With most of the theater world on lockdown, the Playwrights’ Center is kicking off a plan to become a bigger player in a new space.
The center, which champions plays and new work, received $850,000 in the $1.9 billion bonding bill approved last week by the Minnesota Legislature. Jeremy Cohen, the center’s producing artistic director, said the money will be used to hire an architect and launch the design phase of an expansion project at 710 Raymond Av., in an area of St. Paul’s St. Anthony Park neighborhood that has become a cultural corridor.
The 19,000-square-foot warehouse more than doubles the 9,000 square feet of usable space in the center’s current home in Minneapolis’ Seward neighborhood. Buying and renovating the building is projected at $8 million (a larger campaign will include programming and other costs). The new center will have a 150-seat theater, classrooms, a wellness center and community space.
“Upstairs is this beautiful, open, exposed-brick, hardwood floor, gorgeous, truss-ceilinged space [the current owners] use as what they call the attic,” said Cohen, whose organization was among the first to pivot to online during the coronavirus pandemic so it could continue to employ artists. “It clearly wants to be the next lab space.”
The center, with an annual budget of roughly $2 million, would move into its new home at the end of its 50th season, in late spring 2022. It will be a more public-facing place for the organization.
“This is a human center,” said Cohen. “We’re not a huge theater but this will be a building where playwrights, theatermakers and their collaborators have a place to come, make their work and get paid equitably to do it.”