The Washington Post

Shakespeare Theatre Company files lawsuit against landlord

Students arrive at the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Lansburgh Theatre for a student matinee. (Nicole Geldart/Shakespeare Theatre Company)

The Shakespeare Theatre Company has filed a lawsuit against its landlord, a nonprofit organization created in support of the theater, to prevent it from raising the Lansburgh Theatre’s rent by 700 percent, according to court documents. The theater is seeking an injunction to prevent its rent from being raised, as well as a ruling that will allow it to remain in the building. The lawsuit also requests that members of the nonprofit landlord’s board be dismissed.

The Lansburgh Theatre, a supporting organization for the Shakespeare Theatre, was created to manage the theater’s building. Court documents state that the building that houses the Lansburgh, which also contains apartments and retail businesses, is owned by Gunwyn/Lansburgh Development Corp. Gunwyn donated the theater space to the Lansburgh nonprofit organization for the theater, which moved into the space in 1992.

The theater pays $70,000 a year to a trust, with the funds used for building maintenance and capital improvements, according to Randall Miller, an attorney with Arnold & Porter, who is representing the Shakespeare Theatre. The theater says that when it rejected the Lansburgh board’s rent increase, to $480,000, the Lansburgh board threatened to kick the company out by June 15.

“The Lansburgh has to act in a way that is responsive to our needs,” Miller said. “We are the charity that they are supporting, and they can’t terminate our status as a supported organization unless we go out of business.”

The suit also alleges that the board demanded the resignation of Chris Jennings, the Shakespeare Theatre’s managing director and the theater’s sole representative on the board. Shakespeare Theatre publicist Lindsay Tolar said because the board has only three members — Jennings, Kenneth Krozy and Gordon Shone — Jennings was consistently outvoted.

Krozy declined to comment. Shone and Laura Steinberg of Sullivan and Worcester, the Lansburgh’s legal representative, did not return messages from The Washhington Post seeking comment.

During the legal proceedings, the Shakespeare Theatre will be allowed to remain in its home, where it has scheduled programming for the next two years.

The theater has been in its current location at the Lansburgh since 1992, having expanded at the Sidney Harman Hall in 2007. The Shakespeare Theatre owns Harman Hall.

Asked whether the theater, which recently won a regional Tony Award , will have to find a new building if the suit does not succeed, Tolar said, “We’re not even seeing that as an option right now.”



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