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Company Wants the Shows to Go On

Richard Klare, an Elden Street Players board member and executive producer, scans the limited space at the Industrial Strength Theatre.
Richard Klare, an Elden Street Players board member and executive producer, scans the limited space at the Industrial Strength Theatre. (By Tracy A. Woodward -- The Washington Post)

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By Michael J. Toscano
Special to the Washington Post
Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Elden Street Players are scrambling to hold on to their home -- the rented Industrial Strength Theatre -- which is for sale.

The cramped theater space, which actually is a warehouse at Herndon's Sunset Industrial Park, was recently put on the market by the park's owners. The Herndon Parks and Recreation Department had leased the space to the theater company for the past 18 years but has declined to purchase it, so the theater company is seeking a way to finance ownership.

"People who are active or friendly with us got together and created an LLC called FESP, for Friends of Elden Street Players, a for-profit corporation, to serve as a purchasing agent," explained Richard Klare, an Elden Street Players board member and executive producer. "FESP has signed a purchase agreement and identified investors . . . for a down payment. We're now working with a local bank . . . and expect to be able to purchase the theater in mid-February. FESP will then rent the Industrial Strength Theatre . . . at a level Elden Street Players can afford."

Klare said he could not discuss figures related to the sale or financing, but he said that the plan is to be able to hold on to the site for five to seven years, then sell it to pay back FESP's investors. By that time, the backers hope, Herndon will have built a proposed downtown arts center and theater. But even with financial backing, the troupe cannot afford to use space adjacent to the theater that serves as a workshop for constructing scenery and sets.

A spokeswoman for the city said the town expects to make space available downtown in the Hands Inc. building for the theater's set building shop.

Change also is evident at another theater space, the Fairfax County-run Alden Theatre at the McLean Community Center. The McLean Theatre Alliance has now decided to merge into the newly formed McLean Community Players, which is composed of the old McLean CAST troupe and the former Falls Church Players.

The merger arose as the result of new requirements by the Alden Theatre, including new ticket sale targets and a request for increased cast and crew participation by local residents. As a result, the McLean Theatre Alliance was dissolving its charter and going out of business. Some of the troupe's members worked to keep the operation going, but within a few months the troupe's board of directors voted to merge with the McLean Community Players.

"It means a larger pool of resources, whether it's financial or with personnel, material and expertise to draw on," said Jennifer Stroock, McLean Community Players' board secretary. "Having all three groups together just makes more sense, giving us a lot more to work with. Plus, with all the groups working as one, we will be producing four shows a year."

The first show by the former members of the McLean Theatre Alliance under the merger will be "Little Shop of Horrors," scheduled to open May 4.

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