Before the wrecking ball, Red Eye Theater says goodbye to its space of nearly 30 years

Red Eye Theater is moving out of its current home.

Red Eye Theater is moving out of its current home. Google Maps

This weekend, Red Eye opens Her’s a Queen, their last show in their current space. Artist director Steve Busa directs, and managing director Miriam Must performs.

On October 8, eight days after the show’s two-weekend run, they have to be out of the building.

“We’ve been in that space for 29 years,” Must says. “A lot of work has been created in that space. It feels emotional.”

Must and Busa have been running Red Eye, a theater known for presenting and developing experimental theater and performance, for 35 years. Now, they’re ready to retire. Five years ago, the duo began exploring how the theater could continue without its founders, and how to best to transition the organization’s leadership.

Things hit a snag in March when Market Barbecue, the bar and restaurant located around the corner from Red Eye, announced they were leaving their space because the building was being developed. A few months later the Star Tribune ran an article stating that Red Eye would also see the wrecking ball. It was the first anyone at Red Eye had heard of it.

Because they had years to go on their lease, Red Eye was able to reach a settlement with its landlord. “That gives us enough money to help pay for putting our assets into storage temporarily, and to pay for moving expenses,” Must says. “And there’s a little bit of money for the development of new space.”

'Her's a Queen'

'Her's a Queen' L-R: Neal Medlyn, Miriam Must (photo by Søren Olsen)

Busa and Miriam’s last days as staff members is December 31, at which point an advisory board -- made up of Emily Gastineau, Jeffrey Wells, Andrew Lee Dolan, Rachel Jendrzejewski, and Haley Finn -- takes over.

The advisory board has been tasked with identifying new spaces and developing partnerships around the Twin Cities. “The expectation is that it will likely take a year or two at the outset to develop a new space,” Must says.

In the last year, the advisory board has experimented with different projects, such as the Quick and Dirty series, which showcased short new works and conversation. The Relay Relay Festival featured artists interviewing artists, and resulted in a publication of the interviews and essays.

“We are thinking about different organizational structures and models that will make sense in light of the kind of artistic work that happens at the Red Eye,” says Gastineau.

Gastineau has developed work at Red Eye through Fire Drill, her performance duo with Billy Mullaney. She says she has benefited first hand from Red Eye’s focus on collaboration, critical discourse, and experimentation. “I’ve learned to speak about work and speak about process, and to view other people’s work with a really generous eye,” she says.

Must and Busa have been a key part of the organization’s success, she adds. “They made their practice running the space and extending that to a much wider group of artists. It is really a beautiful model,” she says.

Red Eye plans to carry on with its New Works 4 Weeks Program, an incubator series of new pieces that culminates with a festival in the spring. The 2019 festival, Must says, will most likely take place in a temporary location. “So it will be slightly different,” she says, “but we feel very confident that we will still be able to provide artists with the resources they need to develop the work.”

Hundreds of artists have found support through by Red Eye’s Works in Progress and Isolated Acts Programs (both are part of New Works 4 Weeks). People who have developed pieces through it include playwrights Lisa D’Amour and Kira Obolensky; choreographers Emily Johnson, Karen Sherman, Hijack (Arwen Wilder and Kristin Van Loon), and Rosy Simas; and theater artists Wendy Knox, Carolyn Goelzer, and Marcus Young.

For their mainstage shows, Red Eye has been recognized on best of lists, and received a special citation Sage Award in 2007.

“I’m really proud that we have not compromised the vision,” Must says. “That’s why the Red Eye has succeeded in being vital, and remains vital in being important to the community. We haven’t tried to be everything to everybody in the community. We have tried to be this creative incubator.”

Neal Medlyn’s Her’s a Queen spoofs pop culture and Britney Spears, and runs September 21-29. A big farewell party follows the final show.


Her's a Queen
Red Eye Theater
8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays; 3 p.m. Sunday, September 23
$20; $10 students; pay-as-able Sunday; $35-$50 closing night ($15 party-only)
15 W. 14th St., Minneapolis
612-870-0309; Friday through September 29