After West Des Moines’ Tallgrass Theater Co. shut down its production of “Wonder of the World” in 2020, the group spent months readjusting to the pandemic and looking for a new venue. Now the Tallgrass Theater Company has a new stage and a show to play on it.
The theater has now taken up residence at 2019 Grand Ave., suite 100, West Des Moines, taking over part of the former Skate West building. The theater company announced its move in December 2020, followed by months of fundraising, volunteer work and nearly $ 500,000 in renovations.
The theater was once called Rex Mathes Elementary School on Vine Street, converting the auditorium into a theater. After West Des Moines Community Schools turned the space into a home schooling assistance program, the theater company found it needed a new venue, said Thomas Perrine, artistic director community theater.
A performance of “Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some!)”, A comedy encapsulating a myriad of well-known classic Christmas tales and carols, marks the theater’s 50th show since its inception and the first show in the new space .
“These are three actors who have to put on a ‘Christmas carol’,” Perrine said, describing the production’s story. “When they start it, one of the actors says, ‘I can’t do this. I’ve done it so many times. I hate this show. Instead, they make every Christmas story ever told in’ 90s. minutes. It’s crazy. “
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The opening performance is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Friday, December 3, with additional performances until December 19. Tickets start at $ 33 and are available at tallgrasstheatre.org.
The new dedicated space brings on-site storage, a stage shop, a green room for actors and a limited liquor license for the sale of beer and wine.
According to Perrine, the venue’s average black box theater setup will accommodate around 80 people.
“It’s a bit smaller than we originally planned, but because the chairs we found are actually bigger… it reduced our seats a bit,” he said. “If we go to the (theater) in the tour, it will go higher.”
Perrine added that as the company moved into the space, he wanted to see it become more than just a theater, speculating that the lobby could serve as a gallery as well.
“This is something we’ve thought about a lot,” said Bob Baskerville, chairman of the board of Tallgrass, which also owns Frame Works, a custom framing company based in Johnston, along with Perrine. “It’s not just a theater for us, it’s a place of shared art for the community.
As the volunteers who make the theater possible look to the future with the new space, they hope that at least one new play for this past year’s lineup will happen again.
Last summer, the theater presented a concert iteration of “Bridges of Madison County” at the Jamie Hurd Amphitheater, 4100 Mills Civic Pkwy., In West Des Moines, in partnership with the Parks and Recreation Department of the city. This paid public show has proven successful enough to solicit intentions for another production this coming summer.
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“We haven’t quite decided what we want to do for next summer yet, but it will be the same idea: a Broadway concert production,” Perrine said.
The theater plans to continue to grow. Instead of the typical three shows per season, it is increasing the number to five over the next several years and its children’s program, Seedlings, will launch its first full production on stage.
But before all of that happens, “Every Christmas Story Ever Told” has to christen the space.
“Excited and terrified,” said Baskerville, describing his feelings on Nov. 11 regarding the opening which is fast approaching. “But every time I have this sense of dread I remember that we did it all in less than a year during a pandemic with all the volunteers. “
The theater has previously announced that the female-directed comedy during the French Revolution titled “Les Révolutionnaires” will open on February 4 and “Tiny Beautiful Things,” based on Cheryl Strayed’s book following a columnist’s advice and readers who write to him, will take the stage on April 29.
This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: The New Tallgrass Theater Building and “Every Christmas Story Ever Told”