Todo Con Nada, the Off-Off-Broadway space 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 [pronounced "bell"] last week, that put the beleaguered theatre within range of the $20,000 in back rent it needed to prevent the closure of its Ludlow Street space.
What Nada's feverish efforts to stay alive add up to won't be known until next week. The theatre has 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. Beall said that he has pledges totalling $22,000 and will collect it all by Oct. 26. .
Whether the theatre's landlord wants Nada to succeed is another question. Since the days when Nada was founded, the Lower East Side has become a hot neighborhood, with many old time businesses giving way to chi-chi new bars and restaurants. A ground floor space like Beall's is most likely a highly marketable property.
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 playright 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 collegues 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-themes attractions. The next season saw an ambitious, and ultimately financially unsuccessful, Faust featival. 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. 45th 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.
Todo Con Nada is located at 167 Ludlow St. For information call (212) 420-1466.
--By Robert Simonson
and Murdoch McBride