Rogue Performance Venue: Paradise lost

James Cotton thought he'd found an ideal spot for his new theatre, but he may be forced to leave over conflicts with a neighboring rehearsal studio for bands

At this point, Rogue Performance Venue was supposed to be in the sixth and final week of its run of The Creation of the World and Other Business, a play by Arthur Miller. But the new theatre company's second-ever production barely got open before Artistic Director James Cotton called the show on account of noise. Midway through the first act on opening night, musicians started rehearsing in the not-quite-soundproofed rooms of neighboring Black Rose Rehearsal, and their sound drowned out the dialogue onstage. When the musicians rebuffed a request to delay their rehearsal until the play ended, the performance was canceled. And when it seemed likely the show would face similar sound issues in subsequent performances, the run was abandoned.

The natural consequence of putting a theatre next door to a rehearsal studio for bands? Maybe, but in this case, Cotton thought he'd taken care of the issue. After encountering the sound conflict in Rogue's first show, Bars, Bedrooms, Bukowski, he met with representatives of Black Rose Studios and Dimension Properties (landlord for both businesses in a complex south of Penn Field) to work out some kind of living arrangement. He says a deal was struck: He'd have to tolerate band noise whenever Rogue wasn't having a public performance or workshop, in exchange for which bands would refrain from practicing during Rogue shows and workshops. Although the sound bleed made play rehearsals "a disaster," according to one participant, Rogue plugged on, confident that at least the performances would be quiet. But the bands played on.

Cotton claims that neither the studio nor the property manager offered to enforce the agreement after that, even though Black Rose's lease prohibits excessive noise that disturbs neighbors. (Dimension Properties had not responded to requests for comment by press time.) But Rogue also appears not to have been in compliance with all the city's requirements for operating a theatre and was busted by the fire marshal when a band anonymously called in a complaint. So Cotton canceled not only his second show but the remainder of Rogue's debut season and will likely move on. But the director, who just moved here from California this past summer, swears this experience hasn't soured him on Austin. "There are too many talented and supportive and generous artists that give Austin its true character," he says.

"They are why I love this city."

See also "TCB."

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Rogue Performance Venue, James Cotton, Black Rose Rehearsal, Dimension Properties

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