I am writing this asking for help.
Any artist, from the most seasoned pro to the amateur hobbyist, will tell you the same thing: Finding space for art is hard enough work as it is. Whether that’s finding space to physically do your art, emotionally create your art, or financially support your art, it can’t grow without space to nurture. And even when you find that space — whatever form it may be — it always feels tenuous, no matter how often you prove and reaffirm that you’ve found it. Anything you can do to increase your stability, you generally have to take to survive.\
Unless your landlord supports white supremacists.
You may recall, in 2017, revelations made public by CityPages about Julius Jaeger deRoma, a man who owns a number of rental properties in Minneapolis, as well as Club Jäger — and donated $500 to renowned racist and former KKK leader David Duke’s Senatorial campaign. Unfortunately, one of the properties he owns is leased by the Twin Cities’ own HUGE Theater, a local (and only) non-profit dedicated to long-form improvisational theatre.
Thankfully, HUGE Theater is the absolute antithesis of deRoma’s beliefs: the leadership is dedicated (long, long before learning the truth about their landlord — you can read their initial statement about deRoma here) to creating a culturally conscious and competent community of artists, who uplift and celebrate each other and each other’s art. It is a place welcoming to all who set foot inside — a truly inclusive home for some of the most stellar people & comedy in the Twin Cities.
“They have been the instigators and conveners of countless conversations about how we can see the world we want to live in reflected on our stages, and have made space for people of color, women, trans and nonbinary folks, and other identity groups to come together to celebrate improv,” my fellow Jewish improviser and comic Erica Solomon noted. “To find out that the owner of the building in which all of this is great work has happened has beliefs that are against everything this community stands for has been awful for everyone.”
So, if you’re HUGE… what do you do? You’ve fought tooth & nail to find and create this space that is the kind of hub and home artists in other cities and enclaves can only dream of. If you stay, you’re abetting a known, avowed racist, and the possibility that your rent each month is actively supporting hate groups and everything you stand against. However, if you leave, you’re not only up against breaking a 10-year lease… long-term, you face a pretty strong likelihood of going under — statistically, the greatest death knell for a live theater is trying to move your base with you to a new space.
Thankfully (again) if you’re HUGE, it’s not much of a choice: instead of passively supporting racism, you prepare to leave your home.
And since that time is now… if you’re reading this, that’s why I’m asking for your help.
HUGE is undergoing a massive capital campaign, “A Giant Leap for HUGE Theater,” as they try to buy their own building… and they need to raise all of their capital by Sept. 1. If you’ve ever run (or tried to run) a capital campaign, you know how daunting this is. In short, they’re looking for $1,000 from 1,000 people to “buy bricks” in the new building (though of course, smaller amounts are accepted and very welcome). They’ve even already got a building in mind and an agreement in place.
“The overall goal is to pay off the building completely, meaning our monthly cash flow can go more directly to programs and artists,” said Butch Roy, executive director of HUGE Theater. “Even without the ownership of our current building, this is still our most sensible and necessary move. It just made us make the move much quicker.”
“Even better, it gives us room to grow — and room to expand our diversity and inclusion efforts to help more people share their voices through art,” agreed HUGE Managing Director Sean Dillon. “So it isn’t just about getting away from a racist, it’s also about having the space to become a stronger antithesis of that.”
On a personal note, I recognize that, out of all things to donate to, supporting an improv theater might traditionally be one of the lowest on your lists. And certainly, in a vacuum, HUGE would never leave — they had a great location, and if they kept their heads in the sand and said, “Not my problem; doesn’t affect us,” their situation would likely not change much. But they’re going out on a limb, leaving their home to stand up for their beliefs — and livelihood — all in one shot.
As a Jewish person aware of my heritage, I relate to this deeply. As a local comic, I’m thankful daily for the opportunities HUGE offers and fosters and in awe of their courage to protect their values and community. And as a Jewish person and comic, nothing could mean more than having a permanent place to call HUGE’s home.
“Without HUGE Theater, there would still be improv in Minneapolis. But as a training center, rehearsal and performance space, central gathering place, and local institution, it would leave a devastating gap in the community,” agreed Solomon. “And if the owner of the building was a Jewish man that openly supported racist, sexist, homophobic, or transphobic ideologies, I would be equally outraged.”
Please support the “Giant Leap for HUGE” capital campaign by making a contribution here. And, at the very least, go see their shows — every night of the week except Tuesday, when the theater holds classes. Seriously: you’re not going to find better comedy or community anywhere. Go tonight! You can find a full list of shows here.