Southern Theater, then and now

It’s been a year and a half since the Southern Theater was forced to abandon its role as a curator of the local performing arts scene, and strip itself down to a staff of one in order to stay alive and pay off its debts.

MPR’s Chris Roberts recently checked in with the remaining staffer, general manager Damon Runnals, to find out how the building’s new life as a rental facility is going.


Thirty-eight Twin Cities artists and groups rented the Southern Theater in 2012. That allowed the theater to eliminate a $53,000 debt it owed to artists, vendors, ticket holders and independent contractors, Runnals said.

“To the people that are still harboring some resentment against what happened at the Southern, I would say the slate has been nearly wiped clean,” he said.

But the Southern still owes the McKnight Foundation nearly $370,000. Board chair Gary Peterson said the theater has begun conversations with McKnight about repaying the money.

“I’m confident that over some period of time we can pay it back,” Peterson said. “Whether that would be easy… it would be challenging.”

In the meantime, the Southern Theater has invited the community to help it decide what it should become.

Roberts reports it is unlikely the Southern will ever return to its former role as a programmer and a presenter, but the board is hoping to eventually move the venue beyond its current “rental-only” status.

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