Theatre Project, behind in rent, faces eviction


The Theatre Project, which has been presenting experimental works in Baltimore for 20 years, faces eviction from its Preston Street home for falling about $20,000 behind in its rent.

However, both the theater and the landlord said yesterday that they expect to resolve the matter and stave off eviction.

"The Theatre Project is an avant-garde theater. They're not in the business to make money, but we have a mortgage to be paid," said Dan Henson, senior development director for the landlord, Struever Brothers Eccles & Rouse.

"We're trying to work this out," he said. "I have no doubt we'll be able to work this out."

Philip Arnoult, the theater's director, was out of town and unavailable for comment yesterday, but board member J. Joseph Clarke said he also believed that the theater would be able to work out a rent payment schedule and avoid closing down or interrupting performances.

He said the theater received a summons Thursday to attend an eviction hearing this Tuesday.

Mr. Clarke, the board's secretary, said Theatre Project anticipated this problem last summer and tried unsuccessfully to avoid it.

"The Theatre Project has had a very difficult 18 months," he said. "We're doing better box office now than we've done for years. But we had a series of shows that were very poorly received . . . in the fall of '89 and spring of '90. It was just a disastrous year."

The theater has since formed a collaborative arrangement with Towson State University, which has helped the avant-garde venue's drawing ability and finances.

The theater also sought help from the city government in June, because the city had administered a federal loan to Struever Brothers in the early 1980s to renovate the theater's building.

Struever Brothers manages the building for the group that actually owns it, Ethel's Place Limited Partnership, Mr. Henson said. The theater is in the same building as the International Pavilion dance club, formerly known as Blues Alley and, before that, as Ethel's Place.

"We would be willing to consider some possible reworking of the loan if it could be shown that the Theatre Project had the wherewithal to get back on track," said David Elam, development director with the city's Department of Housing and Community Development.

The city asked the theater to submit financial information for review but has made no decision, he said.

"But in terms of any eviction, we don't have anything to do with it," Mr. Elam said. "That is an issue between Struever Brothers and Theatre Project."

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