After three years serving the Colorado Springs theater scene, Black Box Theatre will close May 31, to be replaced by the Grin Reaper Comedy Club and Theater. Black Box owner Nancy Holaday cites both financial difficulties and personal considerations in her decision to close the west-side theater, located at 1367 Pecan St.
"We are just not making ends meet," she says. Holaday made the decision to close in January, after a bid for 501(c)(3) status was delayed for financial reasons.
Indeed, the venue has been vexed by money troubles from the beginning, when Holaday's business partner abandoned the endeavor three days before they were due to sign the lease.
"I'm a good director, and I know what I want to do directorially ... I get a lot of positive feedback," she says. "The business side of things, the numbers and the advertising and that sort of thing, that's my weak link. ... Trying to do all of those things at once and get enough shows on the stage to pay the rent has been a challenge."
Holaday says she has had difficulty supporting her family. Even spending time with her family has been challenging between running the theater and her theater teaching job at the University School of Colorado Springs, a private Christian K-through-12 school.
But the building won't go quiet for very long — or, indeed, at all. Local comedian Chris Fonseca will be hosting opening night for the Grin Reaper on June 1. Fonseca has already lined up cigar-chomping comedian Bob Zany, known in part for "The Zany Report" on the nationally syndicated radio program The Bob and Tom Show. Fonseca says that Zany will be the first of many nationally touring talents he plans on bringing to his club.
Of course, there is the matter of the location. The building, a 34-year-old warehouse, is surrounded by car repair shops, with limited parking and no visibility from nearby 21st Street. Holaday recalls first-time visitors noting how they never would have known there was a theater there (although the well-known Millibo Art Theatre previously operated in the same location). Fonseca acknowledges the difficulties he'll face, but he has plans.
"If you bring in great acts, people are going to find you," says Fonseca. He plans on seeking as much publicity as possible, saying his connections in both comedy and Colorado Springs should be enough to get the location on the public's radar. He acknowledges that the Springs is not Denver and it won't be possible to get big-name acts every week, but he plans to curate and elevate local comedians. Black Box's vast backstage area is nearly the size of the theater itself, and Fonseca plans to use some of the space for workshops.
One of Holaday's concerns in giving up her theater has to do with access. She has rented the stage on the cheap to small, local performing groups who lack their own spaces, such as Improv Colorado. Fonseca plans on keeping the stage open to rentals, noting specifically that Improv Colorado will be welcome to continue performing monthly.
"If it's not broken, don't fix it," he says.
Though Holaday is leaving both Black Box and her teaching job behind, she's not done with the stage. She spoke about joining First United Methodist Church's First Company drama group, though discussion as to the nature of her involvement is still preliminary.