Although Manbites Dog Theater will take a final bow after this season, other area theater companies may benefit.

Manbites Dog Theater is closing, but not exactly going away.

The Durham-based theater company’s upcoming 31st season opens Sept. 7 with “Bad Mothers & Neglectful Wives” – and it will be the company’s last one. After the season concludes in May, Manbites Dog management is going to sell its building and use the money to fund other local theater artists.

“There is so much creative energy in this town,” managing director Edward Hunt said in a statement. “It’s time for us to find new, innovative ways to support and encourage theater artists.”

[Related: A recap of the African-American Theater Preview at Raleigh Little Theatre]

In 1987, Manbites Dog’s first venue was a converted shoe store. It immediately began producing edgier pieces such as “Indecent Materials,” which was based on the Senate testimony of North Carolina’s then-Republican Sen. Jesse Helms, and “Execution of Justice,” which chronicled the Harvey Milk case.

In its first 10 years, the company had an itinerant life, which included staging “Indecent Materials” at Joseph Papp’s Public Theater in New York. But by 1997, its following established, the company was able to buy its current home at 703 Foster St. for $205,000, according to property tax records.

Since then, the 9,100-square-foot building has become a center for local theater, with Black Ops, Little Green Pig and Mike Wiley Productions among the other companies to use it.

And as Durham’s real-estate market has boomed, the Manbites Dog building’s value has gone up to more than $276,000.

After the building is sold, Manbites Dog management plans to “give that equity back to its community,” providing financial support to local theater companies and artists through a new agency fund at Triangle Community Foundation.

“We still believe in theater as an ongoing conversation between artists and audiences,” artistic director Jeff Storer said in a statement. “And we want to continue supporting theater artists who share that belief.”

 

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