Evanston plans to boot Next Theatre for non-payment of rent

Evanston's Next Theatre owes more than $76,000 in back rent for its space in the Noyes Cultural Arts Center. And its landlord, the north suburban City of Evanston, has had enough.

At a meeting on Monday, Evanston's aldermen will be asked to approve a plan to decline to renew the Next lease once it expires in May of next year and, more immediately, also to "authorize enforcement" of the collection of that debt.

"Unfortunately, Next Theatre has been unable to make its rent obligations for more than two years," wrote Joe McRae, Evanston's director of parks, recreation and community services, and Christina Ferraro, assistant director of community services, in a memo addressed to members of Evanston's Human Services Committee. "Despite city staff efforts to work with the tenant on repayment of the debt," they wrote, "a suitable repayment plan and payment of rent going forward cannot be achieved."

Next Theatre, which is an Equity theater company known for intense work, has been in residence at the Noyes Center for more than 30 years. Its financial problems have been well known.

"Next has been a unique cultural institution for more than three decades," said Rob Andalman, the chairman of the Next board of directors. "The slow rebound from the economic downturn over the past few years has taken its toll on the theater, particularly this past season when we had shows up during the most bitter cold spells. As it is has in the past when hard times have come, the theater looks to our patrons, audience members and community for the help that will be necessary to right the ship."

Andalman said that Next Theatre planned to continue with its 2014-15 season at Noyes, a season that, unless the debt can be clearly, looks like the company's last year in its longtime home.