Downtown theater, Beowulf Alley, closes

2013-11-27T13:00:00Z 2013-11-29T19:10:05Z Downtown theater, Beowulf Alley, closesBy Kathy Allen Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
November 27, 2013 1:00 pm  • 

The final curtain has fallen for the scrappy Beowulf Alley Theatre. The last show, “Savage Bond,” by Tucsonan Steve Holiday, completed its run Nov. 24.

Mike Sultzbach, president of the board of the 12-year-old theater, points to declining audiences and revenue, downtown construction and an anticipated hike in the rent as the reasons for the closure, announced Wednesday.

“We knew this was coming when they started building the streetcar,” said Sultzbach in a phone interview. “And when we started renegotiating the lease in May, (the landlord) said unless we wanted to pay considerably more than we were paying, he would be looking for another tenant.”

The space, the one-time location of the late Johnny Gibson’s business, is still owned by the Gibson family. The increased activity in the downtown area means potentially higher revenue for building space.

“It’s sad because we’ll probably end up with more bars and restaurants down there,” said Sultzbach, adding that culture should be an important mix in a vibrant downtown.

Beowulf Alley staged its first play at the downtown theater in 2004, and was able to survive with the support of Ruth Baron, who continued to provide financial assistance.

The intent had always been to become self-sufficient, but the nonprofit never successfully dug into the fundraising side of running a theater.

“We always knew we couldn’t rely on audiences to carry it,” said Sultzbach. “We knew we had to do other things, and we didn’t do a good enough job.”

Audiences grew in the first few years, but after Stephen Elton, the founding artistic director, left Beowulf Alley in 2007, the company struggled with the artistic side and audiences began to dwindle.

Still, Beowulf had courage and determination, staging original and little- known works.

Though the board has looked at other theater space possibilities, Sultzbach isn’t sure it will rise again.

“I don’t know if we’ll continue,” he said. “We’re a small board and we are working hard.”

The theater’s equipment, props and furnishing will be auctioned Dec. 15, and subscribers will get refunds for the remainder of the season. Sultzbach said notices will be sent to all season ticket holders.

Contact reporter Kathleen Allen at kallen@azstarnet.com or 573-4128.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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