Silver Spring theater consortium receives support from community -- Gazette.Net



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Since Round House Theatre announced it would no longer manage the Silver Spring black box stage, a consortium of local theater groups has been hard at work developing a plan for managing the stage once Round House’s lease expires June 30, 2014.

But the consortium — which is so far comprised by Lumina Studio Theatre, ArtStream, Live Garra Theatre and Forum Theatre — is not at it alone.

A number of community members have written to the county and the Montgomery County Council in support of the local theater partnership.

Silver Spring resident Jacqueline Simon wrote June 25 that the consortium will assure the community that “local arts groups will have access to high quality performance space.”

Simon has two children who participated in Lumina for several years, which she said enriched their lives “immensely.” She said Lumina offered art that required rigor, which set high standards for its students with professionalism.

“They can’t be forced back into the basement. They need a professional performance space,” Simon said last week. “They really are a treasure for our community.”

Takoma Park Councilman Seth Grimes said his family has been involved with Lumina for a few years, noting that Executive Director David Minton is one of his constituents in Ward 1.

“It’s clear that there’s a heavy demand for performance space for community arts groups,” Grimes said Tuesday morning. “Giving an exclusive management contract to one group does not seem fair.”

Grimes said the consortium is about sharing the management, noting that he hopes Round House will still be a part of the programming at the black box space, despite relinquishing management of the space.

While consortium members will have to “step up and do a task they haven’t focused on before,” Grimes said the collective does not face any “insurmountable” challenges.

Silver Spring resident Wendy Brown wrote to the council and county executive June 22 that the consortium would be a “step in the right direction” toward sharing limited resources and “providing additional transparency and promotion of what goes on in the space.”

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.

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

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. Round House terminated the agreement for the black box space June 27.

County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) said last month that 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.

krose@gazette.net