April 11, 2013 in Washington Voices

New downtown performing space a labor of love

By The Spokesman-Review
Jesse Tinsley photoBuy this photo

Bob Nelson, a retiree from California who moved to Spokane six years ago, stands in his new performing arts center, Stage Left, on Monday in downtown Spokane. Nelson owns the building that houses a new theater.
(Full-size photo)

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If you go

Saturday: Stage Left, at 108 W. Third Ave., will host an open house from 4 to 6 p.m.

UPCOMING: Stage Left opens its first show, “Marx in Soho,” an 80-minute monologue, on April 19-21. Other shows are April 26-28 and May 3-4. Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $10.

On the Web: www.spokanestageleft.org

There’s a new theater in town. Bob Nelson is opening Stage Left in a small storefront on West Third Avenue and he’s hoping people will stop by and see the remodeled building on Saturday.

Nelson, who bought the building more than a year ago, has remodeled the space extensively, bringing it up to code and putting in a theater with about 65 seats.

“I shopped for a building for a long time,” Nelson said, adding that it was the sale of a house in California that made the investment possible. “We don’t have a mortgage. We did this completely out of pocket.”

He added, “We were told there was a computer company here.”

Nelson moved to Spokane from California six years ago. The semi-retired physicist runs a mathematical software company together with his son here in Spokane, and he said he has always been fond of political theater.

Since moving here he has taken acting lessons and performed with Ignite! Community Theatre and Sage Players.

“The smaller groups have such a hard time finding a place to perform,” Nelson said.

The first show at Stage Left will be “Marx in Soho” – an 80-minute monologue about Karl Marx’s life performed by Nelson, who’s currently growing a Marx-like beard.

“People should know it’s not a lecture about communism,” Nelson said, laughing. “It’s about Marx looking back at his life.”

Marx is perhaps best known for co-writing “The Communist Manifesto” with Friedrich Engels in 1848. Moving from country to country on the European continent, Marx settled in London’s Soho District with his family in the mid-1800s.

“He lived in great poverty there,” Nelson said. “Three of his children died in infancy there, and the play is about him and his wife and the people that were in his life.”

The next play at Stage Left will be “Stuff Happens” by David Hare, which deals with politics in the time leading up to the beginning of the Iraq War.

Nelson said that being self-financed allows Stage Left to put on shows and performances that may not fit mainstream stages.

He’s hoping that Stage Left will provide a space for productions by many theater groups. The space is also for rent as an auditorium.

Watch Pia Hallenberg talk about this story on KHQ

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