Abbey exemplifies woes of reporting in a small town

I donít write a lot of monthly columns. There is enough material to keep me busy with more objective analyses.

But recent events have moved me to offer a few personal words that come from some personal discussions and personal experiences. I refer to the saga that is the Animas City Theatre, formerly the Abbey Theatre.

In my job, and after almost 18 years in this often-insular community, I am required to maintain objectivity in my position as Arts & Entertainment editor. Because Durango is a small town, many of the people I write about are friends or friendly acquaintances. Sometimes, writing about them may jeopardize relationships if the story isnít in their favor.

I have been involved with the Abbey since Tom Bartels revived the venue in the late 1990s. Paul Fidanque invested heavily in upgrading the technology in the theater during his tenure as owner before reselling the business to Brad and Erica Merlino.

Next was Chuck Kuehn, who purchased the Abbey with Doug Sitter in 2009 and bought him out a little more than a year later. I have been friends with Kuehn since I moved to Durango in 1995 and was happy to hear heíd taken over. Since then, however, heís had run-ins with his fellow tenants in the building, most notably Michele and Chris Redding, the owners of Cuckooís who are now the newest tenants of the space. Of course, Iíve also called the Reddings friends since about 1997, so it has been a tough situation, to say the least, to write about how their battle in and out of court has unfolded in the public eye.

On a personal level, thereís nothing unique about my situation. In any other capacity, it would be the topic of barroom debate Ė is the change of ownership a good thing or bad for the music and film community? Thatís a matter of opinion that remains to be seen and will probably never be decided for certain. But professionally, I must be willing to sacrifice a friendship if it means the story is told objectively and factually. Not by taking sides; itís just that I have to record and report whatís said by who about whom and try to keep it even.

In re-reading my own recent article on the new Animas City Theatre (March 19), I stand behind every fact in the story, but few would read the article and not see Kuehn as portrayed in a negative light. Thatís not a personal injection on my part, but rather the collective representation of the opinions of those involved and interviewed. I omitted much of the back-and-forth arguments between Kuehn and the Reddings because most of those matters were decided in court.

I am happy and excited to see what the Reddings have in store because I know them to be generous, community-minded people. And for all who share that optimism, there are surely many more who have been happy with the way things have been. Iíll leave those debates to the barroom barristers and do my best to stay out of the fray without burning too many bridges.

ted@durangoherald.com