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Monday, April 18, 2011

Stage Werx Theater to Take Over Former Home of Intersection for the Arts

Posted on Mon, Apr 18, 2011 at 7:00 AM

Stage Werx plans to sign a lease this week to take over the space on Valencia Street long held by Intersection for the Arts, according to Stage Werx cofounder Ty Mckenzie. The company that rents space to various troupes, solo performers, and other acts will have a larger-capacity venue, higher ceilings, and upstairs space that might be subleased, Mckenzie says.

The theater at 446 Valencia is at ground level and seats 80, whereas Stage Werx's current location at 533 Sutter is in a basement and holds 49. The Valencia location also has 17-foot ceilings -- which can better accommodate certain performers such as circus acts -- as well as the upstairs area.

"We sign the lease on Tuesday," Mckenzie wrote in a Sunday e-mail message. "It's for real."

Mckenzie says productions could start there as soon as September, although much remains to be done before a firm opening date can be established. The lease at 533 Sutter continues through November, and Mckenzie says for a while Stage Werx may have productions in each location.

Circus Finelli, which has appeared at Stage Werx numerous times, will have more vertical room. - HANNA QUEVEDO
  • Hanna Quevedo
  • Circus Finelli, which has appeared at Stage Werx numerous times, will have more vertical room.
"I've spent the past eight years owning theaters with low ceilings, 49 seats and a variety of negatives bordering on deal breakers," says Mckenzie, who founded Stage Werx in 2007 with her sister, Cory. "I asked for five necessities from a new theater space: tall ceilings, more than 49 seats, two exits, easily accessible bathrooms for actors, and a location in the Mission District. Throw in a water fountain, street-level stage, and kind landlords, and I can't stop smiling."

Mckenzie says she will have to raise some money, though. Fundraising plans are in the works, she says, and in the meantime people can make donations on the Stage Werx website. She says she's had numerous offers from people in the community to help with the move and setting up the new location.

The very hysterical Mary Van Note appeared at Stage Werx most recently in March.
  • The very hysterical Mary Van Note appeared at Stage Werx most recently in March.

"We're thrilled that everyone is feeling their own kind of possessive desire to make Stage Werx happen," she says. "We've tried to make the theater a place where folks can feel at home, and for many they feel very connected to our brand of theater."

Bruce Pachtman is a comedian who helps produce two series at Stage Werx -- Previously Secret Information and Solo Sundays. He says he looks forward to Ty and Cory being able to do more at the Valencia location.

"Intersection produced all its own stuff, and the space was not available to outside companies," Pachtman says. But with Stage Werx, "independent producers and artists in the Bay Area now have a new space available to them. It's also a great place for classes and rehearsals and other things."

Mckenzie, although she declined to state specifics, says Stage Werx began having problems at the Sutter location in 2009, which became acute in January. She visited numerous available places that could hold a theater, but each had drawbacks that made her keep looking -- usually posts and pillars, or low ceilings, or only one exit. She hadn't thought of the former Intersection space because she assumed someone had taken it. But a friend and former colleague mentioned that it was still open, so Mckenzie pursued it.

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