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Minnesota Opera aims to protect, develop artistic space with purchase of Lab Theater

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Lab Theater
In recent years the Lab Theater hosted dance, theater and other performances often from local groups which do not have a home space.
Courtesy of Minnesota Opera

The Minnesota Opera wants input from local arts organizations after purchasing the Lab Theater, its next-door neighbor in the Minneapolis North Loop. 

The Lab is currently used by a variety of dance and theater groups that have no space of their own. Opera president and general manager Ryan Taylor said in coming months the Opera will consult with the groups and possible funders to decide how to use the space in the future.    "Once we have those plans in place and understand what those resources might be," he said, "then we will take the theater down for a period of time in order to renovate some of the space and then bring it back up." 

In the meantime, programming will continue under the current Lab Theater management, which has leased back the space through at least May 2020.

Lab Theater
The Lab Theater is a large open space which can be adapted for different presentations. The bleachers can seat 350 people.
Courtesy of Minnesota Opera

Like the Opera Center, the Lab is a converted warehouse. With a dramatic exposed brick interior, it boasts a 30-foot ceiling and covers 6,000 square feet. It was originally developed as a rehearsal and performance space by the Guthrie. The theater opened what was then called the Guthrie Lab in 1988 and used it until it moved to its new three stage complex on the Mississippi riverfront in 2006. 

The Opera moved into Opera Center next door to the Lab in 1990. The Center houses offices, rehearsal spaces, and warm up rooms. However the Opera has used the Lab space over the years. Taylor says the organization saw many local companies losing their spaces, and began wondering what might happen to them if the Lab was no longer available.

"And it led us to the conversation about what would we do if that space as a resource went away totally," he said. That in turn led to the decision to but the building.

Taylor said it is important to preserve the Lab both for groups in the community and for the Opera itself. He said the conversation will not be rushed, and the organization wants to think about the possibilities of using the building for its education programs, and new work development. 

Lab Theater
The Lab Theater in the North Loop of Minneapolis was originally converted from a warehouse into a rehearsal and performance space for the Guthrie Theater in 1988 and was in regular use until the new Guthrie complex opened in 2006.
Courtesy of Minnesota Opera

"It also going to need a little tender loving care at some time in the future," Taylor said. "And before we put any money into reinvigorating the space in some way I think we need to better understand what the community needs are: who is using it now, and where the space falls short, and  where might we help with that in the future." 

One question is how to connect the Opera Center and the Lab. While they share a wall, the Lab floor is six feet lower than the Center, so it will take more than just knocking through a new doorway.