Brave New Workshop wants to buy Hennepin Stages

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January 3, 2011 // UPDATED 4:26 pm - January 11, 2011
By: Gregory J. Scott
Gregory J. Scott
DOWNTOWN CORE — Brave New Workshop owner John Sweeney says he wants to secure an additional venue for his renowned comedy theater, which has been an Uptown destination since 1965. If approved by the City Council, he could be mere months away from buying the Hennepin Stages property at 824 Hennepin Ave. S.

“We’re basically bursting at the seams,” Sweeney said, referencing the theater’s current location at 2605 Hennepin Ave. S. The Workshop’s improv school, where students can take classes ranging from music to sketch writing, currently has over 200 full-time students. “We just don’t have enough space for that,” he said, adding that he’s signed a temporary lease across the street to accommodate the overflow.

The plan — which goes before the City Council in February — would be to move all of the Workshop’s scripted “mainstage” shows to the new venue, which seats 235. Sweeney would keep the old location for improv classes and improv shows, as well as for corporate training sessions, which has become a significant part of the Workshop’s revenue.

“So if we move our mainstage performances there [to 824 Hennepin Ave. S.], that frees up a lot more room for the school to flourish at 2605 Hennepin,” he said. “Most nights there’d be shows at both spaces.”

Sweeney noted the “fun, superstitious” fact that the theater would stay on Hennepin Avenue, where it has resided, in one location or another, since its founding on East Hennepin Avenue in 1958. He also said that the layout of the Stages theater is “so identical to our current space.”

A name change could be in the works for the Uptown location, Sweeney speculated, but emphasized that his plans are far from concrete.