Shadow Theatre Company accused by landlord of "looting" $20,000 worth of equipment

One thing you can say about the Shadow Theatre Company: They sure know how to create the drama. After failing to pay rent for most of 2010, the bankrupt troupe was evicted from their Aurora space last month. Now, their former landlord has filed a report with Aurora police that accuses Shadow Theatre's board of "looting" the building of equipment worth $20,000 as they ran out the door.

Aurora Police spokesman Robert Friel says that a detective is currently investigating the theft report filed by the building's owner, Michael Rasser of Cornerstone Equity.

In 2008, the investment company helped Shadow founder Jeffrey Nickelson renovate and open the facility at1468 Dayton Street with some $250,000 in urban-renewal loans facilitated by the City of Aurora. But after Nickelson's resignation and subsequent death in 2009, the troupe began having difficulty making its $7,500 monthly rent payments. Things got so bad that Cornerstone offered to forgive the roughly $200,000 in outstanding debt on the building as long as Shadow vacated the premises and left behind "any equipment necessary to operate the space as a theater," Rasser told Westword in January.

When a deadline on that deal came and went, Cornerstone began formal eviction proceedings and eventually the building was locked up. Shadow filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on February 3rd and later announced it was moving its productions to the Denver Civic Theater. Meanwhile, Cornerstone arranged for the recently-formed Afterthought Theatre Company to move into the old space, now dubbed the Dayton Street Theatre.

But Afterthought will apparently have to delay a scheduled performance because the building is missing key equipment. In a March 2 statement, Rasser said that that Shadow removed a "laundry list" of items the building before they left, including computers, 89 chairs and other goods. Click here to read Rasser's full statement.

Rasser also claims that the ousted performers tried to break into the building after it had been sealed:

"On two occasions since (the eviction), Shadow board members have attempted to re-enter the facility once with locksmiths who were caught re-keying the doors. Shadow board members have admitted to being in possession of these items but they are unwilling to return them."

In a response to the Aurora Sentinel, Shadow officials maintain they had a right to remove the property:

"We have not taken anything from there that was not ours," said Herman Malone, the president of the theater's board of directors. "Those chairs have been with Shadow since its inception ... They don't have any right to anyone else's property. They're the landlords. When you leave your house, you take your furniture. You take everything that belongs to you."

The legal distinction at issue here is whether the migrating thespians removed personal property or the kinds of fixtures and equipment that are necessary to operate the performance space.

If it's the latter, the Shadow may have some explaining to do to the police.

More from our Theater archive: "Curious Theatre's new grant could be a boon for local actors."

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Jared Jacang Maher