This story was updated at 5:15 p.m. on June 27, 2013.
Round House Theatre announced Thursday that it will no longer manage the Silver Spring black box stage, effective June 30, 2014.
The space, which Montgomery County owns, has been managed by Round House for nine years. The county entered a 10-year agreement with Round House in 2004 for four rent-free facilities — the black box space; the 400-seat main stage in Bethesda; the education center on Wayne Avenue, which includes five classrooms and a dance studio; and the office and rehearsal space in the Silver Spring Civic Center.
A black box is typically a small theater with black walls. The Silver Spring theater is 50 feet by 60 feet with seats for an audience of 130.
Round House said in a statement that it plans to continue managing the other three spaces.
“A decade ago, the County asked us to help revitalize downtown Silver Spring by assuming management of the black box. We have been excellent stewards of the space in that time, keeping it steadily occupied by producing and presenting award-winning theater despite managing it during one of the worst economic recessions in history,” the statement read.
Members of the community have written to the Montgomery County Council and Leggett about a consortium moving into the black box space. Among the organizations that would be part of the consortium are Lumina Studio Theatre, ArtStream, Live Garra Theatre and Forum Theatre.
County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) said he has asked his staff to review current and proposed uses for the Black Box space, including the concept of a consortium to manage the facility, according to a statement. He said the consortium concept will require a business plan and the county’s Arts and Humanities Council will be working with all parties to work out options that are “responsive to community needs and financially sustainable.”
He expects to receive recommendations in December 2013, according to the statement. “The Round House theater was invited to participate in these discussions but has declined saying it must allocate it’s time to its core mission of operating theater and related programs. ... The County looks forward to the creation of a consortium of performing arts groups using that space,” the statement read.
Ryan Rilette, Round House’s producing arts director, said this week that Round House was not interested in the consortium and the heart of the problem is the lack of affordable theater space in the county.
When Montgomery County finalized its lease with Round House Theatre in June 2004, the lease was structured so there would be an automatic renewal at the end of 10 years — June 30, 2014 — unless either party terminated the agreement. The lease states that should either party want to terminate or renegotiate the lease, it would have to be done within a year of the lease’s expiration.
“We have spent the last six months making the case for why the public is best served by continued Round House management of the space. This has already taken vital time away from mission-related work,” the theater’s statement reads.
“We cannot afford to spend another year defending our management of the black box, and we can’t see any outcome to these negotiations that would result in Round House retaining the space in a manner that would allow us to build the programming that we want to do in the future. Therefore, after a thorough review of the options, we have given the county our one-year notice to terminate our management of the black box effective June 30, 2014.”
The statement also said Round House will continue using the black box space for the final year of the contract. All educational programs and productions for the next year will go on as planned, it said.