Two of Portland’s more prominent mid-sized theater companies, Theatre Vertigo and Profile Theatre, make their homes in the Theater! Theatre! Building on Southeast Belmont, and today we learned that their landlord will not be renewing their leases. That means that both companies will be looking for new homes for next season, after finishing their current ones in June.
According to the Profile press release, the building’s owner also runs the Tao of Tea shop and restaurant in the same building and will use the two theater spaces in the building for Tao of Tea operations.
Profile learned about the decision at a moment of triumph. “I learned of the landlord’s decision on closing day of “The Road to Mecca,” our highest selling, most successful production in over six years,” said Profile’s new Artistic Director Adriana Baer in the press release. “It’s heartbreaking that this community is losing two of its most valuable venues.”
And there’s another reason the timing was bad for Profile. “We have spent the last six months investing in improvements which would allow Profile to be better stewards of our venue, providing much-needed rental space for nomadic theater companies and music groups and much-needed earned income for us. We were looking forward to deepening relationships with our community,” said Matthew Jones, Profile’s managing director.
Theatre Vertigo, like Profile, is determined to find a new space for next year. “Although we are obviously sad to be losing our home, we see this as an opportunity to grow into something even better for the community. We hope to find a similar venue where we can work with many other organizations, surrounded by colleagues and fellow theatre-makers,” said Kerry Ryan, a Theatre Vertigo company member, in that company’s press release.
“While disappointed to lose a theatre that has housed so much of our community’s work, we look forward to the opportunities that this challenge presents. We would like to find a venue that can be shared with many different producers, a flexible and versatile space that is large enough to accommodate the Theater! Theatre! community,” said Joe Shallenburger, Theatre Vertigo Board President.
I can remember getting a tour of the then-nondescript building on SE Belmont that became Theater! Theatre! from Triangle Productions’ Don Horn. The building wasn’t very impressive, and even when I squinted, I couldn’t quite picture what he was talking about—a new theater outpost in Southeast. But Horn’s Triangle and many other theater companies, some still with us and some long gone, did just that, carving two intimate little theater spaces out of the building, places where the connection with the actors could be intense.
The theater scene in Portland is noteworthy primarily because of the number of smaller and mid-sized theater companies that operate here, each with a band of supporters and an audience to keep it going. And space for theaters in downtown and its inner-ring neighborhoods is at a premium for these theaters. The Theatre Vertigo announcement listed these groups as recent users of Theater! Theatre!:
“24 Hour Plays, Action/Adventure Theatre, Beat BangerZ, Black Tie Comedy Troupe, Classic Greek Theatre, CoToP Theatre, Curious Comedy, Dance Naked Productions, Fantastic Umbrella Factory, Fuse Theatre Ensemble, Hoofers & Co., JANE a theater company, Jewish Theatre Collaborative, La Bodega Productions, Lights Up! Productions, Miss Bee Haven, Inc., Nomadic Theatre Co., Northwest Classical Theatre Co., Playback Theater, Portland Theatre Works, PSU TASO, Public Playhouse, Pyrogen Productions, Renob Control, Sowelu, Staged!, Stumptown Stages, The Phoenix Theatre Co., Theatre Vertigo, Traveling Lantern, Twilight Repertory Theatre, PlayWrite, Inc., The Attic Institute, US Jesco, and over two dozen teachers and individual artists”
Profile and Theatre Vertigo are the resident companies in the spaces, though, two mid-sized theaters with a lot of history. Profile started its 16th season last fall, as Theatre Vertigo started celebrating its 15th, and they are both major community resources. We know that re-settling somewhere else is always expensive: Renovating a space into one of those intimate theaters with comfortable seating and good tech support can cost a lot. We’ll be following the efforts of Profile and Theatre Vertigo as they attempt to colonize a new space for theater.