Hello City Theatre friends, family, patrons, stakeholders, and community members,
This is a difficult message that we hoped to never have to send your way. We'll come straight out with it: we need your help. Due to some issues with the City of Austin, we are not currently able to operate in our theatre home. We have tried working through these issues with minimal disruption, but the reality has set in that we're facing a true existential threat. We love our little theatre and hope you do to. We want City Theatre to continue in our current location, but due to our temporary inability to operate in our space, that simply will not happen without some generous contributions from our friends. We remain optimistic about getting back to providing high-quality theatre relatively soon, but in the meantime, we're asking for help. We've prepared a full Q&A with an in-depth explanation of what's going on below. But if you're interested in jumping on board right away, you can donate through GoFundMe or contact us to make a direct donation at firstname.lastname@example.org or 512-524-2870. Every little bit helps and we appreciate even the smallest of donations!
Important: The City Theatre Company is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit arts organization. Donations are tax-deductible and DO NOT need to be routed through our fiscal sponsor, the Austin Creative Alliance, as they have in the past.
Here's some background information about what's going on with City Theatre:
Why is there no actual theatre going on at City Theatre right now?
As some of you may know, on October 3rd, 2018, the City of Austin Code Enforcement Department cited the City Theatre Company's current home at 3823 Airport Blvd. for violations of the City's building code.
Wait - are you saying I was taking my life into my hands every time I set foot in City Theatre?
No, no, no. It's not like that. It is important to note that these violations were not for immediate life safety concerns. In fact, a code department official inspected the facility immediately prior to the penultimate performance of The Who's Tommy on Saturday, September 29, 2018. That show, along with the run-closing performance on the following day, were allowed to proceed. The primary violations cited by the City stemmed from our theatre's failure to complete the City of Austin's administrative processes concerning obtaining the proper permits as well as a Certificate of Occupancy.
How and why did this situation occur?
When City Theatre began in the fall of 2006, the individuals who founded the theatre did so with the simple dream of opening their own little space that could provide quality theatre offerings to the Austin community. They were, and still are, artists and theatre lovers. What they weren't were developers or commercial construction professionals. No one with City Theatre had ever heard of a "Certificate of Occupancy" back when we started in '06.
2006? It has been a long time, hasn't it? Why is this a problem now?
Good question. We've done literally thousands of shows in our space over the last 12-plus years. For whatever reason, we only recently popped up on the City's radar. Regardless, we now have to go through the City of Austin permit process as if we are opening all over again. There are "amnesty" or "grandfather" options in the City's rules, but they are only available for spaces that have been in existence and operating for much longer than City Theatre (think 25-plus years).
What is the current status of the space on Airport Blvd.? Can you still do shows there?
No. The City of Austin has made it clear that we can not operate in our current space until we have obtained a Certificate of Occupancy (aka, a "CO"). Our lease runs through the end of the year and our landlord has allowed us to go month-to-month in 2019 until we get our CO. But we are still required to pay full rent on our current space until we resolve the issue.
Speaking of resolving the issue, how's that going?
It's going. To be completely honest, the City of Austin's process is not exactly user-friendly or conducive to a quick resolution. Remember how we're not professional developers or real estate moguls? Unfortunately, the City's process is mostly geared toward those folks, the ones who have the time, money, and professional resources to sift through the code and hurdle the considerable obstacles that the City places in front of people. It's more difficult for people whose main focus is usually dealing with the concerns of producing a play. There are indeed professionals who make their entire living out of helping navigate the City's maze, and we are exploring engaging with someone like that, but it would require money that we don't really have right now. We've been through a few rounds on our own with the City at this point, and the arcane and byzantine process has been difficult to navigate. But we are progressing through the permit process as fast as we can and definitely staying positive. We are optimistic about the future.
So what is the future for City Theatre?
Our immediate intention is to obtain the proper permits and ultimately a Certificate of Occupancy for our current space on Airport Blvd. The hope has always been to resume operations in our space as soon as possible, and get back to producing trailblazing theatre for the Austin community.
If you're not able to operate in your space, can you do shows at all?
Absolutely - and we actually have already done so. Our first "road show" was Doubt: A Parable, which was very successfully performed at Trinity Street Theatre in November. We also are looking forward to our next show, A Tuna Christmas, taking place at Trinity Street opening on December 20th (get your tickets now!). Our commitment is to perform our 13th season in full, subject to a little flexibility in the anticipated schedule. The show must go on!
But what if you can't get the space on Airport Blvd. through the City's bureaucratic obstacle course?
As always, City Theatre is more than just one person or a specific location. If we do have to say goodbye to our location on Airport, City Theatre will still continue. It may mean going on the road for a while longer, renting out space at various venues. It may mean finding a new location to be our home. We're not discounting any options at this point, but the hope is that it won't come to that.
If this all happened at the beginning of October, why is this only coming out now?
In all honesty, we wanted to handle the matter ourselves, as quickly as possible, with the absolute minimal amount of disruption for our City Theatre community. We genuinely hoped we'd never have to make our friends and public aware of this stuff, as we always want to keep the focus on our passion - namely, the theatre we have been so fortunate to be able to produce. Our intention was to actually be back in our home by now, or by the end of the year at the absolute latest. It's become apparent lately, that because of the City's gauntlet-like permitting process, that timeframe is no longer a reality. We also wanted to make sure that we had a complete understanding of the situation ourselves, before we swallowed our pride and asked for help.
But I love City Theatre! - how can I help?
We are working on securing professional expertise for assistance with the permitting process. If you know of anyone well-versed in development, architecture, electrical/structural engineering, or commercial contracting (hopefully with a soft-spot in their hearts for a struggling theatre), those are good contacts to send along to email@example.com. But the easiest and most impactful way for most people to help is by donating funds. You see, what we need most is time. The process with the City drags on and we need to hang on for as long as it may last. And as they say, time is money. We need to keep paying our bills while we fight this battle. We may also need to pay for the aforementioned professional guidance or possible upgrades to the space to bring it fully into code. And lastly, if the worst-case scenario rears its ugly head, and we have to move, we'll need funds to get started in a new City Theatre.
We hate doing this. Seriously, we know how over-saturated everyone is with donation requests, especially this time of year. As we've said, this is a message we hoped to never have to put out there, and trust us when we say we only do so reluctantly. If City Theatre has ever meant anything to you - if you feel that Austin is better served by having us around - we humbly ask for you to consider making a contribution. Thank you so much for being a part of our little community over the past 12 years. We are so fortunate to be able to do what we do, and we desperately want to be able to continue doing it.
If you're willing to contribute towards helping us get back to our theatre home, you can donate via gofundme.com HERE or contact us to make a direct donation at firstname.lastname@example.org or 512-524-2870. Every little bit helps and we appreciate even the smallest of donations!
Thank you for putting a little theatre in your life.