Next Act Theatre opens its new home
Carpenters, drywall installers, electricians and more were hard at work on Next Act Theatre’s new home when I took a midsummer hard-hat tour with artistic director David Cecsarini and managing director Charles Kakuk. Some painting and other finishing remained, but the place obviously had good bones.
The new Next Act is a building within a building, a theater complex cocooned within a factory space so vast and high that you could store a dirigible in it. The company raised and spent just over $1,000,000 to create a space that every small company will envy and, no doubt, rent whenever possible. The backstage amenities include spacious, well-appointed dressing rooms with six showers and easy backstage access from wing to wing. A loft for prop storage and a very large rehearsal hall (with a sprung floor to make dancers happy) will allow one show to rehearse while another is on stage. The new Next Act offices are in a mezzanine with windows opening onto the rehearsal space. New HVAC dedicated just to Next Act’s space will keep patrons and staff comfortable.
The front of house has a dedicated box office and a spacious, welcoming lobby. The theater proper seats 150 in a three-quarters thrust arrangement. It’s very like Next Act’s former home, the Off-Broadway (on the second floor of a building at Water and St. Paul Streets), but without those view-blocking pillars. If demand calls for it, space is available for more seating. The stage is 20-by-18 feet. As in the old space, the stage will be just elevated slightly elevated and the audience will sit in tiers of chairs on risers. The lighting grid is 16 feet above the floor, with no fly space. Next Act doesn’t need that; they’re about intimacy, not spectacle. The building-within-a-building arrangement will prevent sound from spilling into the theater from the outside world.
Next Act patrons will be able to park free in about 50 off-street spaces or in about 300 free and readily available on-street spots. That will be especially welcome news to anyone who drove to the Off-Broadway, where parking was a nightmare.
“My favorite thing about all of this is that we’re at street level,” Kakuk said. “The building will give us an identity. Before, we were just someone renting the second floor.”
The big question: Where is it?
The new Next Act is just off the beaten path at the cusps of the Third and Fifth Wards, at 255 S. Water St. That’s where Water starts to dribble away into industrial lots. Imagine driving south on Milwaukee Street to where it curves west near the Skylight and briefly becomes Young Street. Cross the bridge and make the first left, and Next Act is a couple of blocks down and on the right.
It’s not as complicated as it sounds. Anyway, everyone who cares about theater will know where it is before the season ends.
Cecsarini will consecrate the house with a serious play.
In The Exonerated, playwrights Jessica Blank and Eric Jensen used the words former death-row inmates who had been proven innocent in time to save them from execution. This local premiere relates startling accounts of police and prosecutorial ineptitude and corruption and shows how the unjustly convicted suffered yet persevered.
Edward Morgan has directed 10 actors playing 30 roles: Olivia Dawson as Georgia, Lisa Golda as Sandra/Sue, Ethan Henry as Robert, Bo Johnson as Gary, Lee Palmer as David, James Pickering and Rick Richter are members of the Male Ensemble, Jonathan Wainwright as Kerry, Alfred H. Wilson as Delbert and Tami Workentin as Sunny.
The production team: Resident costume designer Marsha Kuligowski, lighting designer Jason Fassl, and Nikki Kulas as props master. Morgan and Cecsarini will co-design the set and sound. The resident production stage manager is Jessica Connelly.
Tickets are $25-$35. Box office hours are Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is open for walkup service noon to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. On performance days the box office will open at 5 p.m. for evening shows and at noon for matinees. Groups of ten or more receive a 20% discount and reservations may be arranged by calling (414) 278-0765. Seniors 65 and older and students with valid student receive a $5 discount per ticket on advance sales. Students may also purchase half-price rush tickets with a valid student I.D. one half-hour prior to curtain, based on availability. Tickets are also available through the Next Act website.