Cap City Shut Down

Two weeks before it was to leave its longtime home on Fourth Street, six days before the final performance of its last production in that space, Capitol City Playhouse was closed by the Internal Revenue Service. Upon arriving at the theatre on the morning of December 2, Playhouse Artistic Director Richard Brown discovered that IRS agents had padlocked the building, preventing him or anyone else associated with Cap City from entering the building. The seizure was related to the theatre's failure to pay payroll taxes from the first quarter of 1996. According to Stuart Bradford, the IRS' Communications Manager for South Texas, Cap City owed $16,628.70 in employers' withholding taxes from the period, and, as payment had not been made by the end of the third quarter, a federal tax lien for that amount was filed on October 2. Brown acknowledges the debt but says the theatre had been in negotiations with the agency and was making payments. He expressed surprise at the seizure.

The shutdown caps an extremely painful autumn for the Playhouse. It began in August when Cap City's financial woes prompted the layoff or forced leave of most of the theatre staff. Then, in September, founder and producing director Michel Jaroschy was told by the landlord that the theatre would have to leave its home space of 14 years to make way for a bar. Only a month later, Jaroschy died suddenly of a massive coronary. And a month after that, the man who had presided over Jaroschy's memorial service, veteran Cap City volunteer Ken Murphy, also died. Plus, a major fundraiser intended to be held at the Austin Music Hall fell through at the last minute.

Despite the tragedies, Cap City persevered. A proposed final show for the Fourth Street space, The Glass Menagerie, proceeded on schedule. Brown assumed the role of artistic director, and the board, led by President Tom Kennedy, pursued the search for a new space. According to Brown, the perseverance was paying off. The Glass Menagerie was doing the best business of any Cap City effort this year, and a fundraiser on November 25 brought in $3,000. But apparently all that wasn't enough to suit the feds. The closure affects not only Cap City's production of Menagerie but also the Gala Gilbert & Sullivan All-Star Revue, an annual party and fundraiser by the Austin Gilbert & Sullivan Society, which was scheduled for Sunday, December 8. At press time, the society's executive director, Robert Mellin, was pursuing an arrangement with the IRS that would allow the group to hold the event in the space as planned, but he had received no commitment. In the event that the society will not be able to use Cap City, Mellin says that the gala will be held elsewhere. For more info, call 499-TIXS or 472-4772.

This is a sad way for this historic venue to close. Whether or not Cap City survives in some form, it's a shame that the Cap City of the past 14 years didn't receive a send-off fitting its value to this community.

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