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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Downtown milk bottle will be new home for Spokane improv theater

An unusual downtown building will get new life, thanks to a growing Spokane improv theater.

The Blue Door Theatre announced Thursday that it will move from its home in the Garland Business District to the milk bottle building originally built by Benewah Dairy.

Founded in 1996, Blue Door Theatre creates a host of improv comedy shows year-round on Friday and Saturday nights. It also teaches improv through camps and more than half a dozen classes. The first show at the remodeled milk bottle is scheduled for Jan. 5.

The Blue Door Theatre performs in a 69-seat, 2,500-square-foot venue at 815 W. Garland Ave. Once renovated, the milk bottle building, 321 S. Cedar St., will hold two performance spaces in its 7,000-square-foot space – a 90-seat main stage and 50-seat black-box theater

The move is precipitated by the rapid growth over the past year and demand for improv classes, Blue Door Theatre board president Jim Mohr said.

“We have been introducing all sorts of new classes,” Mohr said. “In the space we’re in right now, we have a lot of scheduling conflicts. The new space will allow us to offer more classes and accommodate more people in those classes.”

The theater company opened the Spokane School of Improv, with six new classes, in January. These include “Improv and Poetry,” “Improv for Lawyers” and “Improv and Self-Care.” The new classes depart from teaching improv as theatrical performance – instead using improv techniques to work on problems in the students’ daily lives.

Mohr calls this “applied improv.”

“That means taking improv and being able to apply it to regular life skills – regular and essential skills,” he said. “And once we open next January, we will be offering a lot more of these kinds of classes that can help people with a sales or business or leadership background. We are making this big move to show how improv can actually be incorporated into people’s lives in a way that’s beneficial and healthy.”

Over the past five years, Blue Door as seen a 273% increase of attendance of its adult classes and a 106% increase in its teen classes, Mohr added.

The new space also will allow the theater company to add Thursday night improv performances and to rent out one of its spaces to other theater companies.

Blue Door artistic director Frank Tano believes the building is the ideal home for the Blue Door Theatre.

“It’s a place brimming with history and character that allows us to create one-of-a-kind improv experiences. We look forward to filling this historic space with creativity and incredible storytelling,” Tano said in a statement.

The theater company is hoping to raise $200,000 to facilitate the move. Mohr said the funds are needed for lighting, audio, construction work and all sorts of other expenses.

“We are thrilled to call the milk bottle building our new home and look forward to the countless memories and laughter we’ll create here,” Mohr said. “Our commitment to the advancement of improvisation and the performing arts through innovative entertainment and education remains as strong as ever.”