The Producers Circle's new business model is like Netflix for the arts

Press image for Candy Simmons' upcoming "BLUEPRINT"

Press image for Candy Simmons' upcoming "BLUEPRINT"

ARTshare, the Southern Theater’s program where audiences pay a monthly fee for access to shows, has successfully brought the theater back from the brink of closing. With that good news, it’s no surprise to see other sharing-type programs popping up around town. The latest example is the Twin Cities Producers Circle. This week it's launching its 2015-16 season with a party celebrating the dance, theater, and music performances to come.

Twin Cities Producers Circle is made up of three different artist groups that have banded together to share resources and audiences. Sunset Gun Productions, which presents the work of theater artist Candy Simmons, has teamed up with musical duo J2J (Julie Johnson and Jacqueline Ultan) and Small Art (choreographer Laura Holway and media artist Ben McGinley) for a season featuring three different shows. 

The group was founded a few years ago by producers Chris Kopka and Anna Dvorak, who along with Simmons realized how little the average person understood the challenges of producing independent performance. They pooled their resources in the hopes of getting more donations. However, they found that an added perk was that through collaboration they got more butts in the seats, as people would bring their friends to the other shows.

This year, the Producers Circle is more focused on selling season passes than on fundraising. Season passes cost $65 for all three shows. “The idea is connecting independent performing artists to new audiences,” says Holway.

The Producers Circle aims to get past a struggle that many independent artists face — not just of putting on a show, but also with having the same audience of artists each time. “We are going to one another’s shows,” she says. “So how do we reach out to a new audience?" 

Another impetus for creating the group was that founder Kopka would often hear from friends who love Minneapolis' thriving art scene. When pressed about what they were seeing, they would talk about events at well-known theaters such as the Guthrie.


“They didn’t know what was going in the more independent arts world,” Holway says. Part of Kopka’s goal was to educate people about opportunities to support local artists.


The Producers Circle pass is similar to the Southern’s ARTshare model, except with only three shows it’s less of a commitment. Holway likens it also to Springboard for the Arts’ CSA model.

“The idea is that there’s one fee and we connect you with artists, versus you doing homework and deciding what you want to see,” she says. 

With her company Small Dances, Holway has experimented with a similar concept of connecting to new audiences beyond her artist friends. In the past, they would get people to throw dinner parties where the host would be responsible for inviting 20 people. “We were relying on the generosity of other people’s contacts,” she says.

For Friday’s events, the three artist groups will give short previews of their upcoming work. That includes Candy Simmons’ BLUEPRINT, a one-person show about what it means to be a woman in America, and experimental music by flutist Julie Johnson and cellist Jacqueline Ultan. As a preview of Small Arts’ upcoming show in February, Holway will be exploring the line between curating and choreographing.

The Twin Cities Producers Circle kick-off party is this Friday, September 25. Drinks from Fair State Brewing Cooperative will be offered starting at 5:30 p.m., with performances at 7 p.m. The event takes place at SunsetGun's Rehearsal Studio in the Ivy Arts Building (2637 27th Ave. S., Minneapolis).