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Theatre B opens curtains on new space

Theatre B moved to the former Lincoln School gym at 215 10th St. N. in Moorhead. David Samson / The Forum

MOORHEAD—Thursday isn't just the opening night of a new season for Theatre B — the troupe also opens the doors to its new home.

After 14 years in downtown Fargo, the dramatic ensemble moved across the river over the summer to what members see as a long-term home at 215 10th St. N., Moorhead.

When the proverbial curtains go up this week, the community will get a look at the $25,000 worth of construction put into transforming what was the gym at the former Lincoln School into a theater space.

The cast and crew hosts an open house from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday to show off the new digs.

The Moorhead spot seats 95, about the same as their temporary home last year at the Broadway Theatre Garage and 23 more spots than the former home on Main Avenue. Troupe co-founder David Wintersteen says configuration allows for better sightlines than the Broadway venue and more room than the cramped Main Avenue place.

The cinder block walls have been painted black, but the three-point line and free-throw lane of the basketball court remain uncovered on the floor before the stage, a detail Wintersteen says he'll leave as a nod to the building's history.

Theatre B revamped its sound system to make it not only better for theater performances, but also easier to use for outside groups that may want to rent the space. And the former gym's heating and cooling system not only works, but works silently, meaning actors no longer have to speak above the HVAC.

Behind the sets, offices have been converted into a backstage area allowing actors a place to change.

Offices remain for Theatre B staffers to eventually set up their home work space and ticket office, though for now, the rooms remain a work in progress. In all, Wintersteen says their space is 25 percent larger than the longtime home on Main Avenue.

"It already feels like home, but it doesn't feel lived in. It's got that chaos of moving," Wintersteen says. "This is a great location. This is a great space. We can be here for a while. This feels more like a forever home than any place we've ever had."

The troupe anticipates being in the space for almost the next decade, with a three-year lease and two three-year extensions. They also have right of first refusal if any other space in the building becomes available. Artist Emily Williams-Wheeler moved her studio over to the building and other offices are also occupied.

While Theatre B's previous two locations have been highly visible in downtown Fargo, Wintersteen isn't too concerned about moving into a spot that's a little out of the way.

"We're between Usher's House and Junkyard Brewing," he says. "While you can't just walk around the corner and grab a bite or a drink, I am very confident that will change. This will become a more visible spot."

Carrie Wintersteen, Theatre B's executive director and co-founder and David's wife, says that despite the prime real estate at the corner of Broadway and 4th Avenue N., last year, they started off the season with the organization's worst ticket sales.

As of Oct. 5, they were more than halfway to a soldout crowd for opening night — a good position to be in, she said.

She added that Theatre B is in the process of applying for a wine and beer license and would be putting more money into advertising. In two years, they will also qualify for state arts funding from Minnesota, which starts at about three times the amount of North Dakota's maximum arts funding.

"We have more and different opportunities with what we can produce because we have a better space," David says. "Now we can put all of our energies into the art."