Friday, July 04, 2008

Assessing Jeune Leune:

Last Monday, a day after learning that Theatre de la Jeune Lune would shut down, singer/actress Momoko Tanno walked through the company's cavernous warehouse building in downtown Minneapolis.

Collecting memories, she eyed scenery from past shows, including a boat used in "Figaro," a reimagined Jeune Lune opera that won rave reviews.

"It's such a unique space, and it has all these ghosts," said Tanno. "How could this be lost?"

That is the question being asked after Jeune Lune's board voted last weekend to cease operations after 30 years and sell the building in the face of a $1 million-plus debt. (Theater officials did not reveal the exact amount.) Only three years ago, the company received a Tony Award as one of the nation's outstanding regional theaters.

"Retrospectively, maybe the theater should have launched a [fundraising] campaign earlier," board chair Bruce Neary said in an interview last Sunday. "We had a terrific team on board at the end. We just ran out of money."

Could the theater have been saved? Do theaters have a natural life cycle, as some in the company have suggested? Is this closing an anomaly, or a cautionary tale with implications for other arts groups?

2:20 AM