Theater consortium takes cue from Round House exit in Silver Spring -- Gazette.Net







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Now that Round House Theatre has officially relinquished management of its Silver Spring black box stage, a consortium of local theater groups is hoping to claim the space as its own.

Round House announced Thursday that it no longer will manage the space once its lease is up with the county in June 2014. A consortium of local theater companies — including Lumina Studio Theatre, ArtStream, Live Garra Theatre and possibly Forum Theatre — are looking to manage the space collectively.

Lumina Studio Theatre has been calling the black box space home since 2005, according to Artistic Director David Minton, who said the company has done at least 50 performances in the space.

“That’s where we plan to keep growing within our Silver Spring community,” Minton said.

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 130-seat 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.

Round House said in a statement that it plans to continue managing the other three spaces.

Montgomery County Councilman George Leventhal (D-At large) of Takoma Park said Round House’s decision to let go of the space was a “sound business decision,” noting that multiple groups striving to manage the space is a sign that Silver Spring is a thriving arts and entertainment district.

“The future is bright for this space,” Leventhal said. “There are a lot of entities vying for this space ... and I’m really optimistic.”

Minton said that although he understands why the model for those county-owned spaces was established at the time, he and the other consortium companies see the future of the space differently.

“Consortium model lets many people in to actually have some decision making and how that space is run and how it’s scheduled,” Minton said. “I think it’s going to be very creative and very good for the community.”

Patricia Woolsey, executive director for ArtStream, said the consortium would allow for diverse programming and collaborative theater.

“I want to make sure there is room in the theater community for other types of theater as well,” she said, noting that sold-out performances indicate that the community wants what her company offers.

ArtStream was formed in 2005 as a company that features adult actors, with and without disabilities. She said there are very few theater spaces that meet the needs of the organization’s two Silver Spring troupes. ArtStream also has a company based in Gaithersburg.

Live Garra and Forum Theatre did not respond to a request for comment by deadline Monday afternoon.

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. The county’s Arts and Humanities Council will work with all parties on options that are “responsive to community needs and financially sustainable.”

“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,” Leggett’s statement read.

He expects to receive recommendations in December 2013, according to the statement. Woolsey said the next step for the consortium is to finalize the companies within the group and the business proposal to be submitted to the county.

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.