WSC Avant Bard is now looking for a new home. Managing Director Kyle Jean Fisher and Artistic Director Christopher Henley explain why:
“After two years as the resident theatre company at Arlington County’s Artisphere, WSC Avant Bard finds itself unexpectedly homeless.
At a meeting last week between WSC Avant Bard and the Artisphere, representatives of the theatre company were told that, effective immediately, the Rosslyn arts center has changed its policies and that they will no longer be providing residencies to companies like WSC Avant Bard. WSC Avant Bard moved to Artisphere from its long-time home at Clark Street Playhouse in Crystal City when the arts center opened in October 2010.
The new policy comes as WSC Avant Bard – the 23-year-old theatre company formerly known as Washington Shakespeare Company – is in the midst of lining up creative talent and additional funding for the spring repertory productions of its 2012-13 season.
Artisphere’s new policy means that the company must not just find a new site for its spring productions, but immediately identify new office and storage space as well.
“This is a shock to us, and it poses a threat to this season’s programming,” said Managing Director Kyle Jean Fisher, “Artisphere had always appreciated the value that theater brought to the Arlington community. We thought we had a long-term home.”
Arlington Cultural Affairs is working with WSC Avant Bard to identify a space for the company’s spring repertory productions of ‘Caesar and Dada,’ a highly anticipated new work by Washington playwright Allyson Currin (which WSC remains committed to producing in the Spring), and John Webster’s classic revenge tragedy, ‘The White Devil.’ WSC Avant Bard just completed a run in the Artisphere of its acclaimed, Helen Hayes-recommended production of Luigi Pirandello’s ‘Six Characters in Search of an Author.’
“I feel confident we can find a venue for our two spring shows with Arlington County’s help.” said Artistic Director Christopher Henley. “Then we need to get focused and creative to find a home for our 24th season and beyond. We’re fortunate to have a great acting company and strong support, so we’re optimistic about the next act. Arlington County has generously supported WSC over the past 23 years, and we’ve enjoyed a very close relationship that we expect to continue. Nevertheless, it’s disappointing that the wonderful potential of a WSC-Artisphere partnership will now never be realized.”
Artisphere’s Response From Annalisa Meyer, Communications and Marketing Director:
“Artisphere has started the process to transition from the current “resident company” model to an “in residence” model. The revamping of this program is part of our ongoing process to ensure the future operation of Artisphere. Additionally, the new “in residence” model allows us to present a wider range of art groups, book shorter run shows, and allow for more flexible use of our spaces. The only group immediately affected by this change is WSC-Avant Bard who in the past has had 32 weeks of Artisphere’s performance calendar.
We have been able to secure another venue through Arlington Cultural Affairs for their Spring program and hope to continue to work with them for shorter run presentations. We have also informed our other companies now “in residence” whose programs remain on our calendar as their performance schedule meets the In Residence model. As I noted, this transition is a part of our extensive business plan review and revision in which all existing relationships and the use of its spaces were evaluated, from retail and restaurant to programming, and how each contributes to and affects the ongoing, future operations of Artisphere. This change is in line with Artisphere’s continued efforts to adjust its model to meet operating costs. This provides Artisphere the ability to connect its audiences to a wider range of arts groups, book shorter runs and allows for flexible use of its spaces. Artisphere remains committed to working with WSC Avant Bard, Fashion Fights Poverty, the National Chamber Ensemble and UrbanArias and looks forward to welcoming other arts groups into the programming mix moving forward.”
Christopher Henley responded to Artisphere’s statement: “There is an inaccuracy in the Artisphere statement. Cultural Affairs was able to secure a shorter run at a different time, which can accommodate only part of our Spring program.”