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New theater company, NewBridge Theatre Co., will hold open house this weekend

It's been nearly a year since Elizabeth Tanner set out to open a new professional theatre company in Hastings. Last week, Tanner and her husband, Jonathan Goodman, signed a lease in one of Hastings' historic downtown buildings and gave NewBridge Theatre Company a home.

NewBridge is a company of professional actors and artists committed to providing a quality educational experience through workshops, individual training and internships. Although the company itself has been established for several months, finding a physical space through which it could reach the community has been a challenge.

"We had been looking all year for spaces," Tanner said.

They had gotten lots of leads, but kept running into roadblocks. Last week, they walked past the building at 105 E. Second St., formerly Dakota Pet Marketplace, and saw that it was available. A few days later, they signed a lease and got to work on renovations to get the interior ready for performance and creative arts.

Some might think the deep, narrow space is an unlikely candidate for a theatre company, but Tanner has seen smaller spaces work. She and her husband worked for a theatre company in Chicago that used a similar space that was smaller than the Hastings site, and shows there were always successful, Tanner said. Theatre is about telling stories and letting talent shine, she said, so the space didn't matter as long as there was talent.

The NewBridge space will be largely open and highly versatile. Near the front of the building will be room for dance and acting lessons. This area will also be used for performances. A room near the back of the building will be used for art and writing classes, and converted into a green room or dressing room for actors during performances.

Because there are several activities that will be happening inside the building, the space will be a conversion space, allowing NewBridge Theatre Co. to move things around however they need.

Education and performance

NewBridge Theatre Co. is about more than putting on a good show. The company is offering several classes for children and adults. Classes kick off this summer on July 30 with a painting class. There are intro to theatre classes, drawing classes, acting classes and even a session designed to help people feed their souls through a bit of creative respite. Tanner will also offer private voice and acting lessons.

During the summer, classes are more lighthearted, Tanner said. The fall class schedule will get a little more serious, with seven- to eight-week courses that delve deeper into the arts.

Students who take both Acting I and Acting II at NewBridge will be eligible for the company's internship program. Interns will shadow company members as they prepare and perform theatrical works. Then interns will take over for one show and do everything in place of the professionals. Ideally, the interns will go back and in turn help teach the younger students.

"It really is an old-school mentoring program," Tanner said.

A different sort of company

Tanner is taking a unique approach to performance. While most theatre companies keep everything except the set and actors out of the audience's view, NewBridge will have everything out in the open, from lighting technicians to musicians and set crews.

"Let them be seen," she said. "They're as much performers as everyone else."

Making the behind-the-scenes action visible to the audience not only gives those people credit for their work, it also is a way to show people how much goes on and to reach out to those who might not be interested in acting but would be interested in being part of a theatre crew, Tanner explained.

Open house

NewBridge Theatre Company will hold an open house event on Saturday and Sunday during Rivertown Days. There will be a fun photo booth where people can have their pictures taken with various props, a coloring station, face painting, workshops for kids, a "go fish" booth and a paper wall where children and adults can write down the things that inspire them. The things written on the wall will be used later for one of NewBridge's performances, Tanner said.

The open house will be held from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, July 21, and from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, July 22.

For more information about NewBridge Theatre Company or to register for classes, call 651-295-3224 or go online to www.newbridgetheatrecompa