More space, programs, and a safe place for young people
It’s been a long time coming, nearly two decades, but the highly anticipated renovation of community cornerstone the Capri Theater is in the offing. The plan is to construct an addition to the Plymouth Christian Youth Center site at 2210 Oliver Ave. North in Minneapolis. The construction would expand across two adjacent city-owned lots that were leveled when a tornado tore through the neighborhood in 2011.
The projected $9.5 million improvements will increase the theater to twice its size of 13,000 square feet by adding a green room, rehearsal space, classroom and community hall. “With the [new] space,” said James Scott, director of Capri Theater, “we’ll be able to continue to work with kids and at the same time…serve the community. Right now those two things are in conflict for the space we have. By increasing the physical space, we’ll be able to increase the amount of programming for [both].”
Kevin D. West, noted stage and film actor and artistic associate at Capri Theater added, “We’ll have an opportunity to continue to be a hub for young people to come and be in a safe space and express themselves, to see people that look like them, to learn, [and] to grow to be positive, contributing members of not only the community but society as a whole.”
As of early February, $5.2 million was raised solely on the strength of individuals, and foundation and corporate donations. Plymouth Christian Youth Center Executive Director Anne Long stated, “We are looking for continued contributions … [and] are working on various government sources.” Long noted that although fundraising efforts aren’t “quite there yet,” the board is committed to making it happen.
“We’re getting there for sure,” confirmed Long. She said this as someone who has been patient and kept her shoulder to the wheel. “I have been in Minneapolis for 45 years. When the renovation started in 2007, I was absolutely thrilled because I know what this community deserves and if anybody can do it, we can do it. We’re all really excited to get this done; it’s actually happening. We’re set to break ground.”
West seconded the sentiment. “We’ve been following her lead.”
“The community has shared our passion,” said Long. “We’ve talked to hundreds of people over the last 10 years about what they want at the Capri, what they’d like to see: Youth programming, of course, programming for all ages [and] all backgrounds. Definitely, the community’s behind us on it.”
West’s involvement with the organization stems, in fact, from a sense of commitment to the community, not at all removed from his profile of having acted at Penumbra Theatre and in the locally filmed movie Justice.
“Theatre is a transformative art form. I’m a product of an after-school program. I talk to Anne all the time about how I’ve come full circle, an artist in the Twin Cities for almost 30 years. How I’ve come to a place where I’m giving back in a way I never imagined [how it would involve] some of the things people gave me in my youth… exposing me to the power of art and what it can do. How theatre can be a mirror we hold up to society to let us see what we’re really doing. That’s what the Capri does, that’s what PCYC does. I see how we change lives as an organization every day.”
West’s belief goes hand-in-hand with Anne Long’s assertion: “We believe we have sort of a sacred trust to make sure the Capri is here for all the people. We want [the public] to know that they can use it and participate; [to know] that we don’t have barriers up to that.
“We try to keep the costs for our rentals as low as possible.” The huge addition of space, she emphasized, is not only for PCYC/Capri Theater’s sake, but also for the community’s wellbeing at large. “We are looking forward to having the second space, which we’re calling the Great Hall right now, to only be for [theatrical events] but also would be available for weddings, funerals, baby showers, things like that. All community events. It makes us very proud to offer that to the community.”
Much as the Capri is something of a marquee entity, Scott underscores that there is more. “We have a partnership with the film society, [and] a partnership with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. We’re talking with other orchestras in town about possible partnerships. We’ll have space for visual arts as well. We have a sound engineering and recording program.”
Technology has been running rampant over the years and it shows no signs of slowing. “A big part of the second floor of the renovation will be the Best Buy Teen Tech Center where students can learn the technologies that are required for future generations,” said West.
“It’s 2,100 square feet of computers and hardware and laser printers. Best Buy operates an international cohort of these Teen Tech Centers. There’ll be five in the Twin Cities once we get ours open. That space will be open to any youth in the community [ages] 13 to 19…” The endeavor will ensure area youngsters aren’t lagging behind in access to technological understanding.
Should everything proceed according to plan, Plymouth Christian Youth Center will break ground come the fall. There will be a year of construction during which time the Capri Theater will pause operation, reopen in 2019, and the community can welcome it back — improvements included — with open arms.
Dwight Hobbes welcomes readers’ responses to P.O. Box 50357, Minneapolis, MN 55403