Photos by Valerie Gallagher
Nimbus Theatre's new space on Central Avenue in Northeast Minneapolis doesn't look like much now. It's a big, empty, cavernous room with fluorescent lights and concrete floor. As guests arrived on December 8 for a hard-hat tour and season announcement, there was one space heater chugging away in the chilly room. Guests huddled together, sipping on box wine and nibbling on hummus and pita as artistic directors Liz Neerland and Josh Cragun shared their plans for the ten-year-old company's new home.
There's a lot of work to be done on the 4,200-square-foot room, Neerland explained. In total, the company is looking at investing $100,000, making the room into a theater. They want to add bathrooms in the lobby area, which requires new plumbing, and they'll add several walls, plus permanent risers for the roughly 75 seats they plan to install, and signage to advertise their presence. They also have to bring the building up to fire code and install electrical lights (which they've already received funding for from MRAC) and a grid. They'll also add a sprung floor for the stage (about 38 feet wide by 30 feet deep), which will sit about six inches off the floor. Of course they'll have to get rid of the fluorescent lights, and add curtains as well. They'll also probably turn the garage door that faces Central Avenue into a glass door, Neerland said.
Nimbus is currently in the process of consulting contractors to oversee the all of the improvements, but the two artistic directors, five company members and six board members plan on putting in a lot of work as well. "We'll try to do as much work as we safely can," Neerland said.
"We know there's a lot of work," Neerland said. "But we were so excited about the location. Having a storefront on Central Avenue with parking? Those are things you can't add later."
Nimbus was founded 2001, when the company produced a show at the Minnesota Fringe Festival. Since then, they've produced 25 shows, and are known for choosing challenging and provocative scripts.
Though in recent years they've been performing mainly at the Minneapolis Theatre Garage, Nimbus has been holding rehearsals in Northeast Minneapolis, and have performed at venues like the former location of Rogue Buddha Gallery and Xelias Aerial Arts. Neerland said having a permanent home in Northeast "made sense" for the company, especially since there isn't a theater company with its own space based in the area. "There's the Ritz," she said "which has some great stuff, but there's not a permanent theater company there."
Cragun said that he's excited about the new space. "I feel like this is something we've been working on for a long time," he said. "It will allow us to grow some roots and interact with the theater community in a way we haven't been able to do in a long time." When Nimbus was an itinerant theater company, he said, they'd do a show and go away. As a company permanently housed in a building, they'll have opportunities to do readings and PechaKuchas. Down the road, they'd like to obtain a liquor license as well.
When they are not doing their own shows, Nimbus will rent the theater out to other small companies, which will provide some income. Because the company has spent so many years as renters themselves, they know some of the things that they appreciate: for example, they will allow sub-leasers to drill into the floor, which allows for sturdier sets.
At the tour, several friends of the theater expressed their happiness for Nimbus's next stage. "This is the dream," said one man. "They get to start from scratch," he said approvingly, referring to the blank slate that the empty space provides. "That's a home run...I'm really happy for them."
Heidi Berg said that Nimbus has always been very active in reaching out to the community they are working in. "I don't see this as the company getting, so much as the community getting, a new space," she said.
Greg Nielsen, from the Metro Regional Arts Council, said that the council is always excited about seeing a small company start on something new. "They are doing it right," he said. "This is the logical next step for them."
Nimbus's season this year includes The Balcony, by Genet, in February, and The Year of Magical Thinking, a one-woman-show by Joan Didion which will feature Barbra Berlovitz.
1517 Central Ave. NE