Space update: A note from Artistic/Executive Director Mark Chalfant
For the past several years, finding a permanent home for WIT has been a major organizational priority. It’s something we’ve wanted to better serve our community, and we are truly appreciative of the generosity of donors like you who have joined us in supporting this vision.
With our community at our back, we created a business plan, toured numerous spaces, entered multiple project bids, created space layouts, and had countless conversations with people who could help us with advice or resources.
In 2019, WIT’s selection as the arts tenant to occupy the space in the Waterfront Phase 2 project in Southwest was the culmination of that work. It was a day that was a long time coming, and I am thankful for our community in helping us achieve this milestone.
Unfortunately, just weeks after this agreement was made, the pandemic changed everything.
While the support of this community has been steadfast over the course of the last year and a half, COVID closures have taken a deep toll on our earned revenue stream. We’re still recovering and rebuilding our student community and audience; and there’s a long way to go before we reach our previous enrollment and show attendance levels. Many WIT performers also moved away during the pandemic and our performance programming is just now getting back on its feet.
WIT recently agreed with the developer that we will no longer be moving forward on the Waterfront space. I want to assure you that this decision has not come lightly. After a long reflection period and consultation with our board of directors, we know that it’s the responsible and healthiest decision for the organization, and ultimately, for this community at large.
We realize this may be a disappointment. But despite what may feel like a setback, I am excited for WIT’s future, and I hope you will continue to share in WIT’s vision as we make this pivot.
What do WIT’s future space plans look like? For now, we will continue to program at Source, DC Arts Center, and other venues across the city as we figure out the next steps for our space strategy. One benefit of this outcome is that we remain free to present programming all over the city – that’s a freedom we look forward to enjoying as the DC area moves into the next phase of recovery from the pandemic. When our programming and revenue streams have restabilized, we will return to the question of what kind of space strategy best serves the theater we are growing into.
At the same time, the global racial reckoning spurred by the Black Lives Matter movement has made it a top priority for WIT to focus energies internally, to become an antiracist organization that truly welcomes and celebrates all. This work requires time and focus, and we want to plant roots when we have fully become the theater we want to be. We recognize the need to focus everyone – staff, board, teachers, performers, directors and coaches – on this important work of actively living the values we believe in, to create a WIT community that accepts and welcomes everyone.
As we weather the pandemic, we already have so much we’re excited about—we have survived the storm. And with your continued support, we will continue to move toward reopening more fully for classes and performance. I am grateful for the incredible support of this community, and together, I know we’re on the way to becoming a new theater that is more focused and intentional than ever before. From our upcoming shows like Your Town to our hugely successful community partnerships, we look forward to getting back to full force with you.
It may look a little different than we envisioned in 2019, but as we say in improv, there are no mistakes, only opportunities.