Dressing room dispute spurs split for Ignite, Aurora Fox

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AURORA | Ignite Theatre, an Aurora-based stage production company, fell victim to the increasingly packed Aurora art space market earlier this summer after the company was forced to move or cancel three different productions slated for its 2016-17 season.

GU.IgniteFox.7.14.16Ignite announced in an email newsletter sent June 30 that the company has canceled its planned production of “The Mystery of Edwin Drood,” and moved its upcoming production of “Nevermore: The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allen Poe,” from its original location at the Aurora Fox Arts Center to Crossroads Theatre in Denver. The move will be the first time Ignite will host a production outside of The Fox since the company was founded in 2009, according to Will Adams, Ignite’s co-founder and executive producer.

“Since 2009 we’ve produced 29 shows at the Aurora Fox, so it’s quite a change for us,” Adams said.

A scheduling snafu has also cast into question Ignite’s planned production of “Venice,” tentatively slated to take a stage somewhere in the metro area next February. Producers were told that the upcoming production, originally slated to take place on The Fox Mainstage, could not go on due to an accidental double booking with another production by Phamaly Theater Company. Ignite is currently looking for another theater to host that late-winter production, according to Adams.

The reason for the shakeups to “Edwin Drood” and “Nevermore” stem from a facilities dilemma at Ignite’s unofficial home, The Aurora Fox. The Fox recently decided not to host simultaneous shows in its two adjacent theaters due to compliance issues with a makeshift dressing room in the smaller Studio Theatre.

The Fox is currently working on solving the dressing room conundrum, though the eventual fix could require a significant investment of both time and money, according to Charlie Packard, executive producer at the East Colfax theater.

“We got to a point, where, to bring do-it-yourself construction up to code would result in pretty exorbitant costs,” Packard said. “Now we’re in the whole world of capital improvements and it’s one that The Fox’s budget can’t afford, nor have we found a less expensive solution.”

That policy change cost Ignite its use of the Studio Theatre for “Nevermore,” while “Edwin Drood” was canceled altogether in an effort to save funds and manpower for a spring production of “The Wiz,” according to Adams.

“We think ’The Wiz’ will be more financially successful for us,” Adams said. “In January, we actually have a better set of dates and more flexibility to add additional dates based on ticket sales, but the challenge that presents is that we don’t have a production going on now to bring in income — a significant amount of income.”

The scheduling kerfuffles have created an air of uncertainty for Adams and Ignite, which is heavily dependent on Scientific and Cultural Facilities District funds dispersed by Arapahoe County. Adams said that if the company were to begin hosting numerous productions in other areas, Ignite could be in jeopardy of losing that money.

“We’re kind of anxiously awaiting notification from Arapahoe County and what their funding proposal is going to be for the 2017 season,” he said. “We’re  certainly a bit nervous because a significant chunk of our funding does come from Arapahoe County.”

Those funds are crucial for a company like Ignite, which regularly puts on popular musicals with large licensing fees including “La Cage Aux Folles” and “Rent.” The licensing for “The Wiz” will cost the company about $12,000, according to Adams.

Adams added that the recent scheduling revisions have thrust Ignite into a strange light in the Aurora Cultural Arts District. The local company was recently awarded a Northwest Aurora Arts Grant, and named an official ACAD stakeholder, though the company remains a partially orphaned entity.

“The grant is a great opportunity, but at the same time it’s a little bit awkward for us because we’re not as present physically in the district as we were when we were approved,” Adams said.

Ignite is actively looking for additional spaces to host productions in the ACAD, including possible spaces above nearby Afrikmall, but creative real estate is scarce, according to Adams.

Packard agreed.

“My perception is that the demand for performance spaces in the ACAD region is higher than the supply,” he said. “And with The Fox Studio becoming much less available, that imbalance is just exacerbated.”