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Lunar Eclipse

June 24, 2008

I was going to devote today's blog entry to describing the fun I had at the weekend when I attended a simulcast of San Francisco Opera's Lucia di Lammermoor alongside 23,000 happy pinickers/opera-goers at the city's ballpark, and the brilliance of the partnership between SF Opera and the SF Giants in general.

But woeful tidings concerning the announcement of the demise of Theatre de la Jeune Lune are forcing me to postpone my perky blog post for another day.

The news that the seminal Minneapolis-based theatre company is shutting its doors shouldn't have come as a shock to me. After all, stories about the company's lamentable financial situation have been circulating for a while and imminent closure was on the horizon months ago.

Yet I was thrown completely off-balance this morning by the realization that the company's shut-down was no longer a rumor that probably wouldn't come to fruition, owing -- I was certain -- to some knight in shining armor stepping in to pull the company out of debt, but a horrible truth.

Jeune Lune is one of the best companies working in this country today. I count the troupe's production of The Miser, which I caught at Berkeley Rep a couple of years ago, as one of the five best theatre experiences I've ever had in my life.

Jeune Lune's stopovers in the Bay Area have long been a highlight of the local theatrical calendar. Promises of the company's arrival to these shores kept me going through some hard times.

Now what? Can nothing be done to save the company? Surely someone somewhere must have a few million to keep artistic director Dominique Serrand and his amazing collaborators afloat. If this company ends up going down, then it will take a piece of what's glorious about this country's theatrical imagination with it. In short, this lunar eclipse must be stopped.

I leave you with Serrand's statement concerning the closure from the company's website:

In 1978 Barbra Berlovitz, Vincent Gracieux, and Dominique Serrand began an adventure called Theatre de la Jeune Lune. They were soon joined by Robert Rosen and eventually Steve Epp and innumerable other collaborators. Over the past 30 years we have created nearly 100 productions, performed for hundreds of thousands of people in cities across the United States and in France, but primarily and most importantly in Minneapolis. For the first 14 years we were itinerant, making the most of any venue we found ourselves in. Then in 1992, with an amazing groundswell of support, we purchased and renovated the Allied Van Lines building in the Minneapolis warehouse district. We excavated the interior of this historic building to create a stunningly innovative and award winning performance space, opening our new artistic home to the public on November 18th of that year.

Sixteen years later we are faced with an excruciating decision. With the organization burdened by mounting and unmanageable debt, the Board of Directors has voted to put Jeune Lune's home up for sale. After much soul searching and extensive fundraising and debt management efforts, we have determined it to be the only prudent and fiscally responsible choice. What has been acclaimed, as one of the most striking and unique theatre spaces in the country will go dark. It is a huge loss, a loss for us, for all of the artists who work with us, for our audience and for the community at large, both locally and nationally.

And with the building, we have decided that the time has come to bid adieu to the theatre ensemble we have all known as Jeune Lune.

We have always believed that the making of theatre is an important and essential act. We have always believed in the power of theatre to provoke, inspire, and excite. We have always created our work for and because of our audience. Over the years we have cultivated a loyal audience locally, regionally and nationally. We have garnered numerous awards and accolades, and of course at times we have elicited criticism and consternation. We have benefited enormously from the support of foundations, corporations, state and national organizations, all those who have served as board members, staff and volunteers, the incredible generosity of thousands of individuals, and especially all of the artists. Without all of you we would never have survived this long or created as much. We can never thank you enough.

It has been an amazing thirty years. Few theatre companies last as long. We never sought nor desired to be an institution. Our home was always intended to be a playground in which we could gather with other adventurous souls and create the unimaginable. A place in which to grow, change and evolve. The theatrical experience is an event truly of the moment -- immediate, fleeting and ephemeral. Yet in the space of that moment something takes place that is transformative to the human spirit and remains indelible in our memory -- the stuff that dreams are made of, the stuff we carry with us forever. We hope you will treasure well the memory of Jeune Lune.

But, as this story ends, a new one begins. We live to create. To do what we know best, what the artist's responsibility in society has always been -- to invent, to dream, to imagine.

Starting today, we begin imagining a new way of working. What should a theatre-generating organization of the 21st Century look like? How can artists create truly groundbreaking art in a fast changing world? Times have changed and so have we. Building upon our artistic legacy, and facing a different future, we are exploring ways to reinvent an agile, nomadic, entrepreneurial theatre with a new name. One that can embrace the concentric circles of artists we have worked with over the years. Together we will create essential and innovative theatre for today's changing audience. It's an exciting new journey and we hope you'll join us with your support, with your presence, with your belief. Fear not: the art is alive and coming soon to a theatre near you. Keep in touch.


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