Brave New Workshop buys another Theater District building to house school

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August 19, 2014
By: Ben Johnson
Ben Johnson

Brave New Workshop (BNW) plans to purchase the five-story, 20,000-square-foot building at 727 Hennepin Ave. to house its school, BNW Student Union.

The impending purchase cements BNW’s shift from its longtime Uptown headquarters at 2605 Hennepin Ave. to the downtown theater district. In 2011 BNW moved its main stage theater to 824 Hennepin Ave., across the street and down the block from its new 727 Hennepin purchase.

BNW will host a farewell party at its Uptown location, where it hosted shows for more than 45 years, sometime in September. The Star Tribune has reported a non-profit theater company called Arts’ Nest has purchased the building and will take over the space in November.

BNW had been running its Student Union out of the Uptown space, but its new initiative to invest heavily in improv classes and corporate events called for a new facility.

"The space will allow us to drastically increase the number of local students we can serve, and provide us with a world-class space to train others in what we do so that we can share BNW improvisation with students and audiences across the globe," said BNW co-owner Jenni Lilledahl in a press release. Lilledahl and her husband John Sweeney bought BNW from its founder Dudley Riggs in 1997.

The new space will feature include six new classrooms, a student showcase space, a lounge/gathering space, small group and writing rooms and webcast and video conferencing studios. The entire top floor will serve as offices for full-time staff. Altogether BNW has a weekly payroll of 85 full- and part-time employees.

The 727 Hennepin building is currently home to Unbank, a financial company specializing in payday loans, check cashing and wire transfers. Previously Teeners Theatrical Costumes was there.