Village Theatre ousted from Old Fourth Ward space, seeking new home

Higher rents forced them out, the theater said.

Village Theatre, which specializes in improv, is being forced out of its current Old Fourth Ward space after 11 years due to rising rent costs.

A new landlord, Graycliff Capital, came in last year and gave the nonprofit group a renewal lease offer that was too rich for their financial model, said marketing director Jackson Vance. (An email to Graycliff Capital had not been returned as of this publication.)

The rent offer was $14,000 a month and based on the organization’s finances, Vance said Village Theatre could only afford $10,000 to $12,000. “With our reduced cast size post-COVID, we knew that wasn’t going to be viable,” he said.

So Village Theatre is now having to improvise its own existence, Vance said. The organization plans to do pop-up shows around town at breweries and other stages until it finds a new location, probably in a neighborhood that hasn’t seen a theater like this before.

“Improv theater,” Vance said, half seriously, “is a terrifying symbol of gentrification.”

Credit: DUSTIN CHAMBERS

Credit: DUSTIN CHAMBERS

The improv group, originally consisting of Whole World Theatre alum, started in 2008 and moved into its current space at 349 Decatur St. in 2012. The 2,000-square-foot space has two stages, the main one holding up to 100 to 120 attendees and the “black box” theater fitting 40 to 50.

“We really love the location,” Vance said. “It’s central. There’s a lot of nightlife a couple of blocks away. It was perfect for a theater when we moved in.”

By 2019, the theater was holding close to 400 shows a year on its two stages. The pandemic hurt the organization significantly and it had been gradually working its way back with 100 shows last year. Village Theatre got the bad news about its lease last month.

The final shows at the current location are scheduled for the weekend of Feb. 17 and 18 and Vance said the group plans to bring back many alums and hold as many shows as possible.

“We’re going to make it a big party,” he said.

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