Nautilus Theatre makes small move for big impact

Nautilus Music Theater is a company known for its great musical productions in far-from-grand settings.

“We’re exploring more intimate ways of telling stories through music,” explained Artistic Director Ben Krywosz. “Initially opera was a chamber form… it started with camerata … friends in a room, singing.”

The musical theater company has occasionally staged full productions of such pieces as “The View from Here” and “Joan of Arc” in its small studio space in Lowertown St. Paul, with a maximum of 40 patrons per performance. But predominantly it used the space to workshop new pieces in its “Rough Cuts” series. If it put on a full production, it would rent out a larger space.

But after 19 years, this will no longer be an issue.

Krywosz and his crew have moved to a new, slightly larger space just one floor down, on the ground level of the Northern Warehouse. It is bigger, but hardly what one would call “roomy.” But for Krywosz it’s a harbinger of big things to come.

“Having our own space gives us more artistic freedom and more visibility,” explained Krywosz. “We’re right on the street. The acoustics are better here – the singers and music director love it.”

By many accounts, audiences love it, too. Nautilus’ inaugural production in the new space, “Ordinary Days,” has received glowing reviews.

Kersten Rodau and Doug Scholz-Carlson in Ordinary Days at Nautilus Music Theater

Written by Adam Gwon, it’s the sort of production that’s emblematic of Nautilus’ style: an intimate tale filled with emotional intensity.

Unlike your typical opera or musical, the show stars apartment dwellers in New York: ordinary people, doing ordinary things. And when they sing, they pour their hearts out just a few feet from the audience.

“It requires a different acting style and different vocal production,” reflected Krywosz. “We tend to work with really good performers; it’s a very different experience for them as well.”

Nautilus originally produced Ordinary Days as a “Rough Cuts” piece back in 2010; Krywosz knew then he wanted to mount a full production, but this was the first time he could get all the actors together.

Jill Anna Ponasik and  Max Wojtanowicz in "Ordinary Days" at Nautilus Music Theater

Krywosz says at its heart the piece revolves around two themes.

“First there’s our need for connection – romantic or otherwise – which is challenging in a big city,” said Krywosz. “The other theme has to do with discovering that basic day-to-day interactions are really quite extraordinary. We often don’t notice those things, but if you can just step back and notice how amazing life is… that sounds trite to say, but in theater it can be quite compelling.”

Krywosz says it turns out all of us are spectacular in our own way. We just tend not to give ourselves credit.

It looks like we can expect extraordinary things from Nautilus’ new, ordinary, space.