In the same week that the Shakespeare Theatre Company received the 2012 Best Regional Theatre Tony Award, the company revealed that it was facing termination of its lease on the 451 seat Lansburgh Theatre as of Friday, June 15, 2012 and has filed a lawsuit against its landlords, the nonprofit Lansburgh Theatre, Inc. (LTI) in order to prevent eviction from the theatre it has occupied for the past 20 years.
According to the Washington Post, LTI, a non-profit created to serve as the theatre’s landlord, seeks to raise the yearly rent, which now stands at $70,000, to $480,000. Maura Judkis wrote: “Court documents state that the building that houses the Lansburgh, which also contains apartments and retail businesses, is owned by Gunwyn/Lansburgh Development Corp. Gunwyn donated the theater space to the Lansburgh nonprofit organization for the theater, which moved into the space in 1992.”
“Taking this dispute to court is a last resort,” STC Managing Director Chris Jennings stated, “but after a year of good faith negotiations, we reluctantly concluded that we require an injunction to ensure that STC continues to occupy the Theatre and that performances by STC and other arts organizations that have been promised use of the theatre will continue as scheduled. We are confident that the Court will issue an injunction to block the eviction of STC from the Lansburgh.
“The requirements in LTI’s Articles state that LTI may not change its “designated supported organization” — STC — and it must be responsive to STC, also giving the Company a significant voice in any major decisions. In addition, LTI lacks the power to terminate either STC’s status as the supported organization or its right to occupy the Theatre as long as STC performs its charitable purpose, which undoubtedly continues today. By law, no person including LTI, may have a private economic interest in the theatre property. Under the current lease agreement, 100% of the rent STC pays goes into a capital reserve fund that is held in trust exclusively to maintain the upkeep of the Lansburgh Theatre.
“LTI is clearly mismanaging its charter which dictates it must only be in existence to house the Shakespeare Theatre Company in the Lansburgh building,” Jennings said. “LTI has demanded a 700% increase in the base rent. Thus far we have been unable to find a more appropriate solution to what we felt was an unreasonable and groundless request, LTI would not budge and demanded that STC vacate the Theatre. Because LTI refuses to withdraw its threats, STC has been forced to seek a court injunction to force LTI to comply with its obligations and thus stop it from trying, illegally, to evict STC.”
Jennings went on to say:“We are confident we will win this case. This will not affect any of our current performances and the best thing patrons can do to help is to keep supporting STC in the same ways they have for the past 25 years. If you are a theatre-goer, keep subscribing and attending performances and if you are a donor (or want to become one), we are grateful for your continued contributions. As they say, the show will go on!”