Building community is at the heart of Nimbus Theatre’s mission. That’s why when the 15-year-old theater company, led by co-artistic directors Liz Neerland and Josh Cragun, decided to relocate from their five-year-old space on Central Avenue NE to their new address at 2303 Kennedy Street NE, they did so to bring more staging opportunities to the local performing arts scene.
“We kind of knew by the end of last year that we were going to be moving, so we really started [exploring] these ideas of expanding,” Neerland explains.
At its former location, Cragun adds, Nimbus was “partnering with other theater companies” and the space "sort of became a community center. We learned a lot in five years about operating a theater and about what we could do better.”
The new space, aptly named The Crane Theater for the five-ton crane that towers overhead, is 7,000 square feet—nearly double that of the old location. Built in 1922, the building was originally a Westinghouse factory. In 1953, the back section of the building, which is now the new home of The Crane Theater, was added on as a mattress warehouse.
Now the location will serve as a performance space with two stages. The new space will continue Nimbus’ tradition of staging fresh, original productions featuring its own company, as well as guest performing artists.
“It’s a gorgeous room that will work great for theater,” says Cragun. He loves how the facility, in which historically appliances were constructed, functions as metaphor for making—even when the space is now used for creating theater. Moreover, he adds, “We’re not remounting [existing plays]. We’re making theater from scratch here.” Thus the building, he continues, “fits well with what we do.”
The main stage will showcase Nimbus’s productions and seat around 100 people. The smaller theater will seat about 50 audience members and will serve several functions. “There are not enough performance spaces of any sort in the Twin Cities,” Neerland explains. “So just being able to offer more of it is really needed. [The second theater is] a smaller, flexible stage for a number of things, such as a small theater company doing a scaled-back production or a play reading.”
Providing extra theater space isn’t all that Nimbus is looking to do with The Crane. The company’s wants the space be a support center for people who create new theater locally, and provide services and access to shop space and educational opportunities.
In order to make the vision of The Crane Theater a reality, Nimbus launched a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign
on September 16. “Pouring effort into the community has always come back to benefit us in a way that’s positive,” says Cragun. “We’re strong believers in building that. So the idea for a crowdfunding campaign was a really natural fit. We’ve done some traditional development work, but we wanted to sort of throw it back at the community and say, ‘Hey, we’re doing this for you. Can you give us a hand?’”
For those looking to see the new space firsthand, Nimbus is staging their first show, The Kalevala,
a play based on the 19th
-century work of Finnish literature, in their new home now through October 30. Tickets are available online at nimbustheatre.com