Theatre de la Jeune set to close

Minneapolis theater won Tony Award in 2005

In a move seen as symptomatic of the tough time for non-profits in the current crippling economic climate, Theatre de la Jeune Lune has put its home base in Minneapolis up for sale and will disband the company this summer, just three years after winning the Tony Award for outstanding regional theater.

“We have reached these decisions with great regret,” said board president Bruce Neary in a statement over the weekend. “However, our fiduciary responsibilities to our artists, our staff, our donors and our creditors dictate this action.”

Jeune Lune has accumulated debts of an estimated $1 million in recent years, and entered into a state of artistic turbulence following its 2005 Tony win, causing the company to dissolve its core of five artistic directors. Founding member Dominique Serrand assumed the reins, going on to stage acclaimed productions of “The Deception” at La Jolla Playhouse, as well as “Figaro” at Berkeley Rep.

Theatre de la Jeune Lune was founded in 1978 by Serrand, along with fellow Ecole LeCoq graduates Barbra Berlovitz, and Vincent Gracieux. They were eventually joined by Robert Rosen and Steve Epp. In its 30-year history, the company produced almost 100 productions in the U.S. and France, eventually solidifying their home base in Minneapolis.

In 1992, Jeune Lune purchased and renovated the Allied Van Lines building in Minneapolis’ downtown warehouse district, converting the brick structure into a distinctive local landmark and cavernous, distinctive theater space. The company made its mark with a range of works including the early comedy “Yang Zen Froggs” and “Children of Paradise: Shooting a Dream,” which inaugurated the troupe’s signature home.

Jeune Lune also produced pared-down popular operas including “The Magic Flute,” “Carmen,” “Maria de Buenos Aires,” “Don Juan Giovanni,” and “Figaro.”

“After much soul searching and extensive fundraising and debt management efforts, we have determined it to be the only prudent and fiscally responsible choice,” said Serrand of the move. “What has been acclaimed as one of the most striking and unique theater spaces in the country will go dark.”

The board’s statement indicated significant staff cuts will take place by the end of July. A commercial broker for sale of the theater’s home has yet to be selected, though a committee will be formed to manage the sale in a meeting this week.

Serrand indicated a desire to continue working in Minneapolis, expressing his wish to create a nomadic theater under a new name. “It’s been an amazing 30 years,” he said. “Few theater companies last as long. We never sought nor desired to be an institution.”

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