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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Theatre Building Chicago, Minus the Building

Posted By on 03.17.10 at 08:46 PM

Late on Wednesday, two days after Chris Jones reported on his Tribune theater blog that their building had been sold, staff members at Theatre Building Chicago were still apparently in the dark about the future of TBC's home and their jobs. Executive director Sean Cercone, who's been at TBC only since January 1, said word that the building at 1225 W. Belmont had been sold was only "a rumor at this time." Apparently they hadn't heard from TBC board member Craig S. Wilson, who confirmed the sale on Jones's blog this afternoon.

Jones's March 15 report, which implied that Lukaba Productions, which has produced the Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival at TBC for years, was the likely purchaser, was followed this afternoon by a report that while Lukaba would take over management of the building, the purchaser was an unidentified "separate investment group."

That means things could play out like this: an investor picks the building up at a bargain price in the current depressed real estate market and allows it to function as a theater venue only until the economy is more conducive to development. Sources who know the Lukaba folks say they could be good managers for as long as the building's three theaters were maintained as itinerant-company venues, but the long-term future of the space would obviously be in the hands of the owner.

For TBC, losing the building means losing the part of its mission that made it a valued incubator for small and new theater companies. Wilson told Jones that the sale will allow TBC to "concentrate on our development program for new musicals." That makes it sound like the cash from the sale of TBC's primary asset—its home for the past 33 years—could be pissed away on a few productions.

For background, see my column on the run-up to this situation, including the firing of longtime executive director Joan Mazzonelli by a largely new board.

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