Soho Rep. has announced that it will return to its previous long-time home at 46 Walker Street in New York. The experimental theatre company had been operating out of the Tribecca space for 25 years when, last November, it was forced to abruptly leave after inadvertently defying the building’s regulations. The company learned that the space did not permit more than 70 people in the venue, and also had previously unknown, strict scenic restrictions, prompting them to vacate immediately.
With help from the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment and the cooperation of the Department of Buildings, Soho Rep. is now pursuing renovations at 46 Walker Street that will allow the company to legally present its 2018 season there. The organization is finalizing a lease extension through 2022, and a search for a more permanent home is currently underway.
“When we closed our space in the fall, the prospect of ever returning seemed impossible,” commented Soho Rep artistic director Sarah Benson in a press statement. “Given the anticipated legal, administrative and construction costs for a company of our small size, the task felt Sisyphean. In that moment of despair, Media and Entertainment Commissioner Julie Menin called me expressing her sympathies and her desire for Lower Manhattan to not lose another cultural venue. With the advocacy and guidance of the Commissioner and with the additional help of the Department of Buildings, our return to Walker Street became a real possibility. Since that momentous phone call, we’ve fundraised and assembled a team to design and implement necessary renovations.”
Renovations will be made possible through the success of a $500,000 fundraising campaign, of which $305,000 has already been raised through the company’s Board of Directors and individual and institutional funders. The campaign also supports the costs of producing the company’s work off-site this season—Soho Rep.’s production of Richard Maxwell’s Samara is currently playing at the new A.R.T/New York Theatres through May 7—as well as the loss of sub-rental income, which was a key component of Soho Rep.’s annual budget.
“When I heard that Soho Rep. was closing its Walker Street theater, I refused to believe that there was nothing that could be done," said Media and Entertainment commissioner Julie Menin. “I strongly believe that artistic institutions like Soho Rep. are the lifeblood of New York City and that government can and does play a role in enabling them to survive and flourish. I called the Department of Buildings and arranged for Commissioner Rick Chandler to tour the Walker Street site with me to see what could be done. He issued a list of what they would have to do to be in compliance. I am so pleased to have played a role in a great theater company’s new lease on life.”
“Soho Rep.’s staff and board are grateful for all of the support we’ve received from the community thus far,” added Benson. “We are eager to return to our home on Walker Street and continue producing the new work of extraordinary, adventurous playwrights, directors and designers in a space that’s been such an important part of our work over the past 25 years.”
Tickets to Samara can be purchased by visiting sohorep.org or calling (212) 352-3101.