Four years ago the Southern Theater was in shambles, and I was pissed. Like so much anger, though, the true motivation was fear. I wanted to have that space around. I wanted it so badly. Since I first walked into that space in 2007 to see Four Humors’ Bards at the Fringe Festival, I have loved the space of the Southern. The battered arch hints at glory, the raw walls breathe potential, the view from the audience is panoramic and immediate all at once. You don’t see plays at the Southern, you step into a world. It’s a world that almost slipped through our fingers, real estate that might have been sold off and demolished to make condos for incoming freshmen, or extra parking for downtown. But that didn’t happen here. In our universe, Damon Runnals and the new Southern board hunkered down, companies and bands and wedding couples booked the space – because it is amazing – to keep it afloat, and they worked to settle their debts and dream big.
It’s been now seven years since my first show at the Southern, four since the shit really hit the fan, and over those years I have seen a lot of shows at the Southern. I’ve loved a lot of them, disagreed with some, been mesmerized and entranced, and always been challenged and absorbed by the work. Jon Ferguson’s You’re My Favorite Kind of Pretty, Theatre Novi Most’s The Oldest Story in the World, Four Humors’ The Age of Wordsworth, and so many more. If you made a list of who’s been at the Southern, it would essentially include everyone I’ve wanted to see or work with in the Twin Cities.
Now with ARTshare, Savage Umbrella has that chance – to work with these companies, to be in this gloriously, compelling, inventive space. ARTshare isn’t just a chance to get great theater at a ridiculously good price – although it is also that – it is a radical reframing of the way we can think about our community of creators and our relationship to space and our audiences. We’ve lost so many great companies over the years because we can’t find space, or afford the spaces we’ve found, or the work of finding spaces to perform in just becomes too much. With ARTshare and it’s $18 a month membership supporting the infrastructure of the Southern and paying the companies directly, we create a system of mutual support - a net, a slingshot to make greater, brighter and more ambitious work.
The companies involved in ARTshare are phenomenal: ARENA DANCES, Black Label Movement, Blue Water Theater Company, Four Humors, Independent Movement Group, Live Action Set, Main Street School of Performing Arts, Sandbox Theater, Sossy Mechanics, Swandive Theatre, Theatre Forever, Theatre Novi Most, TigerLion Arts, Workhaus Collective, and of course, us, Savage Umbrella.
There’s a certain thrill to being on both sides of ARTshare – as a creator in a resident company, and as a member who’s going to go to as many shows as I can. I can’t wait to see what each of these companies creates for the space, including and especially us. You should be a member, too, and it’s really easy to do. We want at least 1200 members for when we launch in January 2015, so tell your friends, get them to sign up. Together is better than alone, especially when it comes to big dreams. As Carl Flink of Black Label Movement put it on Saturday night at the Southern pARTy, “It's breaking ground, not just in the community but in the country.” Four years ago, that would have been a ridiculous thing to think, but here we are – and who knows what will happen next.