RED WING -- Jeff Larson's local appearance will last a bit longer than anticipated. He was named interim director of the Sheldon Theatre after Bonnie Schock resigned in February. Now, due to the pandemic, Larson will stay on with the Sheldon for another year.
On Tuesday, the Sheldon Theatre Board voted to pause the search for a new director and extend Larson's contract. He is a partner in Arts Progress LLC, an arts management consultancy in the Twin Cities.
Next season at the Sheldon may look different than what theatergoers are used to, he said.. Larson said he hopes for a mid to late October season opener.
Even when the “jewel box” reopens, the acts on stage may have a more local flair than previous seasons.
“The kind of shows that we have may be different than what we planned just because the touring shows we would have had in, the tours have fallen apart or enough venues have pulled out so that even if we could host the show it’s not viable for them to go out on the road,” Larson explained.
He added, “If we’re able to open in October it may be with more local shows, which is fantastic, I wouldn’t mind that at all if we put up a season that’s more Red Wing and Minnesota focused, I’d be thrilled with that.”
Larson hopes that some acts scheduled to perform in the current season but were unable to due to the virus will return. The director said that Airplay and Trinity Irish Dance are two of the more promising groups at the moment, but their returns will depend on artist availability and grant funding.
In general, Larson is not worried about grants that the theater received and was unable to use due to the unforeseen circumstances.
“The funders have been very flexible and very generous, and that’s both our corporate sponsors and the state arts funding; everybody’s in the same boat, everybody’s trying to make this work,” Larson said.
The only grants that are uncertain are those from the Minnesota State Arts Board. To change when those funds are used requires legislative action.
Despite closing its doors mid-season, the Sheldon is in a good place financially.
“Because of the amazing support of the community and the city and really prudent management over the last several years, we’re in good shape to weather this. So we can make it until we’re allowed to open," he said. "We’re still very much welcoming donations but we’re tightening our belts a little bit and just doing everything we can to make sure the theatre is physically ready to reopen when we can.”
Until the curtain can go up again, Sheldon staff members are staying busy.
“We’re doing all of those maintenance projects we never have time for,” Larson said with a laugh.
The Sheldon's future is unknown -- who the next director will be, what the upcoming season will look like and when it will start. Until then, Larson and the Sheldon crew will continue prepping for coming years. And, of course, dreaming about when the shows continue.
“We can’t wait to welcome everyone back. That’s the message. We’re getting really antsy to get the place open again." he said.