The opening moments of Sandbox Theatre's This Is A World To live In.
Photo by Richard Fleischman
Patrons who visit Park Square Theatre's new Andy Boss Thrust Stage may actually find a show produced by one of a trio of signature small Minneapolis-based companies.
Last week, Park Square announced it had entered into a producing partnership with Theatre Pro Rata, Sandbox Theatre, and Girl Friday Productions to use the new space -- a 200-seat thrust stage in the Hamm Building in St. Paul.
Pro Rata and Sandbox will produce a single show on the stage over the next three seasons, starting in 2015. Girl Friday, which has produced a show every other year in its decade-long existence, will continue that schedule.
The development of the partnership has run parallel with the efforts to finance and build the second Park Square space, says artistic director Richard Cook.
Over the past several years, Park Square has held conversations with a number of smaller companies around the area. The goal was to "keep both stages busy at all times. Secondly, I was looking for a way to bring them to St. Paul and my audience," Cook says.
The three companies certainly explore a wide swath of theater. Theatre Pro Rata is focused on the text, while Sandbox thrives with group created pieces of art. Girl Friday has worked on mid-century American classics, including pieces by Thornton Wilder and Tennessee Williams.
"Park Square is older than the others, but we've been at their size at some time in our history. We have empathy for where they are and what they want," Cook says. "The danger for Park Square is that success deadens our nerves. We've got to have a way to keep bringing in new blood."
For the other companies, a chance to reach audiences across the Mississippi River has been a key point. Sandbox's Matthew Glover notes that 70 percent of their audiences to date have been from Minneapolis.
"St. Paul has great audiences, great fans of art in all measures," Glover says. "Maybe they don't know about our style of theater and this will hook them. Maybe they do know about it and they've just been craving it. It's a win-win-win-win for all four of our companies. But, on a greater scale, this has been a huge win for collaboration and the expansion of varying styles of performance to the city of St. Paul."
Kirby Bennett of Girl Friday Productions envisions similar advantages for the four companies. There is also the thrill of the new. "We are really excited about the opportunity to showcase our work in a brand-new theater space; the chance to do that just doesn't come around often," she says.
Carin Bratlie of Theatre Pro Rata echoed those sentiments. "We are looking forward to sharing our smart and gutsy theater with Park Square's audience, as well as the wider Twin Cities community," she says.
Park Square will also produce at least five shows a year in the space. The goal is to keep spaces occupied throughout the year, Cook says.