Photo courtesy of the Afterthought Theatre Company
A new theater troupe will take the stage at the former Shadow Theatre building in the coming months, hoping to reinvent the Dayton Street facility as a thriving community arts center.
Representatives from Cornerstone Equity, the investment company that owns the 9,400-square-foot building off East Colfax Avenue, announced this weekend that the Afterthought Theatre Company will stage three or four productions at the theater in the next six months. Founded last year by Reynelda Snell and Cris Davenport, the Afterthought has received critical acclaim for their stagings of dramas like “The Meeting” by Jeff Stetson and “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf” by Ntozake Shange.
The announcement follows months of contention between Cornerstone and the Shadow Theatre, the former tenants of the property. In December, Cornerstone started formal eviction proceedings to vacate the troupe from the facilit, a process that stretched until the beginning of February.
“All of the people that I’ve come in contact with having to do with Afterthought are the kind of people that we’re comfortable with, that we feel good about,” said Cornerstone Principal Michael Rasser. “We’re real excited about the Afterthought. After our experience with the Shadow, to be dealing with someone with that level of integrity, that’s really refreshing.”
The Afterthought is slated to offer at least three productions on the Aurora stage in the coming months. “Waiting to Be Invited” by S.M. Shephard-Massatt will run from April 15 to 30, and the musical “The Wiz” will run from August 5 to Sept. 5. Afterthought directors have said they’ll also mount revivals of the company’s critically acclaimed “For Colored Girls” production and their recent staging of Charles Fuller’s “A Soldier’s Play.”
“We’re able to provide exactly what the city of Aurora has been looking for,” said Afterthought owner and creative director Reynelda Snell. “Some of the shows that we’re looking at bringing into the theater I think will be exciting.”
Snell and Rasser said the coming months could serve as a test for the Afterthought; depending on their ticket sales and success in drawing new audiences to the theater, the company could become a permanent tenant in the future.
“The question about the Afterthought or anyone at a facility the size of Dayton is sustainability,” Rasser said. “Is it possible for one theater group to sustain this facility without a level of financial commitment from us that’s beyond our means?
“They’ve got a great opportunity,” Rasser added.
Snell said the company is committed to creative mission of Jeffrey Nickelson, the Shadow Theatre founder who died from a heart attack shortly after resigning his position at the theater in 2009.
“We’re following behind Jeffrey Nickelson whose legacy is so extensive. What he did for his community, starting an African American theater company and making it successful ... It’s an honor,” Snell said. “Everyone is wondering if we’re scared, and we’re not. We know exactly what to do with the facility.”
According to Cornerstone officials, the Shadow Theatre continually failed to pay its $7,500 monthly rent since early in 2010. The financial burden proved too hefty for a community theater company, but Rasser said the company has been looking at creative new revenue streams as the Afterthought prepares its trial run at the theater.
“We’re going to have an actual curator on site. We have a coffee and wine bar that we’re working on ... There are a lot of special things that we’re doing.” Snell said. “With some of the other programs that we have going on there, we feel confident that we can meet our obligations ... It’s nothing that we can sit on. We don’t take responsibility lightly at all.”
Rasser added that Cornerstone has yet to finalize a new name for the Aurora theater.
"We still don't know what we're going to be calling it," Rasser said. "We're kind of like Prince: the-facility-formerly-known-as-the-Shadow-Theatre."
Click here for my review of the Afterthought Theatre's production of "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf" from September.