With Support From the Tow Foundation, Soho Rep Gets a Safer Space for Its Dangerous Plays

Monday, February 5, 2018

With Support From the Tow Foundation, Soho Rep Gets a Safer Space for Its Dangerous Plays

On a recent afternoon at Soho Rep, a welder sent sparks arcing past a dressing room strewn with metal bars and twin vises holding lengths of steam pipe. Lumber and sprinkler system components packed the upstairs hallway; in the theater itself, a lighting team wearing cloth masks crowded around a table. It was good to be home.

In September of 2016, Soho Rep, a downtown company with audacious taste in plays, announced that it would immediately vacate its 73-seat theater at 46 Walker Street, which it had rented for 25 years. A round of lease negotiations had revealed building regulations at variance with the company’s use of the space, resulting in what Sarah Benson, Soho Rep’s artistic director since 2007, described as a moral obligation to leave.

Maybe a legal obligation, too. As Cynthia Flowers, Soho Rep’s executive director explained, “If something, God forbid, were to happen, there could potentially be huge ramifications.”

But after nearly a year and a half in exile, Soho Rep has returned to Walker Street, and is kicking off its 43rd season with a typically startling play, Aleshea Harris’s “Is God Is,” which begins previews Feb. 6. “It was inconceivable that we would ever find our way back into the space,” Ms. Benson said. But here they are.

Ms. Benson and Ms. Flowers were sitting in a bakery around the corner from the theater, drinking tea and nibbling vegan treats. (Power tools and particulate matter made an on-site conversation tough.) The weather was wintry and the pressure to complete renovations in time for the final rehearsals for “Is God Is,” must have been intense. But having survived a season away, the company leaders were very nearly giddy. “It’s a whopping relief,” Ms. Benson said...

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