Hopes high for new lease for Passionfruit

“Really really positive” is how members of Passionfruit Theatre Company are describing their meeting this week with representatives of the Athlone Freemasons Society, in a bid to signing a new lease on the theatre premises.

The Passionfruit Theatre building at Northgate Street has remained closed since Easter Saturday, April 11, when the locks were changed on the doors and the lettering removed from the front of the building.

It was reported that the original lease between the owners, the Athlone branch of the Freemasons Society, and the theatre company had expired due to the death of founder member Joe Ducke and because the other signatory was no longer involved with the group.

However, following a meeting between the parties on Wednesday this week, acting Passionfruit director and secretary, Fiona Ducke, said she was “very hopeful” they would be getting the lease back on the 60-seater venue.

“The meeting with the secretary of the Freemasons Lodge, Bernard Corcoran, was really really positive. He didn’t think there would be any problem with us signing a new lease. He wanted to resolve the matter, and so did we,” said Ms Ducke.

A public meeting is to be held next Thursday June 4, by which time it is expected a decision will have been reached by the building’s owners.

This will be the second public meeting in a matter of weeks, following a well-attended gathering on Thursday last. Close to 100 people, including Deputy Mary O’Rourke, gathered to voice their concern and lend their support to the theatre company.

The group stressed that Passionfruit Theatre Company, a non-profit organisation, is not in financial difficulty and has never received any complaints regarding noise levels or other nuisances.

The company was founded five years ago, and has been at its venue at 9, Northgate Street for over a year. Over €100,000 in public and private funding and community donations went into the renovation of the venue.

In the past year Passionfruit has hosted five drama productions and over 60 musical acts. Plans for the 2009/2010 season include the staging of the late Joe Ducke's last play, a series of free public lectures and workshops, and another series of concerts including music from The Guggenheim Grotto and Andy Irvine.


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