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Performing Arts

(‘8:46’ Screenshot, Youtube)

Dave Chappelle seeks OK for more local shows

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Comedian and Yellow Springs resident Dave Chappelle is apparently hoping that the series of shows he hosted this summer at a rural property just north of the village can go on longer than the time originally set in a temporary zoning variance approved for the site.

Property owner Steve Wirrig has submitted a hand-delivered letter dated Sept. 30 to Miami Township Zoning Inspector Richard Zopf requesting that the temporary variance, which ended after Sunday Oct. 4, be extended until early August next summer.

The recent ticketed shows, billed as “An Intimate Socially Distanced Affair,” and familiarly referred to as Chappelle’s “Summer Camp,” welcomed nationally known comedians and musicians to appear wth Chappelle on the stage of an outdoor pavilion that property owner Wirrig and his wife, Stacey, built in 2017.

The performances were halted a week earlier than anticipated, however, with a statement from organizers saying that the final six shows were canceled “out of an abundance of caution” after someone in their “inner circle” had been exposed to COVID-19.

The request to extend the temporary variance on the agriculturally zoned property off Meredith Road does not give specific dates for future shows, but does indicate Chappelle’s interest in making use of the property. 

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Submitted as a “request for modifications” to the temporary use application approved by the Miami Township Board of Zoning Appeals after a public hearing Aug. 6, the request notes that township zoning code allows for a temporary use to be granted for up to 12 months. As such, Wirrig asks that his original variance continue through the full year, concluding Aug. 6, 2021.

The request also seeks a change to the limit on the number of shows from no more than four a week to no more than 18 a month.

The application, however, puts a condition on the length of the extension request should there occur “a full reopening of performance venues” in the state, along with “the permanent lifting of the state’s restrictions regarding performances and audience seating capacity at such venues.” If such a lifting were to happen during the 12-month time period, Chappelle would apparently no longer need to use the Wirrig property in the same way. 

The variance modification request states: “As the BZA is likely aware, the state’s imposed conditions surrounding Reopen Ohio as related to performance venues are unrealistically restrictive to the point that traditional performance venues, comedy clubs, theaters, and similar operations have consistently and repeatedly declared it is not financially feasible, nor otherwise realistic, to reopen under the state’s guidelines. As such, performing artists, such as Mr. Chappelle, continue to need alternative venues for their artistic expression, including providing community engagement and enjoyment.”

Zoning Inspector Zopf reported to the Miami Township Trustees on Monday evening, Oct. 5, that the modification request will need to go before the township Board of Zoning Appeals in a public hearing, the date for which has not yet been set.

Chappelle, who lives on a property just south of the village with his family, recently received two Emmy Awards for his 2019 Netflix special “Sticks & Stones.” Last fall, he was the recipient of the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, considered the highest award in comedy.

His weekly shows this summer, which started in early June, brought in such noted comedians as Jon Stewart, Chris Rock, Donnell Rawlings, Michelle Wolf, Mo Amer and Tiffany Haddish and well-known musicians John Mayer, Common and Erykah Badu. Comedian and talk show host David Letterman also appeared one week while in town to film an episode of his Netflix show, “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction,” with Chappelle as a guest.

Tickets, sold in pairs through Ticketmaster, were listed at about $500 for two by the series’ end. Attendance was limited to 400 ticket holders, with patrons required to wear masks and have their temperatures taken before entering the performance grounds, where seats were arranged at a distance of six feet between pairs. Performers also underwent COVID tests when they arrived in town, according to media interviews with the entertainers.

According to communication between Zopf and the county health department, Chappelle was given permission by the governor’s office before the start of the series to host an unspecified number of shows following the COVID-19 safety precautions put in place.

A request to Chappelle’s spokesperson for comment about the extension application and his plans was not answered before press time.

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