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EXCELSIOR, YOU FATHEAD! - There must be a motivational poster which inspires execs to follow their most boneheaded visions

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July 11th, 2014


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03:01 pm - There must be a motivational poster which inspires execs to follow their most boneheaded visions
Just in case there is now a law which stipulates I always have to write about the wee beasties in this LJ, I will mention that Sonya and I left them alone for one night (one night!) and, upon returning home, discovered that they have transformed from kittens into miniature cats. Hestia's ears are growing into the large Siamese shape like her mother had; Autolycus is taking after his father with short equilateral triangles for ears. They will be four months old tomorrow. And now you know something completely innocuous about the kittens and that's all I should mention in this post, because it really is about a big big big loss for independent Boston theatre.

This is what I wrote back in January about the Factory Theatre, in which the Porpentine Players presented A Man for All Seasons during the cold month:
I maybe ought to take this opportunity to mention that the Factory Theatre is, indeed, located in a former piano factory in downtown Boston. The house appears to be in a former loading dock; it's a two-story bare brick room with enough length and width for a piano-totin' truck and all the mechanical hoisting thingamajiggers required to haul pianos into said truck. It is cold, it is drafty, there is only one bathroom and it's horrible; it is theatre in the rough and it is glorious, even if a bit masochistic.

The bathroom deserves special mention since it smells like a truck stop with kidney problems and the door locks every time and the key is usually lost so for god's sake prop the door open when you leave or we'll all be peeing out in the parking lot. The bathroom is also home to a very friendly cockroach who I presume acquired several nicknames, some of them pejorative and one of them pronounceable only by a shoe, from the cast and crew. (I called it Frankie.) And along with cockroaches, I learned this weekend that the place has spiders.
Yesterday word went quickly around Boston theatre people that the Factory had lost its lease and would be gone, gone, gone by the end of October. The rest of the renovated Factory was once artist loft space, but now it's mostly really expensive condo space which they call "high-end lofts" and let me tell you that's one of the greatest real estate euphemisms ever. Right next to "cozy with lots of character".

The Factory building management have decided that they would rather take out one of the last good venues for Boston fringe theatre, an actual source of revenue, and instead (so the rumor mill goes) put in a gym, something which the South End desperately needs because that's the only direction in which you can swing a dead cat without hitting one. But the rumor mill churns out the possibility that the gym won't even be open to the public; it'll be for the residents only. There goes another source of revenue for these genius Captains of Industry. GENTLEMEN, WE ARE MAKING ENTIRELY TOO MUCH MONEY OFF THIS VENTURE. IF WE WANT A GOLDEN BAILOUT WE'RE GOING TO HAVE TO DEVALUATE THE PROPERTY AND FAST. MIGHT AS WELL GET BIALYSTOCK AND BLOOM TO BLOW THE PLACE UP. The Factory's parking lot will be gated--not that theatergoing proles could park there anyway--but this will bar even pedestrian access, and apparently the theater itself is just too pedestrian to live.

Far from expressing relief that one would never again have to deal with the one-and-a-half-person-wide backstage area, the drafts, the cockroach bathroom, the light booth with practically no view of stage left ("I'll just count to ten after your line, bring up your special and have faith you're underneath it by then") and spiders who'll upstage you every chance they get, everybody what does theater around Boston is angry. The Factory Theatre may be a cramped, cold hole but it's our cramped, cold hole, goddammit. And what with it seating fifty people who are no more than fifteen feet from the players at any time, it presented a terrific opportunity for really intimate productions. AMFAS worked great there. You weren't sitting comfortably in an auditorium watching Sir Thomas More underneath a proscenium, no, you're practically sitting in his house. Or in his garden. Or on the banks of the Thames, or in the Tower of London, or or or, you get the idea.

The Factory is/was home to at least four or five resident companies; the Porpentines got their foot in the door (which isn't so hard to do when you have to keep it propped open with a rock). Nobody is going to take this without a fight, or at least a new venue search--but new venue searches happen all the time and turn incredibly depresso after a while. This is all I know for now, but I know that we collectively get mighty upset when a place we in which we play is taken from us. We'll see what happens. If it turns into a gym, I sure hope every single person paying to live there uses it and uses it often. I don't want the gym to fail if it comes to that; I just hope that the area is well and duly used regardless of what it ends up being. There's simply nothing worse than corporately-wasted space, and I can say this with great certainty and conviction because I was in Burlington this morning.

Long live the Factory Theatre; long live fringe with a capital or lower-case F[f].

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Comments:


[User Picture]
From:desireearmfeldt
Date:July 11th, 2014 07:28 pm (UTC)
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Wow, that's sad news. :(

Is it actually a source of revenue for the owners, though? What I mean is, I have the impression that running a rentable theatre space is a difficult thing to turn a profit at, and this is part of why they often fold. Sounds like there's more going on in this particular case than a simple "can we afford to keep the lights on?" calculation, of course...
[User Picture]
From:derspatchel
Date:July 12th, 2014 02:29 am (UTC)
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I admit I'm being optimistic and possibly presumptuous when I refer to it as a revenue source. The theater space may very well not be turning a profit. Perhaps they feel better justifying the expense of renovating the space by turning it into a facility for resident use. (At least, I sure hope they renovate that space before turning it into a gym.)
[User Picture]
From:grumqa
Date:July 11th, 2014 09:19 pm (UTC)
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There is in fact such a law.
[User Picture]
From:sovay
Date:July 11th, 2014 09:30 pm (UTC)
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Long live the Factory Theatre; long live fringe with a capital or lower-case F[f].

I think there is enough justified anger in this situation to warrant the capital.

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