Riverside Theater looking for donations for its next stage

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“We probably wrote the three biggest checks of our lives last week,” said production artistic director Adam Knight shortly after launching Riverside Theater’s first fundraising campaign in 20 years.

Riverside Theater is expanding its lobby in its new Crescent Block Theater in downtown Iowa City, to create a pre- and post-show gathering space, as well as a site for special events and intimate concerts. (Computer graphics courtesy of Neumann Monson Architects)

The professional Iowa City theater troupe will be writing many more checks as they move into the next phase of renovating their new home in the Crescent Block building on downtown Ped Mall.

It’s part of Tailwind Group’s College Street redevelopment project, and the Mankato, Minnesota-based company pledged $ 900,000 to Riverside’s efforts, even before fundraising began.

Since then, major theater stakeholders have pledged $ 595,000, bringing a total to $ 1,495,000, or 82% of the campaign’s $ 1.82 million goal.

Riverside is now looking to the public to raise the last $ 305,000 needed to transform an empty space at 119 E. College St. into a state-of-the-art performance hall currently called the Crescent Block Theater.

“This will help us finish the construction,” said Knight, 42, of Iowa City.

Options available to donors include monetary donations at all levels, as well as naming rights at various levels, including $ 2,000 to name a theater seat in honor or memory of a loved one.

Next step

What: Riverside Theater fundraising campaign

Details: riversidetheatre.org/nextstage

The three floors of the theater will offer artists and patrons an enlarged hall and a ticket office on the first floor; locker rooms and conference rooms on the second floor; a 150-seat performance space that can be configured in many ways on the third floor; as well as an elevator and improved accessibility for the audience, cast and crew.

The pandemic closed Riverside’s longtime Gilbert Street Stage at the end of June 2020, and supply line issues have pushed the Crescent Block Theater to open until February.

This infographic shows the planned entrance of the Riverside Theater’s new Crescent Block Theater in the Pedestrian Hall of downtown Iowa City. The doors that previously opened at the Soap Opera will open to theater patrons on February 4 for the world premiere of “Eden Prairie, 1971” by Mat Smart, whose play “The Agitators” was performed on the former Gilbert Riverside Street Stage in January. 2020. (Courtesy of Neumann Monson Architects)

If everything stays on track, the new facility will open on February 4 with the world premiere of “Eden Prairie, 1971” by Mat Smart on stage until February 20. The spring season will continue with the Iowa premiere of “The Niceties” by Eleanor Burgess, as well as “Natasha, Peter and the Great Comet of 1812,” the Riverside Theater first musical in over a decade.

Construction process

The construction deadlines are giving Knight the jitters right now. He came to the Riverside Theater in New York in 2018, where he had produced plays in found spaces.

“It’s an ever-changing target,” he said of the lead times, affected by supply line issues. “We were hoping to be sometime this month. We’re probably looking to be (indoors) in December at this point.

” It is exciting. I have never been involved in a construction project before. Every day we come in and there is something new and it seems more and more complete, ”he said, with the recent installation of the elevator, the lighting grid system, the walls , counters and stage.

“Not having control over every variable is terrifying, but that’s also what theater is. Theater is about collaboration. The theater is about letting go of control and realizing that you are part of a bigger wave and a bigger story, ”he said. “This has been the experience with it. It is sometimes a zen exercise, but the space discovers what it wants to be.

The collaboration was a particularly positive point in the process, from the moment Kevin Monson, director and chairman of the board of Neumann Monson Architects, discovered that Riverside was looking for a new space and contacted the Ped Mall project.

“It helped that Neumann Monson created such an intriguing plan,” Knight said. “Throughout the process, the architects and Tailwind were so willing to let Riverside say what he needed.

“Originally, we only occupied the first and third floors. But as the talks continued we started to occupy a lot more of that second floor, as we realized the need for those bigger changing rooms, the need for a real green space, the need for a conference space.

And while the audience won’t see the second floor, Knight, “that’s really the key to making it all work, because it provides that more professional artist and organizational ability.”

He looks forward to “a million things” as the project progresses.

“Getting into the theater… it’s so vast,” he said. “It’s like a space that wants to be filled. It’s so rare to have the chance to open a theater, to start a theater where there was none before Gilbert Street had so many ghosts and so many lives that were lived there.

“We now have a chance to start a new tradition. To fill a space with stories that have never been told before. It presents opportunities for the organization and the community to create a gathering space.

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