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BREAKING NEWS: Uprising Theatre Company to Close

The Twin Cities-based Uprising Theatre Company announced today that it will cease operation in 2021. The organization joins the ranks of more than 200 Minnesota nonprofits to announce their plans to close since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Uprising Theatre’s close leaves behind a legacy of rich and vigorous programming from its six years of operation, and a lingering “What if?” about the COVID-cancelled season.

Although many area nonprofits received an initial burst of fundraising support from donors, the realities and growing inequities of the ongoing pandemic caused extra strain on performing arts companies with large upfront expenses and a sudden loss of box office revenues. Prior to the pandemic, having three months of operational expenses on-hand was unusual for many Minnesota nonprofits; for many smaller theatre organizations, it was almost unheard of. Worse, many even had trouble refunding tickets to patrons as their go-to vendor Brown Paper Tickets underwent a combination of financial implosion and customer service disaster.

The first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Minnesota on March 6, setting off a wave of pre-emptive, community-conscious closures even before the governor declared a state of emergency. It was a fateful day for Uprising Theatre – the planned opening day for its 2020 season, with the regional premiere of Doctor Voynich and Her Children: A Prediction scheduled. Scheduling would not get easier, as the company was eventually forced to cancel its entire season of four shows: one world premiere and three regional premieres, each interlinked with community partners.

The news arrived late Monday morning with an email from Uprising Theatre’s founder and artistic director Shannon TL Kearns: “After 14 full Main Stage productions, hundreds of roles and jobs for cast and crew members, and dozens of partnerships with community support organizations, Uprising Theatre regrets to announce that it will cease operations and perform no more.” The closure leaves a particular void in theatrical programming that foregrounds transgender and non-binary experiences and the members of these communities.

The Uprising Theatre Company will have one last farewell, through a donation-suggested outdoor celebration entitledThe Final Curtain: A Farewell Celebration on August 28. Donations will be used to pay off final expenses, with any surplus being transferred to causes with a similar mission.

In its farewell message, Uprising Theatre included a brief catalogue of its successes:

  • 20 full-scale productions, offering 150 on-stage and back-stage roles
  • 30 community partnerships with organizations such as Transforming Families Minnesota, Women’s Prison Book Project, and Cornerstone’s Sexual Violence Center
  • 7 focused workshops and panel discussions focusing on issues, opportunities, and training for trans youth, actors, and playwrights
  • Over $5,000 raised to support artistic access and scholarships for trans youth.
Basil Considine