companies, along with Broken Watch, will have to look elsewhere.

Drew DeCorleto, artistic director of Broken Watch, said in a statement, "It is tragic that more and more Off-Off-Broadway theatres are being squeezed out of the midtown area to make way for more office space. It breaks my heart to know that theatre companies looking for a small intimate theatre in the heart of the theatre district won't have the Weller to turn to anymore. Unlike many theatres of its size, the Weller is a true theatre: real theatre seats with real theatre equipment and real theatre people running it.

"We will sorely miss it. For years, this very versatile venue has provided the perfect space in the perfect location for companies looking to do readings, classes, auditions, benefits, film shoots, showcases and full productions. There are certainly no other spaces in midtown at our price point like the Weller. Period. If there is affordable space out there in midtown, we would like to resurrect the Weller and provide another accessible home worthy of being called a theatre that so many theatre companies crave." The last show to play in the Michael Weller Theatre will be Broken Watch Theatre Company's The Framer by Edward Allan Baker, directed by Kevin Confoy. Performances begin May 31 toward a June 5 opening. The run ends June 22.

The play is "a tragic-comedy set in a picture frame-shop in a New England mill town from which a dying man ceaselessly toils in order to leave his once-abused wife some security." He hopes to make amends for the emotional brutality of his past, "but he's side-tracked due to a request from his high-strung brother in-law." The play asks the question, "If you had two weeks to live, who would you kill?"

The cast includes Craig Bockhorn (Broadway's On Golden Pond, Prelude to a Kiss), Suzanne DiDonna ("The Sopranos"), David Fraioli (Trojan Women), Lori Garrabrant (Never Tell), Matt Walton (Off-Broadway's Hair, Beirut, The Sweepers) and Dared Wright. The creative team includes Daniel Kluger (sound design), Rebecca Bernstein (costume design) and Jito Lee (set design).

Tickets are $20. For information call (212) 352-3101 or visit www.brokenwatch.org.

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Beginning in 2001 as a producer of Off-Broadway revivals, Broken Watch found quick success with Howard Korder's Boys' Life and soon followed with Michael Weller's Split, produced at Theatre Row. A decision was made to focus on new work, and Broken Watch commissioned its first new play from Edward Allan Baker.

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