Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts
Awaiting construction, September 2007
|Architect||Swasey, William Albert; Robinson, J.L. Co., et al.|
|Architectural style||Beaux Arts|
|NRHP Reference #||95001230|
|Added to NRHP||October 31, 1995|
The Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts (formerly the Minnesota Shubert Performing Arts and Education Center) is the Twin Cities’ newest arts center and the flagship for dance in Minnesota. Centrally located in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota, The Cowles Center was developed as an incubation project by Artspace Projects, Inc and includes the newly refurbished 500-seat Goodale Theater (formerly The Sam S. Shubert Theater); the Hennepin Center for the Arts, home to 20 leading dance and performing arts organizations; the state-of-the-art Target Education Studio, housing The Cowles Center’s distance learning program; and the new U.S. Bank Atrium. The Cowles Center is a catalyst for the creation, presentation, education, enjoyment and celebration of dance and the performing arts in the Twin Cities.
Both The Goodale Theater and the Hennepin Center for the Arts (formerly the Minneapolis Masonic Temple) are on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Distance Learning Program of The Cowles Center began teaching students in 2002. Using IP videoconferencing technologies, The Cowles Center brings artists into classrooms throughout Minnesota, nationally and internationally, creating two-way interactive, real-time teaching environments. Previous programs have included online "Follow the Creative Process" programs which utilize web-based technologies.
The Original Samuel S. Shubert Theater
The Shubert Theatrical Company, run by brothers Levi, Samuel, and Jacob, entered the New York Theater scene in 1900 and had became the largest theater owning and producing organization in America by 1920.
When Samuel Shubert died in a train wreck in 1905, his brother’s memorialized him by naming a few of their new theaters after him. Two of these new theaters opened on the same day in 1910: Saint Paul’s Shubert Theater, which became the Fitzgerald Theater in 1994, and The Samuel S. Shubert Theater in Minneapolis, which reopened as The Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts in September 2011, after a long and dramatic history.
The Samuel S. Shubert Theater was designed by William Albert Swasey (1864-1940). For its time it was a mid-sized house, consisting of 1,500 seats with two shallow balconies. The front of the building had a Classical Revival façade featuring four pairs of bas-relief columns framing three arched windows at the second story level. As with many of Swasey’s other buildings, the decorative elements of the façade were made of glazed terra cotta.
The opening show at Minneapolis’ new Samuel S. Shubert Theatre was “The White Sister” starring Viola Allen. Ticket prices ranged from $2.50 to 50 cents
Alexander G. “Buzz” Bainbridge, a former press agent for Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show and general manager for a Chicago producer of touring shows, became the Shubert’s manager in 1910, at the age of 25.
The Shubert had been conceived as a venue for touring Broadway shows, but those tours stopped in the summer, leaving the theater empty, so, the Shuberts tasked Bainbridge with creating a resident acting ensemble. The Bainbridge Players became a popular year round attraction. Several of its actors, such as Victory Jory, Gladys George, and Johnny Dilson, went on to successful film careers.
In 1915, The Shubert began to play movies, accompanied by a 40 piece pit orchestra. In 1918 all Minneapolis theaters were closed du to the flu epidemic, and the Shubert remodeled. New lights were installed, the orchestra pit was expanded, and the theater was repainted.
Throughout the 1920s the prevalence and popularity of films began to push out live theater. While the Shubert held on until 1933, it could not withstand the changing of the tides. Bainbridge disbanded his company, and became mayor of Minneapolis from 1933-1935.
The Shubert came back to life as “The Alvin” in 1935, named after its new owner William Alvin Steffes. Steffes added an Art Deco marquee and split the stage time between movies and touring Broadway shows until December 1940, when the theater went under for two months before reincarnating as a burlesque theater.
Despite a fire on July 6, 1941, which necessitated a five month long renovation, The Alvin theater kept it’s doors open as a burlesque theater for until 1953. Some of the best known strip-tease artists of the day including Tempest Storm, Candy Barr, and Gypsy Rose Lee performed there. A typical burlesque show offered not only titillation, but entertainment by jugglers, comedians, and variety acts. One of the most noteworthy of these performers was Dudley Riggs, a comedian juggler who went on to found Brave New Workshop, now housed only a few blocks from The Cowles Center.
In November 1953, the Alvin underwent yet another change when the Reverend Russell H. Olson turned the building into the Minneapolis Evangelistic Auditorium. The church closed only three years later.
The Shubert came back in 1957 when Ted Mann bought it, converted it into a movie theater, and renamed it The Academy. On July 12, 1957 The Academy hosted the Minneapolis premiere of Minnesota native Michael Todd’s “Around the World in Eighty Days”. Todd, who used to be a candy vendor in the old Shubert Theater, attended the opening with his wife, Elizabeth Taylor.
The Academy began to struggle as suburban multiplexes replaced single screen houses, and 1983 brought yet another closing of the indomitable theater’s doors.
Closed Doors and New Projects
The early eighties were a dangerous time to be in downtown Minneapolis. In 1987, 25% of reported crimes were committed on Block E. In an effort to combat the increasing crime and violence, the Minneapolis City Council approved guidelines for a redevelopment project. However, the project brought The Shubert under threat of the wrecking ball.
Block E was razed in 1988 and 1989. In 1990 the Heritage Preservation Commission convinced city officials not to demolish the Shubert unless it proved prohibitively expensive to develop Block E with the theater in place. Save Our Shubert wrote letters to editors and held candlelight vigils outside the theater. The Shubert was added to the National Register of Historic places in 1996, leaving Brookfield Development to find a way to incorporate the Shubert into their Block E proposal.
Artspace Vice President Tom Nordyke had the idea to simply move the Shubert out of the way, solving the issue in a way that benefited preservationists, developers, and the arts community. Bakke Kopp Ballou and McFarlin Inc of Minneapolis concluded that the option of moving a million pound building a few blocks was, in fact, feasible.
It took twelve days to move the theater from Block E to its new Hennepin Avenue location in February 1999. At 5.8 million pounds, it was the heaviest building ever moved on rubber tires, and holds a Guinness World Record for this accomplishment.
The Shubert was too large to be moved on city streets, but luckily the only thing between it and its new home were parking lots. Another renovation created The Cowles Center for the Performing Arts, the flagship venue for dance in the Twin Cities.
The Goodale Theater
The refurbished Goodale Theater with 505 seats (216 Orchestra level, 289 Grand Tier level) offer guests intimate, unobstructed vies of the entire stage with no seat further than 65 feet from center stage. Each row of seats arcs semi-circularly so each audience member faces center stage.
Ornate columns and historic architectural details frame the proscenium arch, married with rich cherrywood and contemporary finishes to create a distinctive performance space befitting this dynamic artistic community. Floors throughout the backstage area are covered with a special linoleum that allows ballet performers to walk from dressing rooms to the stage without removing their toe shoes. The spacious backstage spaces and dressing rooms allow maximum flexible space to support a wide variety of companies and performance needs. The orchestra pit accommodates up to 42 musicians and adds the dimension of live orchestral music. The orchestra pit can also be adjusted to ad two additional rows of seating in the house. The enormous stage provides choreographers with ample space in the wings to create broad sweeping work, unencumbered by the limitations of smaller performance areas. The stage also includes a full size stage house with 52 riggings that can support extensive and elaborate set designs.
U.S. Bank Atrium
The main entrance to The Cowles Center houses the The Cowles Center Box Office and Information Desk, Concession space, donor wall, and entrances to the Goodale Theater and The Hennepin Center for the Arts.
A Labanotation wall art piece inspired by Rites of Spring hangs above the concession area. Developed by dance artist and theorist Rudolf Laban (1878–1958), Labanotation is a way of writing down dance which is analogous to the way music notation is a way of writing down music. Labanotation uses symbols to represent points on a dancer's body, the direction of the dancer's movements, the tempo, and the dynamics.
Target Education Studio
This spectacular studio space provides dramatic views of the city through a sweeping wall of windows. A sprung maple floor built for dance, studio lighting, and a wall of mirrors make this one of the premier rehearsal and events spaces in town. The Target Education Studio houses The Cowles Center's Long Distance Learning Program. Using video conferencing technology, The Cowles Center brings artists into classrooms to create two-way, interactive, real-time teaching environments. Large projection screens allow all participants to see and talk to one another as if they were in the same room. These "virtual field trips" remove the time and cost associated with students traveling to see an artist, or having and artist visit a school. Thanks to generous funding, the Cowles Center is also able to provide free sessions to Minnesota schools.
The Cowles Center Inaugural Season spanned the fall of 2011 and the spring of 2012 and brought a variety of Minnesota dance companies to the same venue. Dance companies which performed in the 2011–12 season included:
- Ragamala Dance
- Minnesota Dance Theatre
- Beyond Ballroom Dance Company
- Black Label Movement
- Zorongo Flamenco
- Native Pride Dancers
- James Sewell Ballet
- Matthew Janczewski's Arena Dance
- Stuart Pimsler Dance and Theater
- Katha Dance Theater
- Shapiro and Smith Dance Company
- Zenon Dance Company
- Breaking Boundaries Dance Company
- Tu Dance.
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2008-04-15.
- The Many Lives of the Schubert Theater
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