Producing artistic director said offer is ‘not in our favor’ but a good sign

Last updated: March 13. 2014 11:42PM - 2912 Views
By Jon O’Connell joconnell@civitasmedia.com



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Following receipt of stacks of letters handwritten by the young actors of KISS Theatre Co., Wyoming Valley Mall has offered the stage company another location.


Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust (PREIT), a Philadelphia firm that owns the mall, gave notice one week ago that Kids Innovating Sound & Stage (KISS) Theatre Co., located in the mall’s former Great Escape cinema, has 90 days to vacate.


In a letter posted to the mall’s website, PREIT told the concerned families the theater had been given another option.


The offered space is in another building in the mall complex, one that needs retrofitting to meet the theater’s needs, Producing Artistic Director Christa Manning said.


“Their offer that came in was not in our favor,” Manning said. “There’s no way in 90 days we could ever have a place ready and the funds to do it.”


Manning also said the monthly rent would go up significantly, per PREIT’s offer.


KISS leaders believe the theater, now filled with rehearsal areas, a vast props department, a costume room and a sound stage, is to be converted to a restaurant, though mall officials have not confirmed this to The Times Leader.


PREIT officials did not return calls for comment Thursday, but in their letter said they hope to find a solution beneficial to both KISS and the mall.


“While we can’t speak to the specifics, we can tell you that we’re proud to have supported KISS for the past five years, and are grateful for your patience over the last few days while we worked to find another option that allows us to remain a strong community centerpiece, as we have always been,” the letter said.


Manning said the letter and offer are a good sign they may be able to reach an agreement with PREIT.


“At this point we’re optimistic that (PREIT is) talking. It’s more than where we were last Thursday,” Manning said. “We’re grateful and we’re optimistic that they’re at least listening and giving us an ear. We’ll see where it goes.”


The theater board has been looking for another space, and toured one property this week. But cost is still a concern, Manning said.


“Don’t get me wrong. We’ll make any place our home. I just can’t do it in 83 days,” she said.


Arc awards KISS


One day before news broke that KISS was to be dismissed, the Arc of Luzerne County, an organization that works to improve the quality of life for folks with intellectual and developmental disabilities, had just chosen KISS to receive its Improving Lives Award.


KISS is a non-profit theater company for children actors up to age 18. It was chosen to receive the award for integrating children, some of them with disabilities like Down syndrome and Asperger syndrome, into the rest of the cast.


Arc Executive Director Pamela Zotynia said they chose KISS before news broke that the theater is to be dismissed. “We selected them and the next day, we saw it on the news,” she said.


KISS was nominated by a family whose daughter with Down syndrome acts in KISS productions.


“We really thought she would just be background, but she wasn’t,” Zotynia said the family wrote. “She was absolutely part of the cast.”


The Arc is to present the award, as well as awards to other businesses and organizations, at an awards banquet March 20 in Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs.


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