OCTOBER 10. 2016
When last we left our moving announcement (below), we were not sure where we would be, though we were in the process of searching for a future home, and were in discussion with some possible local facilities. After riding the train to Crazytown over the past 7 months, our final destination is nowhere NEAR what we expected, but at least we're off the train! Here's a recap, plus all the other stuff that we've been dealing with:
In March of this year, we announced we would be moving to a new location by August of 2016. We were not sure specifically where we would move our office and rehearsals, or where our performances would be, but it was important to get the message out there, and we had plans in place. We have grown artistically too large for the limitations of the space at the Main Street Metra Station, and the time and money needed to maintain the building as a train station and operational theatre/rental facility are too great for an organization of our size - it's ALWAYS been too great a risk with no return on the investment. We knew then as we know now that this decision was necessary for survival financially, but also artistically we owe it to our patrons and community to refocus our energy into our programming (no one comes to the shows or Custer Fair because we shovel the driveway or spend 40K-50K annually on the building, right?)
This announcement came after several months of seeking help and guidance from the City of Evanston, who has a history of getting involved with arts organizations as part of its commitment to keep arts alive in Evanston. We thought the City was going to take over the lease....but the outcome was different than we expected, so we immediately began looking at additional options as lessees to Union Pacific Railroad who owns the property (yeah, they own it, Metra runs trains on it, and we take care of everything else from toilet paper to insurance.) In April, representatives from the City of Evanston offered Piccolo use of the bottom floor for 6 months to a year while they facilitated a renter for the top floor; and until that happened the Metra waiting room, street cleaning and snow removal would be someone else's commitment other than Piccolo's. Knowing we had a year to move out, we secured our performance spaces, marketed our season, and found a future home in St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Evanston - just 2 blocks away from the Metra Station! Though a slightly further walk, they welcomed us with smiles and positivity and would be our landlord and home by August of 2017.
Meanwhile, the bid for the upstairs continued and a potential renter was found. As far as we knew, the permitting and licensing process was going to take a long time, and would still allow us to continue our work as agreed upon. So we removed 99.9% of our stuff from the top floor by August 1, 2016 as promised. Just days after this, the 'Piccolo in the bottom floor" plan changed yet again, and it was decided then that the new tenant would be instated in the bottom floor due to the nature of his business. ....totally different than what we had been told and planned on since April. We then discovered we would need to plan on being out of the building before June of 2017. But then plans changed again and our lease was terminated on September 15, allowing us the 90 days to vacate (by December 15) even though a new lease for a new tenant had not yet been delivered or signed. You can imagine we were completely gutted - this completely threw us for a big ol' loop, affects everything in this current season, and is gonna need all the efforts and time we have at our disposal to keep on truckin' in addition to the herculean labor of getting everything out in a shorter amount of time. None of this stuff has anything to do with making people laugh, and we believe laughter is part of what makes a happy community a healthy community. But business and development do need to march on, so while we're happy to be the underdog in this situation, we're not willing to just roll over and play dead.
Through it all, we owe our gratitude and thanks to Union Pacific for dealing honestly with us and putting something in writing and signing it; and to the businesses in our neighborhood with whom we've developed relationships and promote willingly on our website and in our e-blasts; and to the patrons and subscribers and donors and kind individuals who like and respect the work we do year after year, and do not want to see Piccolo's productions or Custer Fair's financial imprint and arts promotion go away (which this whol situation has threatened to do.) The season is continuing as planned, as is Custer Fair 2017, and we will keep you involved in our progress and any changes to dates/locations. Are we angry? Nah - just confused and disappointed, and focusing all our energy into keeping Piccolo Theatre, Inc. going because it is our only priority.
MARCH 18, 2016
Big news, yeah? As of August 1, 2016, we will no longer hold the lease for the Main Street Metra Station. We have been working with the City of Evanston to determine the best use for the building following our vacancy, and are currently looking for office and rehearsal space to continue operations.
You're probably like, "Whoa!" 'Cause we're like, "Right?!" And you're like, "But why?!" And we're like, "Totally gonna tell you!" So Union Pacific Railroad owns the building and leases the tracks to Metra. Back in the late 90s, Union Pacific, the City of Evanston, and Piccolo Theatre at the time agreed on the joint venture of refurbishing the unused Main Street Metra Station into an arts center. Piccolo then became the main lessee for the space.
Piccolo first began discussing moving back in 2012. At that time, it was clear the company had grown so much that our performance space inside the Main Street Metra Station presented more limitations than opportunities to expand our repertoire. The location, size, and function of the Main Street Metra Station has served us well since 2004, but it is now time to continue our work without the non-mission-related burdens and obstacles associated with running this particular building. We have your overall experience to consider as well, including ease of access from parking space to performance. We're looking forward to the possibilities ahead of us, and are realistic about the work it requires to achieve our goals.
Piccolo is still dedicated to comedy in Evanston. The founding members emphasized an exploration of physical comedy, especially as it was based in the traditions of commedia dell'arte. Even a "comedy of words" is enhanced by a production willing to explore movement as an essential element. I hope to continue to build from this sturdy foundation as we expand our repertoire to include more contemporary comedies alongside traditional ones. My goal is to keep an audience coming back to Piccolo Theatre to have a unique experience each time, whether they are rolling in the aisles with a farce or laughing through their tears at a comedy with darker themes. We're excited to explore what made people laugh 2,000 years ago as well as what will make us laugh 10 years from now.
We will know by mid-April where our home base will be for next season, but for now our address, email, and phones remain the same. We have been afforded a rolling move-out date due to the knowledge transfer about the building and its operations; so for the moment the City welcomes our presence in the building until a decision about its future is reached. As for performance spaces, we will announce our production locations along with our season announcement in May preceding performances of Parallel Lives, and will keep you updated on any and all further changes. AND, we will lower our single ticket pricing and subscriptions next season - we value your dedication to Piccolo, and we invite you to keep coming back for more!
We hope to see you all at The Misanthrope and Parallel Lives!
In love and laughter,
Amanda Kulczewski, Producing Director / Director of Custer Fair
Michael D. Graham, Artistic Director
Joshua D. Allard, Managing Director