Comedy theater losing Carrboro home

Feb. 27, 2014 @ 06:51 PM

DSI Comedy Theater needs a new space for its performances and classes in improv, stand-up and sketch comedy after May 15, the date its lease expires in Carr Mill Mall in Carrboro.

The news that Carr Mill Mall wouldn’t renew the lease “came as a shock to Executive Producer Zach Ward and the DSI community of performers,” stated a release from the company. DSI has presented classes and guest artists in the space at the loading dock area since 2005.

Officials at Carr Mill Mall said the news shouldn’t have been a surprise. The company has known about the lease expiration since January, said Nathan Milian of N.R. Milian & Associates, leasing agents for Carr Mill. The company’s lease officially expires March 31, but the mall extended the lease until May 15, Milian said.

He praised DSI as a good tenant.

“They took a really tough place and did a great job,” Milian said. “The space doesn’t work for them anymore and we need the space for someone else.”

For several years, DSI has needed more space for classes, and the mall has been allowing the theater to use empty space for classes for free, Milian said. Now, however, everything has been leased and no empty space remains, Milian said.

Venable Rotisserie Bistro will expand into the 1,300-square-foot space, between Elmo’s Diner and the rail line, Milian said. The bistro will add a bar and banquet facility.

Staff members with DSI were not available for further comment Thursday.

Representatives of local business and cultural organizations expressed support for DSI. The Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce already is stepping in to help DSI find a new space, said Aaron Nelson, the organization’s president and CEO.

“We are actively partnering with them to help them secure new space,” Nelson said. “We have some really good options.”

He praised the theater as a strong local business that draws people into the community.

“I have confidence we will find a place for this important business to continue to grow,” Nelson said.

Carrboro town officials also are in the loop.

“Our town staff has been assisting with the search, as we want to try to keep DSI in the Carrboro community if it all possible,” stated Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle in an email.

ArtsCenter Executive Director Art Menius, who has worked with DSI on its annual N.C. Comedy Arts Festival, said he would contact Zach Ward, DSI executive producer.

“I will certainly reach out to DSI because they are our neighbors and friends,” Menius said. The comedy organization is “a tremendous asset to our creative economy.”

DSI will present a comedy marathon during its final weeks in Carr Mill Mall. From May 1-11, the theater plans 30 shows with current company members, DSI alumni and special guests.

The theater recently completed the 2014 edition of the N.C. Comedy Arts Festival, which brings improv, stand-up and sketch artists to venues throughout Durham, Chapel Hill and Carrboro. The organization also operates a comedy school, and DSI Communication, which teaches leadership skills and team building.

Ward, a Chapel Hill native, studied improv in Chicago, then returned to the area to start DSI.

“DSI has always been dedicated to bringing comedy in all of its forms to the community and, with the support and help of that community, our patrons, performers and comedy fans, we will continue to do so,” Ward stated in the press release.