The decision came just hours after County Manager Barbara Donnellan recommended closing Rosslyn’s Artisphere next June. The County Board ultimately decided that the two arts organizations’ situations were different enough to begin a new investment as it acknowledged the failure of a previous one.
“Signature really is an Arlington treasure,” County Board Chair Jay Fisette said. “It reaches into our community and impacts our community in substantial ways.”
The theater will receive the loan at a low, 1 percent interest rate; it will no longer have to pay $411,000 in unpaid county taxes and fees; and $2.7 million of its $7.7 million debt to United Bank will be forgiven.
“Signature will pay back this loan in full and on time,” the theater’s managing director, Maggie Boland, told the Board. “We often joke that ‘hope is not a strategy’ at Signature. We don’t commit to a production plan that we can’t afford.”
Signature’s yearly debt payments will be reduced from more than $1 million to about $300,000, a difference that county Director of Management and Finance Michelle Cowen called “transformative.”
“It allows them to bulk up on their balance sheet, which is in poor shape,” Cowen said.
There were 11 speakers from the public, and eight of them spoke in support of the County Board’s action. Many of the supporters were either current or former members of the Signature in the Schools program, Shirlington business owners or those with active interests in the theater’s success.
“We believe Signature is vital to the overall success of Shirlington and the greater Arlington County community,” Ken Mosig, director of asset management for the Village at Shirlington’s parent company, Federal Realty Investment Trust, said. “Their programs attract people to the Village of Shirlington. Having Signature Theatre as an entertainment venue has helped bring 100,000 people to the area per year.”
Among the dissenters were Jim Hurysz and Tim Wise, two frequent County Board critics and opponents of government spending.
“Taxpayers who oppose public subsidies for the arts do not oppose the arts,” Wise said. “We just think the arts should pay for themselves.”
Board member Libby Garvey asked Boland why they couldn’t raise ticket prices to generate the additional revenue, needed, but Boland said that if the tickets were any more expensive, “that would be detrimental to our business.”
Although the County Board unanimously approved the loan — the money for which comes from FY 2014 closeout funds — several members indicated that this would be the last chance Signature has for county funding for some time.
“We don’t want to be here again,” Fisette said.
Photo via Signature Theatre website
(Updated at 4:10 p.m.) Arlington County could come to the rescue for Signature Theatre‘s financial troubles.
County Manager Barbara Donnellan is recommending the county lend the Shirlington theater $5 million, to be repaid over 19 years at a low 1 percent interest, she announced today.
The Arlington County Board will decide whether to approve the theater’s new financing plan at its recessed meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 17. If approved, the county would also forgive Signature for $411,000 in unpaid lease and utility payments, and not collect rent for the term of the loan.
“Signature Theatre is key to Shirlington’s success,” Donnellan said in a press release. “This restructuring will put Signature on a sound financial footing and help ensure that it will continue to draw thousands of people to Arlington every year. This loan, which Signature will repay over the next two decades, is the basis of a responsible financial plan. It will support one of the County’s most important arts organizations, an organization that yields important cultural and economic benefits for our entire community.”
The $5 million will be allocated from FY 2014 closeout funds, Donnellan said. The loan removes Signature from consideration for future county cultural grants. Last spring, the county awarded the theater a $250,000 grant to help it pay off its real estate and business taxes.
The loan negotiations have been ongoing for several years, the county said, and include Signature’s private lender, United Bank, forgiving $2.7 million of its $7.7 million loan.
“All of us at Signature are deeply grateful to our partners at United Bank and Arlington County for working with us to ensure that Signature can continue to thrive in Shirlington for many years to come,” Signature’s Managing Director Maggie Boland said in the release. “As the largest arts organization in Arlington, and Virginia’s largest theater, we are very pleased to cement this long-term partnership with the County.”
Signature, which won a Regional Theater Tony Award in 2009, is arguably the county’s most prominent arts organization. The theater is currently hosting the world premiere of the musical adaptation of Diner. It also conducts an education program for high school students called Signature in the Schools.
Janet Kopenhaver, chair of the Arlington Commission for the Arts, says the commission enthusiastically supports the county’s loan proposal.
“On behalf of the Arlington Commission for the Arts, I want to express our total support for this agreement with Signature Theatre — a critical asset to the County’s vibrant arts community,” Kopenhaver said. “We applaud the County for considering not only protecting a vital real estate investment in Shirlington, but also supporting our nationally-renowned, Tony-award winning theater company that we are so proud to have located in Arlington County.”
Photo via Signature Theatre
Wizards Look at Crystal City, Ballston — Washington Wizards owner Ted Leonsis is reportedly narrowing in on three sites — in Crystal City, Ballston and in D.C.’s Shaw neighborhood — as the potential location for the team’s future $40-50 million practice facility. [Washington Post]
New Cultural Affairs Director — Michelle Isabelle-Stark has been named Arlington County’s new Director of Cultural Affairs, overseeing Artisphere and the county’s art programs. Isabelle-Stark most recently held a similar position in Suffolk County, New York. [Arlington Economic Development]
Backup QB Leads Yorktown into Playoffs — Charlie Tiene, a top lacrosse prospect who skipped football for the golf team last year, will lead the Yorktown Patriots in the their first-round playoff game tonight. Tiene was named the team’s quarterback after starting QB Joe McBride went down with an ACL injury. [Washington Post]
Signature Developing Two New Musicals — Shirlington’s Signature Theatre is developing two new musicals: Midwestern Gothic and the Christmas-themed Silver Belles. [Playbill]
Snow in Arlington — Reagan National Airport reported a trace amount of snowfall overnight. [National Weather Service]
Flickr pool photo by Starbuck77
Sheryl Crow Musical Coming to Shirlington — The world premiere musical adaptation of the moving Diner is coming to Signature Theatre in Shirlington next month. Written by Academy Award-winning screenwriter Barry Levinson, with music and lyrics by Sheryl Crow, Diner will run from Dec. 9 to Jan. 25. [Signature Theatre]
Crossover Voting Strong in N. Arlington — Throughout Arlington, Democratic voters “crossed over” to vote for John Vihstadt on Tuesday. Overall, however, the residential portions of North Arlington had the greatest crossover vote for the independent County Board candidate. [Not Larry Sabato]
Voter ID Rule Mostly Affected Seniors — About 60 Arlington voters did not bring a photo ID to the polls on Tuesday, election officials said. Under new ID rules in Virginia, they could only cast a provisional ballot then come back and present photo ID. Most of those without ID were senior citizens, and many of those senior citizens were from the same local retirement home. [InsideNova]
Theater critic Iain Armitage has never given a bad review. Even the shows that aren’t his favorites, he says he tries to focus on the “happy things” in the show.
Most would scoff at a critic who has never given a bad review, but Iain has an excuse: he’s only 6 years old, and he’s been taught it’s not nice to say mean things by his parents, Broadway star Euan Morton and theater producer Lee Armitage.
Iain started reviewing shows on Armitage’s YouTube channel five months ago, reviewing 21 different shows include “Phantom of the Opera” and “Pippin” — his two favorites so far — and, most recently, the Signature Theatre production of “Sundays in the Park with George.” That review has more than 16,000 views and got Iain enough attention to be featured on MTV.com.
It all started when Iain saw Hairspray at Signature and started talking about it. Lee filmed him with her smartphone, and the rest is history.
“I really don’t know why it’s gotten so popular,” Armitage said. “With all the videos, we would have friends in the shows and they’d watch them because he said funny things. We also did it to keep up with what shows he’s seen.”
Iain is homeschooled at the family’s home near Virginia Square, and also likes ice skating, dancing (there’s a video of a dance recital on the YouTube channel) and playing piano. Although being an elementary school-aged theater critic is a rarity, he wishes it were more common.
“I wish there were more little critics like me,” he told ARLnow.com in Ballston this morning with his mother. “Then we could be friends and see the same shows and get famous together.”
Iain said some of his favorite shows are the ones he can watch his father — who was nominated for a Tony award in 2004 for his portrayal of Boy George in “Taboo” — because he likes “the feeling when my dad’s on the stage. If I wave to him after the show, he’ll always wave back to me.”
Armitage said the Signature Theater is a big part of why Iain developed a love for musicals — Signature Artistic Director Eric Schaeffer is Iain’s godfather — and Iain said he wished “more kids in Arlington could see shows.” Iain also wishes he could see more shows. He said he “would like to see every show ever made,” and has gotten frustrated when his parents kept him out of productions that are inappropriate for 6 year-olds, like “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” a show about an East German transgender singer.
Iain said he’s “still mad” about not being able to see the show, but is enjoying the spoils of being a viral video star. He smiled and said “I like it” when he was asked about the trappings of fame, but couldn’t confirm he was practicing his autographs for future fans.
Dark Star Park Day in Rosslyn — It’s Dark Star Park Day in Rosslyn. Today commemorates the 30th anniversary of the park, which is designed to cast shadows that align with the art installation once a year, on Aug. 1. Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette is expected to speak at a celebration at the park, at 1655 Fort Myer Drive, starting at 9:00 a.m. [Rosslyn BID, Ode Street Tribune]
Roads to Close for Signature Open House — Part of Campbell Avenue in Shirlington will be closed from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Saturday for the annual Signature Theatre open house. The event runs from noon to 10:00 p.m. and features numerous singing and theater performances, including a “Signature Idol competition.” [Signature Theatre, Arlington County]
Finding Love on Metro — Metro is D.C.’s most popular location for missed romantic connections. “There seems to be quite a lot of flirting, or at least furtive glancing, taking place on public transportation,” states the county’s Mobility Lab blog. As evidence of that, the blog interviewed Mary Rouleau, executive director of the Arlington-based Alliance for Housing Solutions, who met her husband while waiting for an Orange Line train. [Mobility Lab]
Library Seeks LEGO Creations — Arlington Public Library is seeking original creations for its 2nd annual LEGO exhibit. The exhibit is open to LEGO builders age 18 and under, and teams featuring at least one under 18 member. [Arlington Public Library]
Arlington Parkmobile Video — Arlington County has created a video showcasing its new partnership with Parkmobile, the smartphone app that allows you to pay for parking without feeding a meter. The service is currently available in Crystal City and Shirlington, and will be expanding to other parts of the county over the next 9 months or so. [YouTube]
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
Vihstadt Outraising Howze — County Board member John Vihstadt is outraising Democratic challenger Alan Howze ahead of the upcoming November election. Vihstadt, who is running as an independent, has raised $33,773 to Howze’s $6,801. [InsideNova]
‘Revenge of the Understudies’ at Signature — They prepare for roles that they rarely get to actually play, at least in front of a paying audience. On Saturday, however, the understudies at Signature Theatre will take center stage for the annual “Revenge of the Understudies” cabaret. Tickets to either of the show’s two performances — at 9:00 and 11:00 p.m. — are $25. [Washington Post]
Ben’s Chili Bowl Opening at DCA — Ben’s Chili Bowl will be holding a ribbon cutting ceremony for its new Reagan National Airport location this morning. Bill Cosby won’t be there, but the Chuck Brown Band will be performing. The restaurant is located before the security checkpoints in the B/C terminal.
Crow penned the music and lyrics while the movie’s writer and director, Barry Levinson, wrote the book (musicals’ version of a script), according to Variety. The entertainment publication reports that the musical will debut at Signature (4200 Campbell Ave.) from Dec. 9 to Jan. 25.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, the show was scheduled to open on Broadway twice before delays and may still end up there, depending on the show’s performance at Signature. The show will be directed and choreographed by three-time Tony Award-winner Kathleen Marshall (“Anything Goes,” “The Pajama Game,” “Wonderful Town”).
Set in Baltimore in 1959, the musical is based on Levinson’s 1982 debut feature about burgeoning adulthood, which follows a group of former high school buddies who reunite in their twenties at their favorite hangout as one of them prepares to get married. The movie’s ensemble cast included Kevin Bacon,Ellen Barkin and Mickey Rourke.
Levinson adapted the book for the show from his Oscar-nominated screenplay, while Crow wrote the music and lyrics, marking the first foray into musical theater for both.
A pre-Broadway tryout for Diner originally was announced to play San Francisco’s Curran Theatre in fall 2012, and a Broadway opening was scheduled to follow in spring 2013. That target was later pushed back to last fall, with an out-of-town tryout being scrapped in favor of further workshops. However, that plan also failed to come together.
Photo via Signature Theatre
Signature Theatre in Shirlington (4200 Campbell Ave) will again host Summer Hummer, a burlesque show put on by theatreWashington to raise funds for charity.
The show, playing at 7:00 and 9:00 p.m. Monday, Aug. 19, costs $35 for regular seating and $75 for premium reserved seating. Described as a musical revue with songs, sketches, dancing and stripping, Summer Hummer is undoubtedly an age “18-and-up show,” according to theatreWashington Communications and Development Manager Jen Clements.
“It’s something that will attract a variety of interesting performers, where we don’t have to worry about who gets cast,” she said. “It’s something that everyone can really have a good time with, and it doesn’t take itself seriously except that it is to raise money for a serious cause.”
The show’s proceeds will go to Taking Care of Our Own, a charity that helps theater professionals with money during emergencies that prevent them from performing and earning a living. Last year, Summer Hummer sold out and raised $16,000 for the organization, Clements said.
The music will range from well-known showtunes to some offbeat, original pieces, and the nudity will be about what is allowed during an “R”-rated movie, Clements said — so don’t expect full-frontal nudity. Tickets are still available but are selling fast, Clements said.
Photo courtesy of theatreWashington
In all, 31 concerts, cabarets, workshops and events will be held from noon to 9:00 p.m. in and around Signature, at 4200 Campbell Avenue.
Throughout the day, there will be outdoor activities for kids like a moon bounce, skeeball and basketball games, as well as free cotton candy and popcorn. To accommodate the festivities, the Arlington County Police Department is closing Campbell Avenue from the Harris Teeter to S. Randolph Street from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.
While stopping by the open house, patrons can take in Tony Award nominee Carolee Carmello at 1:15 p.m. on the MAX stage, singing some of her favorite showtunes. At 3:15 p.m., in the Shen room, those interested can talk to the director and cast of this season’s production of Miss Saigon about the ins and outs of putting on the show.
The day wraps up at 8:30 p.m. on the Plaza stage with actors from Signature and Broadway fame singing some of musical theater’s greatest hits. Signature will be tweeting during the day with information on where to pick up tickets for shows and with any changes in the open house’s vast schedule.
Woman Attacked on Four Mile Run Trail — A man with a knife attacked a woman who was walking alone on the Four Mile Run Trail on Saturday morning. The woman suffered “minor, non-life threatening” injures. The suspect is still at large. [WJLA, NBC Washington]
Yorktown Falls in Soccer Championship — The Yorktown High School girls’ soccer team lost 2-1 to Chantilly in the Northern Region championship game on Friday. The team, which finished regional play with a 20-2 record, will still continue to the state tournament. The first round game will take place on Tuesday at Battlefield High School. [Sun Gazette]
ACPD Officers Honored for Fighting Car Theft — Three Arlington County Police officers have received state Law Enforcement Officer Awards for their work in helping to fight car theft. “LEO Award winners are selected by judges from the insurance industry, partnering law enforcement agencies and the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles for their exemplary actions related to Intelligence, Prevention, Enforcement and Recoveries in fighting the crime of vehicle theft,” police said in a press release. [Arlington County]
Examiner Skewers Board for Signature Bailout — The Arlington County Board “blindsided” taxpayers by approving a $250,000 bailout for Signature Theatre during a closed session, according to a Washington Examiner editorial. “Other financially struggling artistic venues have to scale back productions, sublease space or launch pledge drives when money gets tight,” the Examiner editorial board wrote. “But Signature Theatre has friends in high places who apparently believe it’s too fabulous to fail, county taxpayers be damned.” [Washington Examiner]
Photo by MJordanRomero
The Board discussed the matter in a closed session before unanimously approving it. According to County Attorney Stephen MacIsaac, it is standard procedure for the Board to discuss a grant behind closed doors. The grant agreement will be made public once the county attorney finalizes it.
County Manager Barbara Donnellan said the grant will help bring the theater current with real estate taxes owed to the county. Funding for the grant was provided from budget savings identified at the end of Fiscal Year 2012.
The Arlington County Department of Management and Finance indicates the grant includes around $85,000 for past due real estate and business tangible taxes, $99,000 for the next two payments of real estate taxes and around $30,000 for the next business tangible tax payment. The remaining $35,000 will either help fund a financial consultant study or go to future tax payments.
Signature Theatre has sole access rights and branding capability in its current space within a county owned building. It is responsible for the full costs of operating that facility, including real estate and business tangible taxes. Other county supported arts groups performing in county subsidized spaces are not required to pay taxes.
“Signature is thriving, and has a great future ahead of it,” Donnellan said. “This grant addresses an immediate, short-term need by providing temporary relief from a tax burden that is not shared by other supported arts groups.”
The county emphasizes that the theater is a cultural anchor for Shirlington and provides financial benefits to the community. It estimates that more than $150,000 in annual sales and meals taxes can be directly attributed to Signature’s presence in Shirlington.
Signature faced several debt-related lawsuits in Arlington General District Court last year, including claims from Waste Management, Conde Nast Publications and the Delancey at Shirlington Village apartment building. The Waste Management and Conde Nast claims were eventually dismissed. The court ruled in favor of Delancey at Shirlington Village.
County Treasurer Frank O’Leary told the Sun Gazette that Signature was delinquent on its real estate and business taxes.
Green Party Outperforms Past Results — By pulling in 12.4 percent of the vote for County Board, Green Party candidate Audrey Clement roughly doubled the percentage of the vote Green candidates have typically received during past County Board races. The question now is can the Greens get that percentage even higher next time by better identifying who is voting for the party’s candidates? [Sun Gazette]
Miss Saigon Coming to Signature Theater — Signature Theater has secured the rights to the well known musical Miss Saigon, and will open its 2013-2014 season with a version of the production. It will be the first time a theater company in the D.C. area has taken on the show in 15 years. [Variety]
Ballot Wording Angers Aquatics Center Opponents — Voters passed all four bond referenda on the Arlington ballot on Tuesday, including one for a park bond that funds the proposed $79 million Long Bridge Park aquatics and fitness center. Opponents of the facility, however, say the measure only passed due to vague wording on the ballot which stated that the bond was for “various capital projects for local parks and recreation, and land acquisition for parks and open space.” [Washington Examiner]
ABBIE Voting Ends Today — Today is the final day to cast your votes for Arlington’s best businesses. The businesses in 17 categories were nominated by residents and winners are determined by popular vote. ABBIE winners will be announced at the County Board meeting on November 27.
Disclosure: The ABBIE Awards/Arlington Economic Development is an ARLnow.com advertiser
Free performances will be taking place approximately every 15 minutes on four stages, starting at noon. They feature sneak peeks at some of the upcoming season’s shows, such as The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Dreamgirls and Hello, Dolly! The event culminates with a finale concert at 8:30 p.m., scheduled to include both local and Broadway actors, as well as the winner of the “Signature Idol” competition. A list of performers and performance times is available online.
“The open house is a great way to get people acquainted with the new season,” said Signature Theatre publicist Peter Eramo, Jr.
Eramo noted that the open house will be the one day all year that tickets are available for the new season’s shows at a 50 percent discount. There’s no minimum purchase necessary, but the discounted tickets do have to be bought that day at the box office.
The celebration will take over parts of the plaza in the Village at Shirlington. Visitors can enjoy a moon bounce and skee ball, or munch on free snacks like popcorn, sno-cones and cotton candy.
Staff will be on hand at the event to answer questions about the Signature Theatre and the upcoming season.
Moran Marks Anniversary of Va. Tech Massacre — Rep. Jim Moran (D) marked the fifth anniversary of the shooting massacre at Virginia Tech yesterday by calling on Congress to improve gun control laws. “When there are nearly enough guns in the U.S. for every man, woman and child, firearms will find their way into the wrong hands,” Moran said. “Criminals, terrorists and the dangerously mentally ill have no business owning deadly weapons.” A student shot and killed 32 people on the Virginia Tech campus on April 16, 2007.
Concern About Chicken Doo-Doo — Some residents are concerned that, if enacted, a proposal to allow small-scale backyard hen raising in Arlington would result in extra water pollution. A George Mason University professor says chicken waste from backyard hens in Arlington would ultimately make it into the already environmentally-sensitive Chesapeake Bay. [WAMU]
Hearing About School Board Appointment — A public hearing will be held tonight to discuss the appointment of an interim School Board member to replace now-County Board member Libby Garvey. Sixteen residents have declared themselves interested in the position. [Sun Gazette]
Man Dies After Heart Attack at Pentagon Station — Added at 9:15 a.m. — A 51-year-old Alexandria man died yesterday afternoon after suffering a heart attack at the Pentagon Metro station. Passengers attempted to revive the man, a witness told ARLnow.com, but he was later pronounced dead at a local hospital. [Washington Post]