The South Minneapolis company HUGE Improv Theater recently acquired a new building just a short distance away from its longtime home on Lyndale Avenue. The improv comedy theater is ‘soft launching’ in appropriately comic style with the event “.5K Race - HUGE Race for Fun (not a race)” this Sunday, August 27 at 6pm. The event will begin at the old building at 3037 Lyndale Ave and end at the new location at 2728 Lyndale Ave. The .5k event refers to the distance between the old and new buildings, and is not an actual race - but instead a collective stroll into new beginnings.
HUGE’s Director of Diversity and Inclusion John Gebretatose says, though the new building is only a skip away, the relief from this change goes for miles.
“We needed to find a suitable working environment for artists, knowing that the last place had a relationship with a landlord that was a Nazi supporter. It was a rough foundation to begin with. You can't really think long term when you have a lease with someone that's a Nazi supporter. “
Gebretatose is referring to the landlord of HUGE’s former location, Julius Jaeger De Roma, who donated $500 to former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke’s 2016 campaign for a U.S. Senate seat in Louisiana. Gebretatose says while it was uncomfortable having to fulfill the leasing contract, the support the organization has had through this transition has made the difficulties worthwhile. The company was able to secure a $3 million dollar loan to both purchase and renovate the building, and now has 15 years to pay it off.
Gebretatose notes that the value of representation in these matters is often overlooked; it was a woman of color at Propel Nonprofits who helped the organization with funding to move into another space.
“They’d just hired a Somali woman and then she joined and took on our project to get us funded. And she had the connections. If it wasn't for her, it wouldn't be like where it's at now. And I'm very thankful for that.”
Event participants will also have the option to join HUGE staff and supporters at Bryant Lake Bowl for a summer intensive student improvisation showcase. The show starts at 7pm. Gebretatose says this soft launch is also a show of appreciation for the Minneapolis improv community.
“Artists need to own, be respected, and they need a building to thrive in. And we need to do it together. If we didn't have this big community that's international, that really believes in what we're doing – what we're doing being improv as art, but also making it more inclusive – it makes being a growing social community easy. It makes it easier to be loving, and overcome and endure hard, hard times,” said Gebretatose. “The whole idea is to create more improvisers and take stake and ownership in the space.”
While the new building is being renovated, HUGE still has classes available for enrollment online.