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Old BNW space at 2605 Hennepin Avenue is sold

Posted by: Graydon Royce under Theater, Behind the scenes, Minnesota artists, Theaters Updated: August 13, 2014 - 4:45 PM

The old Brave New Workshop at 2605 Hennepin Av. S., Minneapolis, has been sold and will be rebranded as a performance space operated by a new nonprofit.

Dudley Riggs had moved his comedy troupe into the building in the early 1960s and it served as home to shows almost continuously until 2011, when the owners of the business moved the club downtown.

Still, the Workshop was using the 2605 Hennepin space as the Brave New Institute School, where classes in improvisation and other stagecraft were held. No one from the Workshop was available to comment on the future of that program. Mike Fotis and Joe Bozic, both veterans who had performed on stage, had been co-directors of the school. They both left earlier this year for other jobs. The Brave New Workshop business is owned by John Sweeney and Jenni Lilledahl, who purchased it in 1997 from Riggs.

The theater, which had about 200 seats, will be remodeled and operated as the Phoenix Theatre. A nonprofit called The Arts’ Nest is being launched to program the space, according to the group’s executive director, Jenna Papke.

Papke said the purchase price was $485,000 and the buyer was an individual who has organized a limited liability partnership called ERK. She did not identify the person, other than to say he or she is on the Arts’ Nest board of directors. The building is being rented to The Arts’ Nest for the cost of taxes and insurance, Papke said. Records show that the 2014 tax bill was about $25,000.

Those documents also show that the previous owner was RICMAR LLC, with an address for Richard Kohn of Cumberland, Wis.

Papke said the new space will open in November. Mission Theatre Company will be the first company to use the theater, with a new work by playwright Sam Graber. The play, "Detainee," will run Nov. 6-15.

Hundreds of actors and writers found their legs in The Brave New Workshop at 2605 Hennepin. Al Franken and Tom Davis did shows there. Hollywood screenwriter Pat Proft called the theater one of best rooms for comedy because of the way laughter resounded off the walls. Sweeney and Lilledahl had moved BNW shows to Calhoun Square for about three years but moved back in 2002.

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