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Blackfriars evicted, Gaslamp troubled

Blackfriars Theater has gone from the clouds to the streets.

Just days after proudly announcing that it finished 1992 debt-free, the little company has been evicted from its home in the downtown Bristol Court Hotel.

The Bristol Court was recently purchased in a bankruptcy sale, and its new landlord, businessman Steven Liu, decided not to honor the previous owners’ agreement to give Blackfriars the space until June.

Blackfriars seated about 80 in a corner section of the hotel dubbed the Bristol Court Playhouse. The company boasted that its Equity contract made it the smallest professional theater on the West Coast.

Artistic director Ralph Elias vowed to keep producing, although facing the major problem that no suitable space is even available on such short notice.

Its last production was a critical and financial hit, Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest.” That show–along with the black-ink bottom line, some recent grants and an invitation to perform in San Diego’s sister city, Vladivostok, Russia–had given Blackfriars a rosy outlook. Now the company has to race for space.

Another company in town, the Gaslamp Quarter Theater, has abandoned its planned schedule of productions in hopes of trimming a deficit of about $ 750, 000. Instead, the company will present packaged and less-expensive shows to fill its subscription lineup.

Next, in late February, will be the preem of a New Age rock musical, John Maxwell Taylor’s “Faustorama.” In April, Kathy Fitzgerald will do the show Jane Wagner wrote for Lily Tomlin, “The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe.”

And in May, Will Roberson, director of the Gaslamp’s currently extended hit “Lips Together, Teeth Apart,” will stage the off-Broadway winner “Ruthless.” All will be in the Gaslamp’s 250-seat home, the Hahn Cosmopolitan Theater.

Managing director Mark Loigman said Gaslamp also will aggressively pursue rentals and short-term bookings.

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