Curtain falls on Towson stage

Dinner theater: When F. Scott Black's closes after 20-year run, new operator needed to fill void.

April 17, 2001

FOR TWO decades, F. Scott Black's dinner theater has been a Towson institution. That's why its planned closing in June is cause for sadness.

There is good news, though. Another operator seems interested in the venue on the ground floor of a county-operated parking garage next to the Towson Library.

"We've talked about it. We see it as a viable space," says Nicholas A. Litrenta, president of Performing Arts Productions, a company that has been booking Broadway and gospel shows for Baltimore's Lyric Theater since 1992.

The 250-seat Towson theater is no Lyric. But Mr. Litrenta's organization is familiar with it. It rented the space this winter for "Late Night Catechism," a one-woman production that was so hugely successful its run had to be extended three times.

That would be the type of show he would look for, if he decides to lease the space, Mr. Litrenta said. "I'm not in the dinner theater business," he added.

Dinner theaters were a growth trend in the nation's suburbs in the early 1980s, when F. Scott Black started his on York Road in the heart of Towson. The proprietor, who had also founded the Cockpit in Court summer theater at the community college in Essex, moved the dinner theater to the parking garage six years ago.

It seemed to be doing well there. But over the past year, the theater started foundering.

The standard $34 ticket price encountered resistance -- even though that included dinner as well as the show.

Audiences, too, were changing and no longer content with such old standbys as "South Pacific" and "Oklahoma." Instead, they wanted more modern stuff -- "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" or "Les Miserables."

Since many Baltimore-area dinner theaters report doing well, the demise of F. Scott Black's is not a gauge of the industry's health. But audiences and Towson's nightlife will be the losers -- unless another operator fills the void.

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