GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The curtains are no longer closed on a local black box theater. On Thursday, the Grand Rapids Planning Commission gave the co-founder and president the green light to turn an old pizza shop into its new location.
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This was the next major step in the process to bring back the off-Broadway space.
“Now it’s real,” said Jay Harnish, who helped create the Dog Story Theater, a nonprofit rental house that allows small companies and productions to put on shows in Grand Rapids.
“Dog Story Theater isn’t just a theater, where the public comes in, sees shows,” Harnish said. “It’s also like a home to a whole bunch of artists.”
The theater first opened in 2008 in north Grand Rapids, then moved to Jefferson Avenue downtown.
Just like many businesses during the pandemic, they were forced to close their doors and haven’t reopened since.
“When we started it, to see how it kind of grew and it affected the community and how impactful it was on people’s lives,” Harnish said. “It was awesome to hear, but in a way, it’s kind of bittersweet — being closed. People missed it.”
After a three-year intermission, the theater is attempting a comeback. Harnish said the best place to do that is at the former Joezano’s Pizza in the Heritage Hill neighborhood, which is less than a half a mile down the street from their last location.
“It was kind of a fluke actually,” he explained. “A pizza place — I never thought it’d be some place to work… I came down and checked it out. And I could tell right as soon as I walked in, (our broker) was already smiling. He already knew… This is the first building, I looked at it, I had no reservations.”
Harnish leased the spot in August, but needed approval from the Grand Rapids Planning Commission to turn it into a theater. On Thursday, they all voted in Harnish’s favor.
“Oh, it’s awesome,” he said. “It’s awesome. It’s a stress relief.”
The 3,400-square-foot space is their biggest one yet, planning to open with 68 seats before eventually expanding to 84 seats.
Harnish said they hope to open the doors sometime in early 2024.
They are looking for donations to help make that happen. You can contribute to the GoFundMe here.
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