A little-known fact about the expression "All the world's a stage" is that William Shakespeare was talking about the roof of the Bakken Museum in south Minneapolis.
No one has performed "As You Like It," the 1599 comedy where that line originated, up there yet but it's probably only a matter of time. When the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered indoor arts venues, the rooftop — which features a green space and a spectacular view of both Bde Maka Ska and the downtown skyline — became an important arts venue, hosting Open Eye Theatre's "Bug Girl" and "Log Jam!," as well as other plays and music (it's also the site of private events and the museum's Bakkenalia parties).
"We had this incredible outdoor space and we were looking for ways to utilize it," says Joe Imholte, vice president of programs and operations. "I recalled Open Eye coming to our backyard years ago to do one of their driveway puppet shows and, coincidentally, they had sent out an e-mail to say they were looking for outdoor spaces. So I wrote and said, 'Hey, we have one.' "
It's a win-win, Imholte says. Bakken doesn't make a ton of money from renting the space but the science and tech center does increase awareness of its collections. A survey of "Log Jam!" attendees this spring revealed that half had never been to the Bakken.
"Our intent was, 'How can we be a good partner to theaters that are suffering?' " Imholte says. "But admission to the museum is always included [in the ticket price] and being able to have people go through our museum — we're not one of the big ones in town and a lot of people haven't heard of us — we've had that opportunity to be on people's radar in a way that we hadn't been."
Plays, cabaret acts, concerts by Jeremy Messersmith and others, a drag show, improv and more have followed on the roof, which could host up to 90 with social distancing but has a maximum capacity of 140 now.
The plan is to continue using the space, with Imholte dreaming of a site-specific play that would roam the Bakken grounds, along the lines of New York's long-running, interactive "Sleep No More."
The sky's literally the limit, and there's a celestial bonus. As another poet ("Up on the Roof" lyricist Gerry Goffin) put it, "At night, the stars put on a show for free."