Shakespeare Theatre Company Sues Landlord

700 percent rent increase sticking point between company, theatre's board

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    "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers." -- from Shakespeare's Henry VI, Part 2.

    In a piece of civil strife that Shakespeare might have worked wonders with, the theatre company that bears his name has sued its landlord to block a 700 percent rent increase.

    The Washington Post reports that the Shakespeare Theatre Company is seeking an injunction that, in addition to blocking the proposed rent increase, would allow the troupe to remain in the Lansburgh Theatre, where it has resided since 1992. The lawsuit also asks that members of the Lansburgh Theatre's board be dismissed.

    Randall Miller, an attorney for the company, tells the Post that the current rent of $70,000 is paid into a trust that is used for maintenance and other capital improvements. Miller says that the board threatened to kick the company out of the theater after it rejected the board's proposed rent increase to $480,000. In addition, the suit alleges that the board demanded the resignation of the company's managing director, Chris Jennings.

    "The Lansburgh has to act in a way that is responsive to our needs,” Miller told the Post's Maura Judkis. “We are the charity that they are supporting, and they can’t terminate our status as a supported organization unless we go out of business. As long as we’re performing our charitable purpose, which is putting on great theater in D.C., we have a right to perpetually remain in our theater.”

    The company has existed under one name or another since 1970. In addition to the Lansburgh Theatre, it also manages and performs in Sidney Harman Hall. The two spaces are located blocks apart from each other in downtown D.C.

    The company will remain at the Lansburgh while the case is decided.