Simplified: Sioux Falls’ local theater scene is both growing and carving out new niches in culture and entertainment. Here's a look at some of that growth ahead of the annual Sioux Falls Stage awards this week.
Why it matters
- The more opportunities performers have locally, the more Sioux Falls can keep talented folks in town – and even recruit more. Look no further than Debbie Jones, who helped found both Monstrous Little Theater Company and Improv Falls in the last several years. Jones had on several occasions planed to move out of state, but said when she kept finding more opportunities to act in Sioux Falls, she decided to stay here.
- The growing number of local theater companies also gives the people who live here more options for entertainment, from contemporary theater to cabaret to dance and more.
- Local artists say even with more companies and more options for performing arts, the local scene has maintained a sense of collaboration and support rather than competition.
"In recent years, it's almost been like an explosion," said Jayna Fitzsimmons, artistic director for Bare Bodkins Theatre Co. and member of the Augustana theater department. "It's just so fun to kind of look around and go, oh my gosh, this arts community that was vibrant to begin with is now becoming even more vibrant and exciting and diverse in its offerings."
Tell me more about the growing local theater scene
The biggest shift in recent years has been the increasing number of artistic niches being served by different companies.
Here are a few examples:
- Monstrous Little Theatre Company was founded in 2016 with a goal to bring more contemporary, dramatic productions to town.
- Then you've got the Good Night Theatre Collective, which specializes in musicals and cabarets.
- Headlights Theater started during the pandemic as a way to give performers a space to serve a socially distant audience (and has continued into its fourth season this year).
- Improv Falls found its niche with a group of improvisational performers who put on semi-regular comedy shows.
Jones said when she looks at the variety of performers in Sioux Falls, she's reminded of something Sara Crosby, founder of the Dakota Academy of Performing Arts, once told her.
"Sara always says that the students in Sioux Falls – and I would like to expand upon that and say the people in Sioux Falls – are just as talented as anywhere else in the world, they just need the opportunity," Jones said.
Even more legacy theater companies in town have seen changes and growth in the last several years.
- The Sioux Empire Community Theatre rebranded in 2021 to The Premiere Playhouse under new leadership. It has since paid down tens of thousands of dollars in debt and moved toward a more sustainable future.
- Bare Bodkins Theatre Co. just last week wrapped up its 26th season with a production of "Romeo and Juliet" that brought hundreds of folks to Falls Park.
"This speedy expansion hasn't stifled the camaraderie, inter-company support and collaboration that has long been a hallmark of Sioux Falls performing arts," said Luke Tatge, a local playwright who helped found The Good Night Theatre Collective and founded Sioux Falls Stage & Gallery. "Organizations share resources, talent, advice, connections, friendships."
How can I support local performers?
Go to their shows.
You can also support local performers by cheering them on at the Sioux Falls Stage awards, which start at 6 p.m. Thursday, July 13. Tickets available here.