Cast members of “The Balcony,” Nimbus Theatre’s first production in its new home
Marching in the streets, revolution, power and the illusion of power… it’s no wonder that every time Josh Cragun reads the news these days, he’s reminded of the play he’s directing: “The Balcony” by Jean Genet.
It was written in the 1950s and its way ahead of its time. It covers a lot of complex difficult issues – how does image control us? It’s not guns, but its people’s perceptions that shape the world, and how people buy into the images of the people in power, and even help create those images. This isn’t a play that tells us to do something, but it shows us the world we live in in a way we might not have seen through our own eyes.
The show is a perfect fit for a company whose motto is “Theatre for a world gone mad.”
Josh Cragun and his wife Liz Neerland are the co-artistic directors of Nimbus Theatre, which has been for the past decade an itinerant company, renting spaces in which to perform.
But tonight marks Nimbus’ first performance in its new home, a warehouse space in the Nordeast neighborhood of Minneapolis.
Cragun says the company decided to lease a permanent space for a number of reasons, not the least of which was financial.
We did a review of how we use space – and we spend a significant portion of our budget renting spaces -from the stage we performed on to the storage space for our sets. On a week by week basis, it’s much less expensive to rent this space than to rent a another theater.
Plus the building has the potential to become a source of income; Cragun says they intend to make it available for rental, just as Nimbus has rented space from places like Intermedia Arts and the Minneapolis Theatre Garage in the past.
Neerland adds the space gives them increased flexibility when staging productions:
This space allows us to really play around to fit the shows we’re presenting. For instance, for the staging of “The Balcony” [in which much of the action takes place on - you guessed it - a balcony] prior to this we were performing in a space with 12 foot ceilings – we could never have done this show there.
The stage is indeed impressive, with 900 square feet to move around on. The warehouse space, which is in the shape of a large shoe-box, has been broken down from front to back into lobby area, seating area, stage, and backstage/storage/office.
Cragun says while they were motivated in part by finances and flexibility, the move is in large part about finding, and building community:
When you go into a place and then leave, you don’t really get to shape the experience. We wanted to do more than just present a show, but create a space where ideas are shared and art is created.
This space is as much about the people coming to see the art as the art itself. And that’s weird because we often do difficult challenging work. But in order to build an audience for that work, we have to develop connections, and an ongoing relationship with our audiences. And it’s hard to do that when you don’t have a place to call home.
“The Balcony” opens tonight at Nimbus’ new home – 1517 Central Ave NE, Minneapolis – and runs through March 6.