Original cast members of the of the 12 year running " Triple Espresso," Michael Pearce Donley, left, Bill Arnold and Bob Stromberg, right, in front of the theater on Nicollet Ave. in downtown Minneapolis March 27, 2008.
Andy King, Associated Press
'Triple Espresso' sets its sights on New York City
- Article by: KRISTIN TILLOTSON
- Star Tribune
- February 9, 2013 - 4:58 PM
How about an authentic New Yawk bagel to go along with those three shots of caffeine?
"Triple Espresso," the long-running, locally born-and-raised stage comedy, has set its sights on an off-Broadway run -- if backers can raise $300,000 through a Kickstarter campaign launched Saturday afternoon.
First performed in 1995, the G-rated, vaudeville-style show about a trio of guys trying to revive show-business careers played at the Music Box Theatre in Minneapolis for 13 years before closing in 2008, as well as 11 years in San Diego. There were touring productions as far away as Germany, but never in the theater capital of America, New York.
Six figures is an ambitious sum for an arts project to raise through crowd funding, but producer Dennis Babcock hopes to bank on the show's widespread fan base to drum up support.
"It's sold 2 million tickets all over the world," he said. "I've got a long e-mail list."
Still, he can't finance a New York production himself because, as he notes on Kickstarter, "It's expensive to produce good theater. We joke that for every $1,000 in ticket sales, we spent $999 to get there."
Babcock has been in talks with the Triad, a theater on the Upper West Side of Manhattan that has been home to some of off-Broadway's longest-running shows, including "Forever Plaid."
The show has earned testimonials from some prominent fans, including Leonard Nimoy and Pulitzer-winning author William Kennedy. But in its early days, Babcock was warned off Manhattan by a producer friend.
"She said the New York critics would eat us alive," he said. But now, since the Triad could offer a split run that might be, say, two shows a week over three months instead of booking a much riskier solid run, he thinks he could afford to "let the show find its audience by word of mouth, the way 'Forever Plaid' did."
The money will be used, he said, for theater rental, building a new set, lighting and sound design, cast salaries and housing, production-crew fees, and publicity. The Kickstarter campaign will run through March 15.
Most crowd funding campaigns offer donors varying levels of perks or prizes, depending on the amount they give. Babcock said the top package he'll offer -- for $10,000 -- is "eight tickets to the show, plus dinner at Sardi's with the cast and an onstage cameo for them or an unsuspecting guest. Do I think I'm going to get that? No. But I'm hoping for some in the thousand-dollar range."
Babcock may have set his sights high, but he's far from alone in using crowd funding to finance stage productions.
Since Kickstarter began in April 2009, $13.25 million has been pledged to theater projects, 2,560 of which were successfully funded -- nearly half of them in 2012 alone, said site spokesman Justin Kazmark.
Potential Twin Cities crowd funders who want to assess the goods before donating are in luck: "Triple Espresso" returns to the Music Box this week for a special Valentine's engagement.
Kristin Tillotson • 612-673-7046
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