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Grinnell Arts Center expands the Loft Theatre

The+ongoing+addition+to+the+Loft+Theatre+at+the+Grinnell+Arts+Center+will+allow+space+for+more+scenery+and+accommodate+larger+productions+and+cast+sizes.+Photo+by+Abraham+Teuber.
The ongoing addition to the Loft Theatre at the Grinnell Arts Center will allow space for more scenery and accommodate larger productions and cast sizes. Photo by Abraham Teuber.

In early October, the Grinnell Arts Center began construction on an addition to the Loft Theatre. The new space will serve as a green room for actors as well as additional storage space for props and scenery.

The Loft Theatre, which opened shortly after the Art Center in 2010, has impressive acoustics and lighting for its relatively small size. However, its smallness has also led to some challenges for productions happening in the space.

“There’s no space for actors,” said Sig Barber, member of the Arts Council’s board of directors. 

“[Scenery is] stored over on the side or underneath [the seating] and the green room is downstairs in the basement … actors have to climb up the stairs and there’s really no space.”

This has restricted the types of shows that are able to be held in the space, limiting the shows put on there to have relatively small casts and scenery. Seating in the space also needs to be configured to accommodate props and scenery storage.

“If a show required more extensive and accessible scenery, we always have to keep that in mind. We have to cut back and say, well, we just can’t have that, we’ll just have to have the audience imagine more.” said Barber. 

The space will also allow for scenery and props to be stored for future productions, as the current lack of storage space has required most scenery to be taken down after shows finish running.

The expansion was the idea of Tom Lacina, Arts Director of the Grinnell Area Arts Council. He found that structurally, an addition was possible on the eastern side of the theatre and the roof of the Stewart Gallery located on the building’s first floor. 

The ongoing addition to the Loft Theatre at the Grinnell Arts Center will allow space for more scenery and accommodate larger productions and cast sizes. Photo contributed by Sig Barber.

The structural part of the project has been led by Grinnell-based firm Vander Linden Construction, with finishing touches such as drywall and painting to be completed by volunteers.

Funding for the project has come from a variety of sources. “A lot of people stepped forth and provided significant donations to allow the construction to start and be mostly paid for, along with some reserves. The whole thing cost probably around $50,000,” said Barber.

The expansion is the most significant construction the Grinnell Arts Center has undergone since it first began using the space in 2010. Much initial work was required to transform the top floor of the building into the Loft Theatre, but none of it required actual structural additions to the building.

The project is projected to be finished in time for the Arts Council’s winter show, Sylvia, which will be directed by Barber and performed in mid-February.

The current show, Glorious, will be performed on the first floor of the building. Performances are Nov. 7, 8 and 9 at 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 10 at 2 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the Arts Center, McNally’s, online at grinnellarts.org/tickets or at the door.

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