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Commonweal Theatre thrives into 30th season

Non-profit groups know to stay relevant means continual change making every milestone a reflection of a successful shift. Perhaps a good visual example can be found at the Commonweal Theatre in Lanesboro, MN where change happens almost on a daily basis as it has for 30 seasons now.

“It’s part of the magic of theatre,” said Executive Director Hal Cropp.

On this particular occasion, the magic takes less than thirty minutes to transform the downtown Lanesboro theater from the homey set of The Clean House to a middle school gymnasium ready to host The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.

Busy as bees with the two shows running concurrently, the ensemble cast audiences see on stage becomes the magicians behind the scenes fitting all the pieces are in place.

“We are nimble,” said company member Adrienne Sweeney. “We are very willing to change and willing to pivot and try something new.”

Sweeney tried something new 18 years ago after a career arc brought her from the bustling big city to the town with a population of about 750.

“I looked at the four-block radius I lived in in South Philadelphia. There are more people in that four block radius than in all of Lanesboro.”

She said it’s how the theatre is woven into “the fabric of Lanesboro” that makes it such a draw for artists from all over the country.

“You can do a show on a Saturday night and be walking to get coffee on a Sunday morning and have people stop you and engage in conversation about that show. That community then gets to see art as just a normal thing.”

Word on the street is that community engagement is only getting stronger.

Cropp said, “We’re also looking at this concept of Lanesboro as an arts campus and finding out if there cannot be a couple of smaller productions a year in settings that are not the theatre itself.”

As vice president of the Lanesboro Chamber of Commerce board of directors, Cropp sees firsthand the symbiotic relationship the theatre has with the local business community. It’s one he calls a blessing because the community recognizes just how important that relationship is.

“The theatre draws upwards of 22 thousand visitors a year to town,” said Cropp.

…Or about 30 times Lanesboro’s population. Not bad when you consider the 30 minutes it takes to go from one show to the next and the 30 years it took to get there.

Find the Commonweal’s upcoming schedule by clicking here.

Dustin Luecke

Dustin Luecke anchors News 19 Daybreak weekday mornings.

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