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Civic Theatre allows SkyVault to finally perform in hometown

May 10, 2018 GMT

Finally, after wandering from place to place in recent years, the Minnesota SkyVault theater troupe will perform in its hometown.

SkyVault’s original production, “Skirmish of Wit,” will be presented Friday and Saturday in the studio theater space at Rochester Civic Theatre. It’s the start of what could be a long-term agreement between the Civic and SkyVault’s parent company, Words Players, to stage plays in the Civic’s studio (black box) theater.

“It’s ironic that when I go to a meeting in Minneapolis, people know who we are and have seen us perform, but people in Rochester have never heard of us,” said Daved Driscoll, managing artistic director of SkyVault.

That’s because SkyVault and Words Players have been without a home for the past two years. And like other arts organizations in Rochester, the company has found it nearly impossible to find a place to perform.

Enter Rochester Civic Theatre and Kevin Miller, the Civic’s new executive director.

“Right now, the Civic Theatre can help the community with access to space,” Miller said. “There’s such a need.”

The Civic has space to spare. The new studio theater opened in 2016, but RCT patrons were reportedly unhappy with the seating in the hall. As a result, no main RCT productions have been held in the studio in the past year. It is now most frequently used by the independent Absolute Theatre.

“The narrative when I came here was that the studio theater wasn’t utilized enough,” Miller said. “Those days are over.”

“The black box is perfect for the kind of work we do,” Driscoll said. “It’s intimate, close to the audience.”

SkyVault originated in 2013 as an outlet for advanced actors from Words Players. The troupe won the 2014 Bottomless Hat Award for Best New Act at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival.

A previous SkyVault production, “On the Road to Verona,” was named Best of Fest at both the state and the national level of the American Association of Community Theatre festivals.

“Skirmish of Wit” is an updated, freewheeling take on Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing.” There is music and dance, with instruments played by members of the cast.

As for the plot, Driscoll said, “It’s the story everybody knows about two people who on the surface can’t stand each other. They can’t stand each other because they’re in love.” One of the characters in the play will roam the audience asking for advice in matters of love.

The eight actors range in age from 14 to 18, but Driscoll was emphatic in stating SkyVault is not youth theater.

However, a younger Words Players troupe will present a different play, “Night Sets Her Foot in Morocco” May 19-20, again in the Civic’s studio theater.

Driscoll said he sees the collaboration between the Civic and Words Players/SkyVault as a natural fit that appeals to different audiences.

“The kind of stuff we do complements the kind of stuff they do,” he said.