It's been a rough couple of years for the Shadow Theatre Company. Not long after moving into what it calls a "state-of-the-art" space three years ago, founder Jeffrey Nickelson took ill; he died in early 2009. After that, it seems -- from an operational standpoint, anyway -- things got rough for Shadow, one of Denver's only black theater companies. Now, after what Cornerstone Equity partner Michael Rasser estimates has been a year and a half of problems with rent payment, Cornerstone, the investment group that owns the Shadow space at 1468 Dayton Street in Aurora, is moving forward on evicting the company from that space.
According to Rasser, Cornerstone has been working with Shadow to resolve problems with making its $7,500 rent payment since 2009. "You know," said Rasser, "they've complained about, 'Well, the rent's too high,' but we've really tried to work with them on that. It's been like, "Let's pick some ridiculously low number, and then run with that until you get on your feet.' Well even that didn't happen. If you look at what they paid in rent since these problems have been going on -- really, it's a fraction of what it would take to be able to sustain a building like that. We tried some dramatically reduced rents, we gave them free months, we gave them dramatically reduced months, but there's a point when you just have to cut your losses, and all indications were that things were getting worse and not better.
"We realized there was going to be some loss of ground with Jeffrey's death, but we can't be the dominant funding force," Rasser concluded. He also said that the theater company has not paid any rent in some months.
In a meeting last week, Cornerstone offered Shadow a deal: Vacate the premises by January 5 and leave any equipment necessary to operate the space as a theater (they could take any personal belongings home), and Cornerstone would forgive the debt. "Our hope has always been that we could just amicably part ways," says Rasser. "We're not in any way trying to get all the debt repaid. We're just trying to get the facility back intact."
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Shadow had until 5 o'clock Friday to decide whether or not they would accept that agreement, and when they couldn't come to a decision by then, the deadline was extended to 5 o'clock yesterday.
"Well after the 5 o'clock deadline last night, Shadow sent us an e-mail saying that they were not going to be able to make a decision on the agreement, it would take them an undetermined amount of time to make a decision, if they could make a decision," Rasser said this morning. "So we read into that -- you know, are they working on it? Is this some weird stall tactic? We don't know. Out of frustration, we're going ahead with the eviction as of today.
"If we somehow reach agreement within the next few days," he continued, "that's great. It's better than going through with the eviction process, but as of late last night, we've pulled the trigger on going ahead with the eviction."
Several Shadow members we contacted declined to comment or did not respond to requests for comment on this story. In the meantime, Shadow continues the run of its current production, An Evening With Nina, at the Aurora Fox, 9900 East Colfax Avenue.