Facing Eviction, Stage Aurora Seeks New Theater Space For Next Act

Aug 28, 2015

Stage Aurora founder Darryl Reuben Hall closes the door at his theater inside the Gateway Town Center for one of the last times. Stage Aurora must be out of the mall by Sept. 30.
Credit Jessica Palombo / WJCT News

A theater on Jacksonville’s Northside is looking for a new home. The Stage Aurora Theatrical Company was founded more than a decade ago to highlight the African-American experience and give people of color a performance venue.

The Gateway Town Center mall is mostly vacant. Until September 30, it’s home to the Stage Aurora Theatrical Company. On Friday morning, founder Daryl Reuben Hall was walking through the half-torn-down backstage.

“That was the home for ‘The Wiz’ right there, when Dorothy went through the tornado,” he says. “And we call this the Green Room, even though it’s yellow, and this is where the actors hang out.”

About eight years ago, Hall converted a former men’s clothing store. He built a stage, dressing rooms and an auditorium with tiered seating for 300 people. He doesn’t know where all these pieces of his theatre are headed next.

“It was great to have it on the Northside because as a child when I was growing up, nobody provided this for me, for our community,” he says. “But I’m glad for everyone to enjoy it. I don’t want everyone think that its’ an organization that’s way out there in left field.”

When new owners took over the mall recently, they decided shut this wing down and renovate. Stage Aurora is being evicted. And Hall is hoping the city will step in to help find it a new home.

“Because we’ve entertained and educated—highlight ‘educated’—many, many, many people over the years,” he says.

Lights are lined up for packing on the Stage Aurora main stage.
Credit Jessica Palombo / WJCT News

In addition to putting on plays, Stage Aurora has an after-school musical theater program and summer camps for kids. The company, and Hall individually, have won national, state, and community grants for their contributions to Jacksonville’s cultural scene.

“I’ve been through so much, and I have no plans to quit or close or any of that,” he says.

And even though he doesn’t know where it’ll be performed, he’s holding auditions for his original play, “Frat House,” at the theater in Gateway Town Center on Sept. 5, 6, 12, 13.

He says rehearsals will run until Sept. 30.

“After that, I am clueless as to where we will rehearse,” Hall says.