Soho Rep revealed that it had to vacate its theatre because it discovered it was using the space illegally.
The veteran Off-Broadway troupe announced September 28 that it was immediately ceasing operations at its longtime 46 Walker Street home, prompting a cancellation of Gideon Irving’s musical solo show, My Name is Gideon, which was slated to begin performances in the space September 29. Contacted by Playbill.com, the troupe had offered no explanation at the time, but delivered a statement October 3.
The Off-Broadway theatre company has been operating in the 46 Walker Street space in the Tribeca neighborhood of Manhattan for 25 years, but a letter dated October 3, 2016, and signed by artistic director Sarah Benson and executive director Cynthia Flowers, revealed, ”Over the past week, we learned that despite years of safety inspections and paperwork which we believed allowed us to use the space as we have, the original filings from 1991 do not permit us to have more than 70 people in the venue and also have strict scenic restrictions. We also learned more about the risks we'd be taking on as individuals and as an organization if we carried on in the space under existing conditions.”
All For One Theater, the production company behind My Name is Gideon, was informed of the cancellation late at night September 27. The organization, led by producing director Nicholas Cotz, had rented the space September 26-October 31.
“The crew and designers were in the midst of Cue-to-Cue when Cotz made the announcement to the company,” read a September 28 statement from AFO. “Irving and Cotz embraced and cried, and broke the news to the rest of the production staff.“
The October 3 letter from Benson and Flowers said, ”We want to thank so many of you for reaching out to tell us how much the space has meant to you. We also want to share with you directly how we made this difficult decision.
”Soho Rep moved into the theater on Walker Street in 1991 after a few years bouncing around from place to place—including Bellevue Hospital! The people who moved in back then could never have predicted that we'd still be producing in the same venue in 2016, or dreamed of the ambitious productions and designs that now define Soho Rep.
“This year we started to negotiate a two-year extension on our lease and to plan for a new home once that expired, because we knew our landlord hoped to sell the building in a few years. During that planning process, we began to explore the history of the venue and this very particular intersection of New York City real estate and the arts.
“Based on our new understanding, we were left with no choice but to cease performances in the space immediately. But it is still a decision we made, not one motivated by an outside authority.
“We explored options that would have allowed us to close the space temporarily and reopen later. However, the best of these options were out of our league financially, had no guarantee of success, and were completely impractical given the short lease extension we were offered.
“While this is the right decision, it is of course very daunting. We have started planning for a capital campaign, but haven't yet started raising money for a future home. We are also losing rental income, which is a significant portion of our budget (almost twice as much as we plan to earn from ticket sales this year). And most significantly we now need to find new space to produce our work.
“The renters who were planning on producing their shows in the space this season are also facing acute challenges. We want to especially thank our peers who have reached out to offer space for All For One's production of My Name is Gideon that was supposed to start on Thursday. Please continue to reach out if you are able to offer space to All for One or if we can connect you to any of our other renters.
“At the end of the day, Soho Rep is not a building. It's an artistic legacy and it's the people—us and all of you—who now carry that forward.
“This is perhaps the hardest thing we have ever been through as a company. That said, we are eternal optimists.
“The space on Walker Street saw us through so much and contributed to the incredible design of many of our productions. Together, we know we will make it through this disruptive time and find a new home where we can produce ambitious, innovative new work for the next 25 years.”
Both AFO and Soho Rep have released statements stating that they are working together to find a new home for My Name is Gideon.
The 2016-17 Soho Rep season will continue as scheduled, with performances of Daniel Alexander Jones’ Duat taking place, as planned, at The Connelly Theater October 11–November 6. Soho Rep will announce a location for its spring 2017 production, Richard Maxwell’s Samara, soon.