From Bach to burlesque 

An unusual performance space, the Mezzanine, draws diversity to the Art Alley

Since opening on July 10, the Mezzanine in downtown Colorado Springs has presented an ambitious and almost startling array of shows — 35 in its first 42 days — ranging from staged theater to intimate chamber music to burlesque.

Inspired by a similar space in New York City, Le Poisson Rouge, the idea is to make a broad range of performances available to a membership with varied tastes.

Membership? Yes, but with a twist. With 5,000 square feet of space inside the Mansion — donated by club owner Sam and Kathy Guadagnoli — the Mezzanine will function as an ongoing source of funding for programs run by the Colorado Springs Conservatory.

"This is a 100 percent benevolent gift to the Conservatory," says Linda Weise, who's CEO of the performing arts preparatory school. "The venue will provide us with a way to support our programming and serve a broader range of students than ever before."

A "soft opening," during which all events are free and open to the public, runs through September. After that, annual Mezz membership will be $300, with higher-level packages also available.

Weise is aware that not all shows will appeal to all members, and is working on a plan that will ensure two to five performances a month in individual genres (classical, jazz, literary, theater, and more). Her goal is to have members feel that they get good value for their investment, while also being tempted to see shows they might not otherwise.

"The offerings will be eclectic, sort of nightclub meets classical, and every kind of performance has its own tribe," says Weise.

At a recent Peaks and Pasties show (pictured), the Mezz drew a full house; another night, a crowd at four-top tables skewed young for two jazz clarinetists (and Conservatory alums) who drew among others, Thomas Wilson, music director of the Chamber Orchestra of the Springs and associate conductor of the Colorado Springs Philharmonic.

"For a diehard classical music fan, this is a wonderful place to be able to come and see intimate performances," says Wilson. "This is exactly what the local music scene needs."

With a back-alley entrance at 20 N. Tejon St. — adorned with a giant wall mural by local artist Douglas Rouse — the Mezz joins the Modbo and S.P.Q.R. in the Alley Arts District, and adds another nightlife spot near cigar and martini bar 15C. Inside, stairs painted like piano keys lead up to an intimate venue with tables and some sofa seating. Brick walls and décor favoring red, black and white create a setting for a simple stage visible from most seats. Bar offerings and food are the purview of Nate Windham, a bartender who's poured drinks at Guadagnoli establishments, as well as the Blue Star and Distillery 291.

Main-event programming usually begins at 6:30 to maximize participation and to ensure that bass from the nightclub doesn't interfere with the featured performance. Reservations are required as the intimate space caps at 125 to 150 attendees.

Come 9 p.m. on weekends, smaller acts typically take that inside stage as well as a second stage area on an as-yet-unfinished patio that is easily as large as the interior. For now those shows are open to the public; as of Oct. 1, preference will be given to members.



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