Theater troupe moves into City Center for new show

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October 24, 2013
By: Michael Rietmulder
Michael Rietmulder

A blank canvas of any size can be as intimidating as it is exciting. But most aren’t 22,000 square feet.

For its latest production, “This is a World to Live In,” itinerant theater company Sandbox Theatre snagged a space nearly the size of Jimmy Jam’s old Lake Minnetonka mansion on the ground floor of the City Center. Sandbox moved into its sprawling (if temporary) new digs in the long-vacant downtown Minneapolis retail space just more than a month ago. Naturally, it didn’t take long for the creative collective’s imaginations to run wild.

“When you walk in and see this cavernous space your mind immediately jumps to, ‘let’s do this, let’s put a Ferris wheel in, let’s put a rollercoaster’ and all these wonderful things,” said Sandbox’s Matthew Glover, who’s spearheading the project. “Then reality hits you that everything you bring in you also have to bring out and things cost money [laughs].”

The pop-up production might not include any carnival rides, but the Sandbox crew has been hard at work the past few weeks building the show’s non-traditional set from scratch in half of the gutted space. Director Ryan Hill describes “This is a World to Live In,” which runs through Nov. 16, as an “immersive narrative.” Translation: Don’t expect a typical crowd-shushing, take-your-seat experience.

The show is inspired by Andy Warhol’s Factory — the pop-art eccentric’s studio/collective in the ’60s and ’70s — and audiences are essentially thrust into a party to behold the Factory’s latest and greatest work. While the actors are using their real first names, their characters are loosely based on the bohemian scenesters that inhabited the Factory, including actress/model Edie Sedgwick, heartthrob actor Joe Dallesandro, director Paul Morrissey and Lou Reed.

Tickets are limited to an intimate 30 per show and audience members will be able to interact with the characters at this theatrical fete as desired. “You can be either active or inactive,” said Glover, who plays the Warhol-based character. “You can be passive, maybe aggressive. The idea is how much you want to play in it will be up to the person, but each one will have their own unique experience.”

Without a physical theater of its own, Sandbox has become accustomed to designing shows for various venues and environments. Since the ensemble creates each show collectively from scratch, Hill said they are better able to tailor each show to its surroundings. “It’s almost reverse engineered — ‘I really could use something here; a table, a chair,’” chimed Glover, referring to their current show. “When working in other traditional theater spaces, you know what you’re going to get.”

In its eight-years, Sandbox has at times tried to find a permanent studio or rehearsal space. Hill and Glover said they have inquired about spaces even larger than their short-term City Center spot, but are often met with resistance. “They don’t want to get involved,” Hill said. “You get the sense that it’s cheaper for them to have it empty than it is to have it alive.”

It took Sandbox brass several months of talking with brokers, leasing agents and scouring “every warehouse you can imagine” before finding a venue for “This is a World to Live In.” Glover and Hill separately came across the unused City Center space and Shorenstein, the real estate company that owns the building, embraced the idea of their temporary

“They just kept saying yes, and that was it,” Glover said. “It was a mark of fortune for us.”

If you go …

What: Sandbox Theatre’s production of “This is a World to Live in”

Where: City Center, 30 S. 7th St. Suite 165

When: Thru Nov. 16

More info: www.sandboxtheatreonline.com