Theatre Northwest, Mad Loon Entertainment partnering

The Theatre Northwest stage has no more drama on it for the summer but there will still be performances.

On Oct. 12, for example, novelist/musician Geoff Berner will be in the spotlight at TNW for a solo performance, and that's just the first name announced by Mad Loon Entertainment as they and the city's professional theatre company unveil a new partnership to share the theatre's space.

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"Theatre Northwest is unique because it has over 200-person capacity but because of the theatre seating (built on a raked angle) you feel close to the stage wherever you are in the room," said Danny Bell, proprietor of Mad Loon.

He is a veteran multi-instrumentalist and also one of the city's most active concert promoters, placing musicians and audiences together in special event and series settings all over the city.

"The power of the space, the intimacy, is what's really special here. For the audience, the musician is right in front of you, and for the artist, the audience is right in your personal space. That exchange of energy is exactly what some music is all about."

Bell first caught the zeitgeist of TNW when he saw his friend Amy Blanding play her mandolin on stage at the theatre when Blanding was showcasing a play she and actor/playwright Lauren Brotman were workshopping for the public.

Bell knew Blanding's mandolin was a softspoken one, yet he could hear the notes clearly from the back of the room.

When Bell was cast in the on-stage band for last year's smash hit play The Million Dollar Quartet, he once again got a dose of the room's musicality.

He also got talking with TNW's general manager Marnie Hamagami who shares Bell's passion for live music. She came to a natural yes when Bell mentioned how great it would be to have concerts in this unique performance space.

"It's a fantastic fit," said Hamagami.

"There isn't always a play on, here, so it makes excellent use of a place built for performance. We want this building to be alive and full of people coming and going for performance art of all kinds. We want audiences and artists to feel comfortable here."

That expansion of audience has already started. Last week, multi-genre artist Isaak Andal led a performance art exhibition event at TNW. They are once again hosting a sewing camp based out of their costume department. There have also been partnerships between TNW and the UNBC Musical Club and Fraser Lyric Opera that stand to be expanded.

"It could be a lot of things that happen here, that is up to the creative spirit of the community. We hope we get calls inquiring about how our theatre can be useful for any kind of performances people might be thinking of," said Hamagami.

"This really does have a world of possibilities for the right kind of show," said Bell. It plays best for acoustic or more contemplative music like jazz, bluegrass, country, classical, folk, legendary acts, spoken word, fringe theatre, etc.

"I'm still active with The Legion, putting on shows there, but those are party shows, rockin' shows, and that's a great space for those acts. Theatre Northwest would be for another kind of act, and having that diversity is important. It adds more variety to the performance culture of Prince George."

Bell said there was no shortage of local acts, regional acts and interested touring acts who could use a space like this. Having a venue suitable to their performance style would allow more musicians and other performance artists to develop their craft.

Tickets to events at TNW, including the already confirmed Geoff Berner show, could be purchased online via Theatre Northwest's website ticket service.

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