Having been evicted from 167 Ludlow St. on Nov. 14, Todo Con Nada’s Aaron Beall is continuing to hope that it might be able to return to business at that address. Beall’s uphill battle includes fundraising and negotiating with landlords from Ludlow Properties, which owns the traditional downtown theatre space. For now, the theatre owner cannot even get his calls returned.
Beall also says that attempts to negotiate through Ludlow Properties’ independent realtor resulted in that realtor being replaced by Ludlow.
Nada’s strategy involves offering Ludlow Properties an arrears payment to cover back rent and utilities, together with a variety of security and advance payments to cover future rent. Nada says it is not offering to pay any increased rent for the space it had occupied for 13 years.
A Nada statement said that the theatre hopes to complete its original two-year lease and that it would eventually be raising 24-month's worth of advance rent. Meanwhile, Nada is no longer at Ludlow, having been evicted by marshals on Nov. 14.
“They’re out of there,” a Nada spokesperson told Playbill On-Line. “They have money in escrow for the back rent and they’re trying to negotiate with Ludlow Properties to accept a whole year’s rent in advance.” Reports on the size of Todo Con Nada’s war chest vary from “$25,000 in escrow” to “36,000.” Aaron Beall tells Playbill On-Line that he has several uncashed checks from donors as well as a single-donor commitment to pay one year’s worth of rent for the theatre at Ludlow. Based on a $2,800 monthly rate, that would total $33,600. Altogether, Beall says he can lay his hands on $36,000.
In court on Nov. 13, Beall came before the judge without a check for any rent but fought for an extension and even tried unsuccessfully to get an appeal opened on his case.
Since the Nov. 14 eviction, Beall said that he has not been able to get his calls returned from Ludlow Properties, which doesn’t bode well for the theatre’s return. The theatre founder also said that he believes calls from the Village Voice and the Villager have not been returned by the company either. “We had two deals on the table,” Beall said, “but they haven’t returned any phone calls.”
“These little theatres have to do fundraising, absolutely,” a Nada spokesperson said, “because they’re so strapped for cash and they never have the money to do advertising or the mailings that they need.
The Nada experience has taught Beall a few lessons on gentrification, he says. “Times change and neighborhoods transform,” Beall says. “Unless you make that transition it’s difficult. This happened to theatres in Soho in the ‘70s—rents went from $3,500 and $4,000 a month to $15,000. And then galleries moved in. Once a theatre’s rent goes past $2,000 it needs to start fundraising full time in order to stay in existence.”
Beall believes that his theatre on Ludlow, which paid $2,800 in rent, will be replaced by two boutiques, each paying an estimated $2,500 in rent.
On Jan. 1, 2001, Toda Con Nada will be renamed Todo and the theatre will continue doing business uptown at Show World as well as at other new locations that Beall plans to announce in December.
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. 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