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Civic Theatre considering move to Carmel

September 11, 2009

Indianapolis Civic Theatre, one of the city’s oldest and largest cultural organizations, is considering a move to Carmel’s new performing arts center.

Civic informed its current host, Marian University, yesterday of pending negotiations with the Carmel Performing Arts Foundation. The north suburb is building a concert hall and 500-seat theater, both of which are expected to be complete in late 2010.

Civic and the Carmel foundation entered a 60-day negotiation period, and a decision will be made at the end of the two months, Civic Artistic Director Bob Sorbera said. “We don’t have any agreement with them at all. It’s really, really premature.”

University officials, however, believe those talks will be successful. “It’s a very, very, very good deal, and certainly not one Marian University’s in a position to counter at this point,” university spokeswoman Andrea Fagan said.

Steven Libman, executive director of the Carmel Performing Arts Foundation, was not available for comment before IBJ’s deadline this morning.

Civic’s potential move answers a question that’s been on the lips of local arts supporters since Carmel announced its plan to build the $80 million facility: What will the suburb take from the city?

With Civic, Carmel would get a theater group with a $1.5 million budget and more than $524,000 in annual ticket sales.

Civic’s audience is widely dispersed around the Indianapolis metro area, Sorbera said. That’s one of many factors the board of directors will have to weigh in a decision to move to Carmel. “We have so many things to consider.”
 
Indianapolis Civic Theatre began in 1915, and has been on the northwest side of the city since the 1970s. In 2004, Civic left Showalter Pavilion at the Indianapolis Museum of Art for Marian College.

Civic’s leaders had hoped to build a brand-new theater on Marian’s campus, but that plan never materialized. Instead, Civic made $2 million in improvements to the 400-seat theater in Marian Hall.

Sorbera said the $2 million investment covers Civic’s lease expense through 2012.

“It has served us well as an interim theater,” Sorbera said.

Civic uses a combination of amateur actors, technicians and professionals. It has 14 full-time and three part-time employees.

The theater’s presence has been good for Marian students, Fagan said. The university even created a minor degree program in technical theater.

Fagan said the university will likely book Marian Hall with its own programming and student productions. Despite gaining some performance space, university officials are apparently dismayed.

“If this does happen, it’s a really sad thing for Indianapolis,” Fagan said.

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