Theater company on Sacramento’s R Street suspends productions

Actors Nanci Zoppi, Maggie Hollinbeck, Tristan Rumery and Lauren Parker perform in a production by the New Helvetia Theatre Co.
Actors Nanci Zoppi, Maggie Hollinbeck, Tristan Rumery and Lauren Parker perform in a production by the New Helvetia Theatre Co. Sacramento Bee file

Millions of development dollars are turning Sacramento’s gritty R Street into more of a high-rent district. Too high, apparently, for one mainstay enterprise: New Helvetia Theatre Co.

New Helvetia says it’s going dark, at least for the time being, because of the redevelopment sweeping R Street. In a Facebook posting Sunday, the theater company’s artistic director Connor Mickiewicz said New Helvetia is being “priced out of our current venue by new ownership” and won’t stage any more productions “in the near future.”

A live theater has operated at the southwest corner of 11th and R streets for the past 20 years, the last six years as New Helvetia. Its most recent production was a 10-performance run in December of “Marry Me a Little,” a show based on the music of Broadway legend Stephen Sondheim.

The New Helvetia building was purchased in November by the Cordano Co., a Sacramento development company. Mark Cordano, an executive with the family-owned company, declined comment on the matter Monday.

Mickiewicz and his brother, Kyle, who has been dealing with the landlord, wouldn’t discuss the situation either.

The possible closure of New Helvetia comes as R Street undergoes a striking transformation from an industrial zone to an urban entertainment district. On the other side of 11th Street from the New Helvetia building, D&S Development and CFY Development are converting a former warehouse and grocery store into a mixed-use site with offices and a restaurant. CFY has turned an adjacent warehouse into artists’ lofts with 116 residential units. The Cordano company has been converting a former state office building at 15th and R into a restaurant-retail complex.

As the money flows in, Michael Ault of the Downtown Sacramento Partnership said New Helvetia’s problems are an inevitable consequence of the surge in development in the central city.

“One of the things we have realized is there’s going to be some growing pains in this new era of redevelopment,” Ault said. “Change is going to be part of the process. Not everybody is going to remain at the same (rental) rates and the same location. There’s going to be some shuffling of the cards.”

He said community leaders should “rally around” New Helvetia to help the theater company find another home if it can’t work things out on R Street.

The Cordano firm bought the New Helvetia building, a one-story structure at the southwest corner of 11th and R streets, for an undisclosed price from two family trusts. Besides the theater, the building has several thousand square feet of empty space. At the time, an architect working with Cordano on the building said he believed New Helvetia would stay put.

Call The Bee’s Dale Kasler, (916) 321-1066. Follow him on Twitter @dakasler.