Tingle Exits, Stage Left

1193237108Last week theatre buffs and Bush-haters alike (I’m guessing there’s some overlap) received some sad news. After five celebrated years, Jimmy Tingle’s Off Broadway Theatre in Davis Square announced it would be closing.

In addition to playing host to such notables as Scott Ritter, James Carroll and Howard Zinn, and most recently ace political impressionist Jim Morris, JTOB did a lot of agitprop, indie theatre, and even kids’ shows. We caught up with Tingle and asked him about closing the theatre, and whether or not a Best of Boston award was the kiss of death.

Jimmy, Jesus, what happened?
Nothing’s really going on, except I didn’t want to renew the lease, I didn’t want to do another year. I did it for five years, we worked really hard. A lot of great things happened here, tons of support from the neighborhood, the community, the landlord, everybody. I could have signed the lease. It wasn’t prohibitive, but it had to be for a year, and I was just like, ‘I don’t think I can do it. I just don’t want to do it for another year.’

How much time were you putting in over there?
A lot. A lot. When you were the editor of the Dig, I imagine all you thought about was the Dig.

Yeah, all I thought about and all I dreamt about.
That’s how it is here. It’s been five years, we did over 200 shows. Attendance was always pretty steady, but it’s always—I was making the analogy like, OK, you have a restaurant, and it’s always a challenge. You want your restaurant to be full. Well, we have a restaurant, but the menu changes every weekend, so we’re trying to get the word about now what we’re serving, and now what we’re serving, and now what we’re serving. It’s not like a jazz club, or a music club, though we did music, or a comedy club, though we did comedy.

Was your 2007 Best of Boston Award the kiss of death?
Absolutely not. I was so happy with the Boston magazine thing, I gotta tell you something, that just lifted my spirits so high, brother. I got that news in Scotland, and I was going to give my notice, I was hemming and hawing, ‘should I continue, should I not?’ And when I got that, I took it as a sign from the heavens to keep going, man. I was saying, “It’s a sign! It’s a sign to keep going!” It was just dynamite.

But it didn’t last.
Yeah, when I got back, I got back into it, and you know, I just need to rest, and reevaluate and take a step back and look for other opportunities, let someone else come in there. It’s a great space and the neighborhood’s going to do the right thing. The landlords are fantastic. Whatever they bring in’s gonna be good. And that way I can pursue other things with a new freshness and clarity.

Like what?
I don’t know [laughs]. I don’t know. There’s elements of this I love and elements I can’t stand. Paperwork, that kind of stuff. I can’t stand it. Performing and working with performers? What a ball. But the other element of it, the minutiae, that can get to you.

But it was great, the town really embraced it, TV, radio, print, they were into it. and so was I. I worked really hard at it. I felt relieved when I made the decision [to wrap it up], and it feels better and better, but there’s an element of sadness, too, though. It’s like you’re getting divorced or moving to a new house or something.

Go to www.jtoffbroadway.com for a list of the finals shows at JTOB.