Civic Theatre can’t pay the rent


By Robert Annis

The Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre is renegotiating its lease to avoid paying all of a $400,000 rent payment owed by Dec. 31.

Representatives from the Civic Theatre informed the city this month it could only pay $200,000 by the end of the year, City Councilor Luci Snyder said.

But Civic Theatre Executive Director Cheryl Dick said the nearly 100-year-old theatre company, entering its second season at the Center for the Performing Arts, plans to pay every penny of the $10 million it owes to the city.

“We spent $800,000 on transition costs when we moved to Carmel,” Dick said. “We pulled out all the stops. We held two galas, exceeded production costs (on performances) … some relief would be wonderful.”

The Civic Theatre has raised $3 million of its $10-million goal, Dick said. The Civic Theatre has 29 years to pay its lease obligations, after which they’ll own half of the Tarkington, the 500-seat theatre they currently call home. Whatever payments they can’t afford now will be added to the back-end of the lease, Dick said.

The Civic Theatre has offered to relinquish certain days in the smaller, 200-seat theatre in the CPA during the renegotiations, but seeks to acquire naming rights for other parts of the building. Negotiations are currently fast-tracked, according to Dick.

“We’re willing to make concessions so we can get our feet on the ground during these first few years,” Dick said.

The theatre group was one of 16 arts groups that received $840,000 in city funding earlier this year, nearly all of them rent-paying tenants of the Center for the Performing Arts. Of that money, the civic theatre received $190,000 in taxpayer dollars.

Carmel spokeswoman Nancy Heck failed to return phone messages seeking comment.

CPA Executive Director Tania Castroverde Moskalenko said the other six resident companies were making their scheduled payments on time. She refused to comment on the Civic Theatre because, unlike the other six, their lease agreement is with the Carmel Redevelopment Commission, not the Center. Castroverde Moskalenko, who was named executive director in June, said she didn’t know why the Civic Theatre’s lease was with the CRC, not the CPA.

Castroverde Moskalenko offered sympathy for the civic theatre and the other troupes.

“After 2009, more and more arts organizations have had difficulty raising money,” Castroverde Moskalenko said. “Endowments dropped. Fundraising dropped.”

The theatre company is one of the 10 largest in the nation and the largest in Indiana, according to its website. About half of its budget comes from ticket sales and educational programs, with the remaining amount coming from civic, corporate and municipal donations.

The theatre company sold more than $760,000 worth of tickets during its first year in Carmel, Dick said. The theatre company is currently performing “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” until Jan. 5, 2013.