Village Theatre looking to refocus

2010-03-19T22:46:00Z Village Theatre looking to refocusDavid Burke The Quad-City Times
March 19, 2010 10:46 pm  • 

The Village Theatre is slightly altering course.

Refurbished and reopened two years ago, the former Turner Hall in the Village of East Davenport was primarily the stage space for the New Ground Theatre, Prenzie Players, Curtainbox Theatre Company and Riverbend Theatre Collective.

But Riverbend folded late last year and Prenzie moved back to a storefront theater concept in Rock Island (its “Troilus and Cressida” opens this weekend), leaving New Ground and Curtainbox as the Village’s main players.

So Chris Jansen — the founding artistic director of New Ground, which owns the theater — is planning different uses for the facility, including a music academy and studio art space, as well as making it available for rentals.

“We’re looking for out-of-the-box, non-theatrical uses for the building,” Jansen said. “But in general, we’re still arts-focused and still mostly performance-focused.”

A “Pagan Rite of Spring” party to be held at the theater this weekend will be a fundraiser in addition to showing off the possibilities of the space there.

“We need to have something happening all the time,” Jansen said. “We want to be an arts destination. ... We want to have fun with the building.”

Jansen’s own New Ground is seeing changes as well. Originally developed in 2001 as a showcase for new and little-seen material, its performances were at Rivermont Collegiate in Bettendorf and the Nighswander Theatre in the Annie Wittenmyer Complex in Davenport before moving to the Village Theatre.

“Let’s be honest. I’m in my ninth season, and the list of plays I was hot to direct and produce is long gone,” she said. “I had a nice long list of plays that I wanted to do, and I’ve done them.”

Jansen is switching gears to more of a company situation, with a panel of area performers — Lora Adams, Pat and Patti Flaherty, Jamie Em Johnson, Susan McDonald, Tracy Pelzer-Timm, Susan Perrin-Sallak and Jason Platt — being given the chance to produce and direct under the New Ground umbrella.

“They have the enthusiasm, the passion and the list of plays they want to do,” Jansen said. “They all are interested in doing their own projects. That’s great for New Ground.”

Adams is scheduled to direct the drama “ ’night Mother” from April 30 to May 9; Jansen will direct “100 Saints You Should Know” in July.

Jansen said she is ready to expand the venue’s horizons.

“My whole business plan is to hang on through the bad economic times,” she added, “and we’re doing that.”

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