Phoenix Theatre Holds Grand Opening in Former BNW Space


Out of the ashes, Phoenix Theatre is born. Well, not ashes per se. Brave New Workshop, which was formerly located at 2605 Hennepin Ave. in Uptown, is doing just fine at its fancy new space downtown. Meanwhile, Phoenix Theatre has taken over the old BNW space, and is celebrating its grand opening this Saturday with tours of its new digs and performances on the hour.

Jenna Papke, executive director of Arts' Nest, the newly formed nonprofit organization in charge of running Phoenix, was approached in April to see if she'd be interested in heading up the new organization. Papke said yes, as she had long wanted to run a theater space. 

Arts' Nest, which got its initial funding from an anonymous donor, will offer two different kinds of rentals. It will primarily rent the space to local companies. This includes Mission Theatre, which opens the inaugural production, Detainee, on November 6. However, it will also act in a supporting role for fledgling companies and emerging artists. Independent rentals will be done on a first come, first serve basis for a flat fee, while Arts' Nest will also curate and offer extra support and production assistance on certain projects. For example, one  weekend in November they're presenting work by Jeremy Motz that has previously gotten some recognition at the Minnesota Fringe Festival, and in May they'll feature emerging artist Addie Gorlin. 

This holiday season, Arts' Nest plans to produce the Klingon Christmas Carol, though Papke says the focus of the Phoenix Theatre will mostly be rentals rather than shows produced by Arts' Nest. But that could change down the road. 

In addition to productions, Arts' Nest will also have a  substantial educational component for adults, which will include classes on topics such as getting back into theater later in life and auditioning.  

Jenna Papke

Jenna Papke

On Saturday, the series of performances begins at 5 p.m., and is meant to show off the stage. Unfortunately, the building isn't set up to have stage lights yet, so the performances will be presented with general lighting. 

There are a number of renovations that Arts' Nest has been hard at work at to get ready for its launch. For example, because the theater was previously set up for comedy, it has limitations for theater companies. So Papke says they've re-done the stage in a proscenium style. They've also bought new chairs. 

Saturday's event is a great chance to get a behind-the-scenes look at the theater. Doors open at 4 p.m. for socializing and tours, with performances starting at 5 p.m. Throughout the evening, you'll see Shel Silverstein shorts, storytelling, physical performances, burlesque, and live music.