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WSC Avant Bard loses its resident status at Artisphere

”We’re in a bit of flux trying to figure out how best to accomplish everything that we’d planned,” says WSC Avant Bard’s Christopher Henley. That flux is the result of being told last month that Artisphere, where the theater company has been a resident for two years, has changed its policies to only allow shorter-term or one-off rentals of its venues and space.

This week, an official with Artisphere further explained the decision to Metro Weekly, saying that it is no longer viable for WSC Avant Bard – or, for that matter, any one entity – to occupy the complex’s black box theater for 32 weeks out of the year.

The decision means that the company is looking for a new home. More immediately, WSC Avant Bard has had to reshuffle its spring plans, which was to include two shows staged in repertory: Caesar and Dada, a new work by Washington playwright Allyson Currin, and The White Devil, the classic tragedy by John Webster. Henley has accepted an offer from Arlington County’s Cultural Affairs Division, which oversees Artisphere, to produce one show in April in the similarly county-owned venue Theatre on the Run. But he’s not certain either show will actually work in the much smaller, less accessible space. ”The real blow to us is not the termination of the residency,” says Henley. ”It’s the abruptness and the immediacy of it, with almost no opportunity to have our spring programming land on its feet…without a lot of worry, stress and work.”

But Karen Vasquez, the county’s cultural affairs director, says that she and other Artisphere representatives informed WSC Avant Bard in July that ”we could not guarantee spring dates at Artisphere [because] we’re looking at different models. We may be making some changes.” As such, Artisphere only ever contracted with WSC Avant Bard for its fall dates. Vasquez also notes she met with Henley in November, ”to talk to him a little bit further about what the different options might be.”

And future options, Vasquez says, don’t in any way preclude WSC Avant Bard from renting out the black box theater at Artisphere for stints at a time. It’s just that ”having one theater company occupying the lion’s share of that space is not conducive to our goal of showcasing a variety of organizations and performances.”

For his part, Henley says his company, whose previous home was Arlington’s now-razed Clark Street Playhouse, has ”had a very, very long and satisfying relationship with Arlington County, [but] out of necessity we’re having to really explore all, all options, and that includes looking outside of Arlington.” ‘

For updates and more information about WSC Avant Bard, call ‘703-418-4808 or visit wscavantbard.org.

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