PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Nov. 23-29: Of Mice and Men and Violet Coming to Broadway, Stewart and McKellen Open to Raves and The Flea to Expand

By Robert Simonson
29 Nov 2013

The Daily News, in true tabloid form, put it in pithier terms: "Another night with the fictional Apple family, another master class in acting so natural that the six-member ensemble should come with ORGANIC stamps."

All four plays run in rep through mid-December.

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Why should only the big boys of New York theatre get to do the expanding?



The Flea Theater artistic director Jim Simpson — perhaps inspired by the growing dimensions of such companies as Signature Theatre Company, Theatre for a New Audience and St. Ann's Warehouse — announced that the Off-Off-Broadway company will build a three-theatre performing arts complex that will serve as the organization's new home in TriBeCa. A groundbreaking ceremony for the project will take place Dec. 5.

Simpson said in a statement that the reason for the new building is "because we've outgrown our old one. With 16 shows a year our dressing rooms are cramped, storage is non-existent and we turn projects away due to scheduling constraints. The new Flea will give three beautiful, unique and intimate spaces to the off-off-Broadway community and let us do more of what we do best: help emerging artists practice their craft, established artists try new things and mid-career artists establish their identity."

The Flea was founded in 1995 at its current location at 41 White Street. The current space features two theatres, the original 74-seat upstairs flexible space and a downstairs 40-seat playhouse that was added later. The company previously purchased a building at 20 Thomas Street, four blocks south of their current location, with seed money from their board of directors and state and city funding. Now, the company has raised 95 percent of the funds needed to build the performing arts complex.

Maybe now the company will have to name itself after a bigger bug.

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Less than a decade after the playwright's death and only four years after opening its doors, Pittsburgh's August Wilson Center for African American Culture is facing closure, according to the New York Times.

The $42 million culture center opened in 2009 after raising $36 million from government and private sources. It also took on a $11 million loan from Dollar Bank to complete its construction.

In September Dollar Bank sued to foreclose after having not been paid for eight months.

Mark Clayton Southers, a former director of its theatre program, said in an interview with the New York Times that the Wilson Center was unable to find an audience among the people portrayed in Wilson's plays.

"You can't build it and they will come," Southers told the Times. "Not when you're trying to work with a community that is not traditional theatregoers or cultural consumers."