That's been the question for years in St. Louis, with various performance groups moving like vagabonds from space to space for performance and rehearsal. Of course, the one thing St. Louis has is space, but performers aren't developers, and most developers aren't looking to build a house for a night of one-acts or sweaty folks in leotards -- not when they could just as easily put in a new Walgreen's.
Enter Edwards. He's paid $654,000 for the building, and the Loop Theater, with George-Carlson at the helm, is launching a $3.5 million capital campaign to pay for the renovation. The future performing-arts space will include a mainstage with arena seating in the former church sanctuary, as well as a rehearsal space, box-office facilities and built-in lighting and sound equipment. Down the line, if all goes according to plan, a theater annex will be created to house a black-box space for those edgier, up-close-and-angsty performances St. Louisans have been bereft of since the St. Marcus days.
George-Carlson already has a list of more than 10 performance companies involved in the project, including Atrek Contemporary Dance, Gash/Voigt Dance Theatre, Metro Theatre, Midnight Productions and (Mostly) Harmless Theatre. She also got a call from a former St. Louisan living in New York whose mother told her about the proposed new space. "She's coming back to town and making plans," says George-Carlson.
Of course, if the fear of terrorism continues to keep people at home and out of the hotels, the Loop Theater might be able to rent out to high-school productions of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown and Annie, but George-Carlson and Edwards are much more optimistic. "I'd like to see talent stay and for St. Louis to be a destination for talent," says George-Carlson. "The climate is right for groups to come together and look toward St. Louis as a place for the best potential theater in the country."
Edwards says he isn't feeling any anxiety over current events. "There's all the more reason to have art spaces," after Sept. 11. "Who know what kind of plays will be written or performed in the current context?"
Besides, John Goodman has signed on as an honorary board member to the project, adding star luster to the appeal.