Boulder's Nomad Theatre, a converted World War II Quonset hut, has a long history. In 1951, the owner of the land on which the building stands deeded it to the Nomad Players -- so called because their first-ever production took place in a tent furnished with chairs from a local funeral parlor. In 1995, the theater was closed and the building remodeled for a 1998 champagne opening.
Now Nomad is without an artistic director. Don Berlin, who filled the position for three years, left last summer. A new director was named but remained in place for only five weeks. The board is down to three members -- and pretty much out of ideas. It's possible that David Lindsay-Abaire's Kimberly Akimbo, which opens Friday, April 29, will help save Nomad. Or it may be the last thing staged there.
If anything can bring audiences flocking to the 152-seat theater, you'd think this play about a sixteen-year-old girl suffering from an illness that ages her body at preternatural speed would do the trick. Lindsay-Abaire is the author of such hilarious works as Fuddy Meers and Wonder of the World; East Coast reviewers hailed Kimberly Akimbo as loony, touching and quirky, as well as a cockeyed, sideways celebration of life.
But audiences have been Nomad's primary problem, according to boardmember and tech director Brian Miller. "We're struggling," he says. "We're using up the last of the cash we have in our checkbook." The organization is $150,000 in debt, and it costs $1,000 a week to keep the place operating. Nomad's application to the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District last year was turned down; the company hopes to apply again. Periodically, it has received small grants from the Boulder Arts Commission.
It's unclear whether Nomad's primary problem is poor management, the tough climate for nonprofits or the fact that fewer people are going to the theater these days. In the past few years, Nomad seasons have been uneven, featuring both first-rate productions like Billie McBride's The Fourth Wall and Terry Dodd's Wit, and offerings that feel uncomfortably like vanity projects. Still, this Boulder treasure shouldn't be allowed to go dark.