If original, small-scale theater is what you seek, the Millibo Art Theatre has long been the best destination in town. Founded in 2001 by husband-and-wife team Jim Jackson and Birgitta DePree, the MAT produces 20 shows between September and June annually.
For the past five years, the local outfit has operated in a building on Pecan Street, tucked in an industrial-feeling, 21st Street-area neighborhood. Before that, as the Manitou Art Theatre, it made its name in the Business of Art Center's Venue 515, hosting touring performers like Barry Smith and Gemma Wilcox and local productions like the kid-friendly Circus MAT! and 10 Minutes Max.
Since we spoke to Jackson last month (all dates have been updated and verified since), the MAT has moved into a church across from the Ivywild School, renting from building owner Joseph Coleman. This Saturday, they'll christen their new home with a day of family activities, bubble games and ice cream.
Indy: How did this come about?
Jim Jackson: We weren't really planning on moving, since we just moved to the Pecan Street space ... And then we started talking to the folks at Ivywild, with Joe Coleman and Laura Long and Mike Bristol, and originally talked about doing something at the school — actually in the school building. But, really, for what we do, it was just too small and too much [of a] scheduling conflict.
So then we started talking about other possibilities, and the building that was the church came into the picture, and that was a different story because we really wanted a ... stand-alone building. And that fit the bill.
Indy: What will the new space be like?
JJ: It'll seat 120, and it'll really be an ideal theater: It'll have great sight lines, and great acoustics and sound, and will be a really comfortable venue, I think, a really nice venue. And be very usable for lots of different things that we do.
Indy: Will your programming change much?
JJ: You know, I think it will change. With the space, you know, we're still very much dedicated to only doing original work, so we'll keep at that, but it will allow us to do more multi-character productions [with] bigger casts. And the stage will be a really nice stage for modern dance and for more physical work.
Indy: When will you move?
JJ: We'll begin over in the new building on the first of June with summer theater and the summer camps and workshops, and we have quite a few summer camps planned, I think 16 or 17 ...
That will go on until the end of July. And we'll have family shows; the Ice Cream theater; we'll have some cabarets and some music concerts, probably. ...
And then we'll close again the second week of August, and then that's when the major seating and stage and floor reinforcement, all that stuff happens. So, that'll happen August, September, and then with luck it'll be open by the first of October when we start our regular season.