Annapolis Dinner Theater goes dark -- again

September 08, 1994|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,Sun Staff Writer

The lights have gone out at the Annapolis Dinner Theater for the second time in two years.

Annapolis Entertains Inc., the latest management company to run the theater and comedy club, has left and its owner plans to file for reorganization in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

.` Meanwhile, Ronald Denz, one of

the building's owners, said he hopes to decide before Oct. 1 whether to lease the space to a new theater manager or give up on show business and look for another kind of commercial tenant.

Two civilians from the U.S. Naval Academy opened the theater in the John Hanson Business Center in July 1989. They closed it in June 1992, when they filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Mr. Denz and his partner, Robert Hewitt, took over and reopened the theater in January 1993. Six months later, they hired Annapolis Entertains Inc. to manage the dinner theater, comedy club and children's theater.

Mary Fedorchak, president and owner of Annapolis Entertains, said the financial troubles started almost immediately. She said she was forced to feed hundreds of people for free when she had to honor tickets sold by the previous managers.

"The theater was basically a money pit," she said.

The financial crisis intensified during the summer when attendance declined. An outdoor concert to raise money never materialized.

At the theater, fireworks were flying behind the scenes of the performances of "1776," the musical about American Independence Day.

Paychecks to actors bounced, while stagehands weren't being paid at all, said Roland Chambers, the theater director.

On Aug. 4, Mr. Chambers summoned the cast to call for a boycott of the show. The next day, Ms. Fedorchak met with the actors and staff and promised they would be paid.

Mr. Chambers said that when he showed up for an Aug. 12 hTC performance, some of his staff still had not received their money. He left in a rage minutes before the show was to begin, taking with him the tape of the show's music.

The show did not go on. Nearly 300 theatergoers were left sitting in a sweltering theater. They later lined up to demand their money back.

The next day, Mr. Chambers returned the tape and "1776" finished its run, closing on Aug. 20.

"I hate to think Annapolis theatergoers think I'm an evil man," Mr. Chambers said. "But I stood up for what I believe in."

Ms. Fedorchak said she is still sorting through boxes of receipts and invoices, trying to figure out whom she owes. She wants to open a comedy club on West Street in Annapolis this fall.

Mr. Denz said he had hoped to reopen the comedy club this weekend, but after inspecting the space with a prospective management company, they concluded that the building on Revell Highway needed repairs and cleaning before any performances could be held.

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