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Evening star. [volume] (Washington, D.C.) 1854-1972, August 04, 1949, Image 8

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Persistent link: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045462/1949-08-04/ed-1/seq-8/

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VALLEY FORCE MSTKOUTtNG ML
VishiRgtM 3,1.C.
Action Held Unlikely
This Session on Bills
To Re-open Belasco
By Chris Mathison
Action at this session of Con
gress to further the proposed re
opening of the Belasco Theater
for stage presentation under Gov
ernment lease has become no more
than the faintest of hopes.
Sponsors of the project concede
there is virtually no prospect it
will reach the floor of either cham
ber in the closing weeks of the
session. Both Senate and House
committees are concentrating on
disposing of what they consider
"must” legislation. Bills intended
to restore the professional drama
to downtown Washington are not
in this category.
This is the situations:
Senate—A bill sponsored bv
Senators Douglas, Democrat, of
Illinois and Baldwin, Republican,
of Connecticut, is in the Public
Works Committee, headed by Sen
ator Chavez, Democrat, of New
Mexico.
Chavez sympathetic.
Senator Chavez has indicated he
is sympathetic, in principle, to the
idea of giving some Federal en
couragement to groups hoping to
re-establish the legitimate theater
here. The committee is occupied
with broader public works mat
ters, however, and there is only
an outside chance that action on
the Belasco bill can be fitted in
before adjournment.
House — Counterparts of the
Senate bill have been offered by
Representatives Sabath of Illinois
and Powell of New York, Demo
crats. A different measure has
been introduced by Representative
Celler, Democrat, of New York.
All are pending in the Public
Works Committee.
Chairman Whittington of the
committee says he hopes to have
a hearing on the matter before
adjournment. He says he has re
ceived an unfavorable report on
the Celler bill from the Federal
agencies concerned and has not
received yet the views on the Sa
bath-Powell version.
Wants Hearing First.
Despite his willingness to hold
a hearing, Mr. Whittington says
he does not think it will be pos
sible to work out arrangements to
lease the Belasco to theatrical in
terests. He explains he wants to
have a hearing to inform the pub
lic as to the practical difficulties.
All of the bills involved con
template leasing the theater to a
private operator. The premises
now are used by the Federal Gov
ernment for storage. The site of
the Madison place structure, to
gether with that of the adjacent
Cosmos Club, is to be used event
ually for construction of an ad
dition to the Treasury Annex.
The Capital has been without a
legitimate theater since the Na
tional switched to films last year
as the outgrowth of a dispute over
admission policy.
Actors’ Equity, the performers’
union, decided its members would
not appear at the National, unless
the theater admitted persons of
all races to performances. The
theater management decided to
abandon stage shows rather than
accede.
Lease Plan Exposed.
For a number of months there
after, various groups sought to
work out a long-term lease with
the Government through the Fed
eral Works Agency. The FWA had
asked bids bn a lease to see- what
could be worked out toward using
the Belasco as a theater until the
funds became available to go
ahead with the Treasury Annex
addition.
The American National Theater
and Academy, which holds a
congressional charter, and Joseph
H. Curtis, New York theater
executive, entered proposals. The
FWA rejected them, however, to
gether with various modifications.
Officials explained the prospective
lessees wanted assurance either
of a long-term lease or of re
imbursement for remodeling ex
penses in the event they were
evicted suddenly.
Estimates have ranged from
$100,000 to $550,000 for the work
of placing the, old building in
shape for stage shows.
FWA officials stated, in turning
down the lease proposals, that
they could not commit the Gov
ernment legally to a long-term
agreement or to pay private inter
ests for any loss they might sufler
if Congress gave a go-ahead in
money for the Treasury annex
addition.
The bills in Congress are in
tended to give FWA full authority
'to make a deal to which private
i interests could commit themselves
las a business proposition.
! The Celler bill would authorize
a lease of up to 5 years’ duration.
The terms would have to be “con
sistent with a reasonable profit
to be made by the lessee regard
less of any loss to the Govern
ment."
Further, the Government would
be required to pay for remodeling
of the building and could not re
flect these costs in the rental.
The Douglas-Baldwin-Sabath
Powell plan would not cost the
Government anything, its sponsors
say.
It would direct FWA to work out
a lease with ANTA “for such
period and upon such terms and
conditions as may be agreed
upon.”
According to a spokesman,
ANTA would be able to obtain
from private sources the money
required to renovate the theater.
The bill contains a requirement
1
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that no person be prevented from
appearing in or attending a show
by reason of race, creed, color or
national origin.
Half of any net proceeds after
expenses would be paid to the
Treasury—an arrangement sug
gested in the negotiations.
The FWA would be authorized
to furnish the theater heat, light
and power “at such reasonable
rates, not less than cost, as the
Administrator may determine.”
Asked to comment on this plan,
FWA officials gave an informal
opinion it would accomplish little.
They stated they believe it would
not change existing law. They
still would be required, they said,
to make only such an agreement
as would not interfere with the
Government’s use of the property
for the purpose for which it was
acquired—construction of a Treas
ury Annex addition.
An FWA spokesman gave the
view that FWA could not enter
into any lease which commercial
interests would find attractive un
less directed specifically by Con
gress to do so irrespective of ex
isting laws.
The Celler bill would do this,
but it would be ineffective unless
Congress also provided money for
the remodeling, as FWA has no
funds for such a job.
The various bills will not die
with adjournment, in any event.
If they have not been acted on by
that time, they will remain on the
committee calendars until Con
gress reconvenes in January.
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