Selecting a green list of theaters isn’t much of a chore because there are hundreds from which to choose. Theaters speak out and let the audience know what kinds of performance they will produce. The theaters named on this list either have social critique or community development as a central tenet of their mission.
Unfortunately, the art of theater has long suffered from its inability to compete with the larger-than-life big screen movie. For the past 50 years, theater’s audience has slowly drifted away due to the popular impression that theater consists of men in tights, mumbled Shakespearean quotes and traditional staging. But there are local movements that are actively experimenting and trying to revive performance art. These groups produce work that attempts to show people where they stand in the world in order to change their perspective on consumption, racism, sexism and other mainstream American issues. Although the Twin Cities has long lagged nationally in the production of such innovative, important theater, the organizations found on this list enthusiastically seek to create this kind of work.
3 Legged Race
420 N 5th St, Suite 540, Ford Center, Minneapolis
Productions use movement and form to create innovative dance. Many of
its performances contain social critique of the world around us.
Acadia Cabaret Theater
1931 Nicollet Ave. S., Minneapolis
Plays host to local drama and comedy on its small stage. The space
is a little cramped but offers local theater a stage on which to show
their work to the public.
Ballet of the Dolls
820 18th Ave., Minneapolis MN 55418
The most consistently challenging dance troupe in town, Ballet of
the Dolls works to take ballet out of its traditionally elitist format
and presents it to the people.
The Brave New Workshop
2605 Hennepin Ave S., Minneapolis
St. Paul Theater
17, West 7th Place, Saint Paul
Brave New Workshop’s comedy flip-flops between social satire and simple
silliness. It also offers improv workshops for comedians looking to get
a foot in the door.
Bryant-Lake Bowl Theater
810 W. Lake St., Minneapolis
Bryant-Lake Bowl doesn’t house its own theater troupe, but hosts
plenty of smaller shows. The space offers a much a needed stage for
drama, experimental and comedic performances.
Ethnic Dance Theater
2337 Central Ave. NE, Minneapolis
Ethnic Dance Theater attempts to create understanding and awareness
of other cultures through the production of traditional dance.
Eye of the Storm
3600 16th Ave. S., Minneapolis
One of the few theaters in town still producing gritty, occasionally
intense theater. Eye of the Storm bases a lot of its work in social
Fifty Foot Penguin Theater
2224 Emerson Ave. #3, Minneapolis
Fifty Foot Penguin Theater has produced some of the most dramatic
Twin Cities theater in the last few years. They’re also fans of absurd
comedy as social critique.
3156 23rd Ave. S., Minneapolis
Theatre may be one of the most socially conscious theaters in town. Recent seasons have included work by Brecht and Orwell.
Fringe Festival may not have much "fringe" left in it, but with a
120-production line-up, it offers an incredible opportunity for
Hennepin Center for the Arts
528 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis
In a city filled with theaters and theater groups, Illusion Theater
offers a chance for new playwrights to stage their work in addition to
housing productions of established work.
In The Heart of The Beast Puppet and Mask Theater
1500 East Lake St., Minneapolis
Best known for its participation in the Powderhorn neighborhood’s
May Day parade, In the Heart of the Beast also works its puppet mastery
into stage productions.
Mixed Blood Theater
1501 S. 4th St., Minneapolis
Based on the idea that roles shouldn’t be cast along traditional
"white character, white actor" lines, Mixed Blood pushes audiences to
consider issues of race, gender, and more.
Pangea World Theater
2509 Dupont Ave. #209, Minneapolis
Pangea’s dance-inspired theater turns traditional theater on its
head exploding the racial and societal issues from within the play
3010 Minnehaha Ave., Minneapolis
Even though Patrick has departed from the artistic director position
at this cabaret theater, the space still plays host to some of the Twin
Cities most experimental, dramatic and moving performances.
270 N Kent St., St. Paul
Being the only professional African-American theater company in the
Twin Cities puts a lot of pressure on Penumbra. Fortunately, it’s up to
the task, delivering poetic performance and masterful staging.
Pillsbury House Theatre
3501 Chicago Ave. S., Minneapolis
Shows at Pillsbury House Theatre are deeply rooted in issues of
social justice and community. In addition to housing powerful
productions, the theater works with the community to produce works by
young, local playwrights.
The Playwright’s Center
2301 Franklin Ave. E., Minneapolis
Twin Cities would have maybe half the performance offerings if not
for the artistic guidance of the Playwright’s Center. They offer
classes, workshops and occasionally stage productions.
Praxis Group explodes the traditions of classical theater. Their
productions turn established plays inside out, exposing the unspoken
societal programming that is at work within.
Red Eye Theater
15 W 14th St., Minneapolis
Although the Red Eye only hosts a few shows a year these days, it
hasn’t dulled down its taste for experimental and challenging
1420 Washington Ave. S., Minneapolis
The Southern is the premier location for local dance and theater,
including Theater Mu. And for those who haven’t experienced it, Leslie
Ball’s local cabaret, where local performers try out their work, is a
Stepping Stone Theater for Youth Development
314 Landmark Center
75 W 5th St., St. Paul
Stepping Stone’s mission centers around bringing kids into the fold
of theater and teaching them how to use performance to express thought
Teatro del Pueblo
209 W. Page St., St. Paul
Teatro del Pueblo draws its strength from the Latino community on
the West Side of St Paul. The company produces shows based on issues of
importance to both local and global Latino people.
Ten Thousand Things Theater
Ten Thousand Things tours most of its shows to non-traditional
theater audiences, bringing performance to prisons, homeless shelters
711 W Lake St., Suite 212, Minneapolis
Theater Mu is the preeminent Asian-American theater troupe in town.
Their work focuses on the combination of Western and Eastern stage
direction and performance.
Theatre in the Round
245 Cedar Ave., Minneapolis
Theatre in the Round gets a lot of flak for its consistent decision
to generally produce comedy of manners plays, but it still remains the
best community theater in the Cities.
110 Rarig Center
330 21st Ave. S., Minneapolis
Rarig Center plays host to a few different student theater
companies. The most visible of these is U Theater, which incorporates
the University of Minnesota’s base of emerging playwrights, performers
and directors into professional productions.