Negotiations to allow The Stage Company to operate at the Varsit - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Negotiations to allow The Stage Company to operate at the Varsity

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CARBONDALE, Ill. -- For more than a decade, the Varsity Center for the Arts and The Stage Company have worked hand-in-hand in Carbondale. But negotiations are underway that could determine the future of one of the longest-running theater groups in the area.

For several years the two entities have been trying to reach an agreement to allow The Stage Company to continue to call the Varsity Theater home. But twice now, the negotiations have been canceled by the VCA board and the Stage Company has been told it can't schedule any further shows until an agreement is reached. 

In 2009, The Stage Company passed the title of the Varsity Theater over to the Varsity Center for the Arts. Since then, the two have operated under an agreement to use the space, but now that agreement is no longer working for both organizations. 

"Ten years have gone by and as everybody knows the economy in the state of Illinois, the economy in Carbondale, has changed dramatically and particularly for the arts," said Susan Harrocks.

Susan Harrocks, The Stage Company President, explained the theater group worked tirelessly to renovate the building after it had fallen into disrepair. 

Billy Robbins, the President of the Varsity Board, says they recognize the work put in by The Stage Company, but says it's getting harder each year to support the Varsity.

"What we do know is that The Stage Company season that we are in right now is secure and we are looking at what we are going to do together in the coming season," said Robbins. 

Robbins and Harrocks say they want to continue working together so the board has agreed to let The Stage Company finish out the season, which ends next summer. But shows beyond that, are not being scheduled. 

On Monday night, a meeting was called to discuss how to move forward and negotiations began for a third time. 

"This place is our home and its been our home for 10 years and we want it to continue to be our home," said Harrocks. 

"We are looking for the win-win. We are always looking for the win-win for both because it is a win for our community," said Robbins. 

It's unclear the exact deal that the two are negotiating but Harrocks says more financial support from The Stage Company is part of it. Both say negotiations will continue but it's unclear when the agreement will be up for a vote.

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