State Street Theater Co. — The Community’s Auditorium
New Ulm and State Street Theater Co. have a long theatrical history. Theater and musical performances date back to the founding of New Ulm, and live performances were held at Turner Hall in the late 1850s.
- The Pioneer Players were incorporated in 1978 after many years of formal and informal theater productions including lavish pageants about Hermann the German.
- A group of citizens reformed the Pioneer Players as New Ulm Actors Community Theater (NUACT) in 2001, and received not-for-profit status as an IRS 501(c)(3) organization. Plays, musicals, pageants, and other activities were presented in various locations. NUACT had no permanent home, and after looking for a permanent home, negotiations began in earnest with local public Independent School District 88 in 2013.
- NUACT hired its first Executive Director in November 2011.
- In 2012, NUACT presented an original play in the ISD 88 Auditorium entitled “Dogs in the Hot Moon, or Behind the Barricades” for the 150th Anniversary of the US Dakota War. It also began a tradition of holiday radio dramas beginning with “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
- In 2013, the group expanded its children’s theater program and presented workshops in Fairmont and Nicollet. This was the year that began the large annual musical in the historic auditorium, and the first production was Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “South Pacific” in July. For a detailed history of past productions, see the Play History page.
- On February 18, 2014, a group of ten citizens with varying backgrounds formed CENATE, LLC (the name taken from the intersection of CENter and StATE Streets) to purchase the former historic middle school (an entire block) in New Ulm. The Board of Governors (Directors) raised $55,000 in unit amounts of $2,500 and $5,000 to prevent any majority unit holder controlling the project for profit. Uniquely, the LLC had two groups of unit holders, those who actually invested dollars (“A” members), and those appointed to represent the interests of the broader community (“B” members). Each group had an equal number of voting directors on the Board. Special care was given to preserving the historic murals in the 1938 auditorium, creating governance language that binds current and future owners of that portion of the building.
- On July 2, 2014 CENATE LLC purchased the school for $25,000 and signed a two-year lease for the school district, enabling it to remain at this site while paying a monthly rent. Terms include space for ISD 88 administration use for two years and another lease for the auditorium, the two gymnasiums, and a large walk-in freezer for up to ten years. CENATE managed the property, performed maintenance, paid utility bills, and solicited developers to buy the classroom section with the understanding that the “theater sections” would be conveyed to a not-for-profit status. CENATE also filed an application with the Minnesota Historical Society to gain historic status for the site. Also in July the theater presented its second community musical, “Fiddler on the Roof.”
- In September 2014 CENATE signed a purchase agreement with CentraSota, LLC of Big Lake, Minn. to purchase the classroom section for $200,000.
- On December 16, 2014, New Ulm Actors Community Theatre (NUACT) legally changed its name to State Street Theater Co. (SSTC), reflecting the ownership of the property, the working name of the building, including the company of artists and business people involved.
- On January 6, 2015, the City of New Ulm approved the final plat dividing the block into two lots: Lot 1 for residential, Lot 2 a theatre section. Included in the arrangement, CentraSota agreed to pay utilities for the entire property for two years following the sale.
- On February 24, 2015, CENATE sold Lot 1 to CentraSota. CENATE retained Lot 2 (the auditorium building) and signed a one-year lease with State Street Theater Co.
- On July 6, 2015, CENATE donated Lot 2, the theatre building consisting of the 850-seat historic Auditorium, a 75-seat Off Broadway Studio, and the flexible Black Box Theater (the former Little Gym). SSTC owns the property with no mortgage and no utility payments for two years. This was an amazing scenario but of great concern to the current board, immediately making the project sustainable. Also in July the theater presented its third summer musical, “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” that featured a real flying car.
- On July 21, 2015, the property was listed on the National Register of Historic Places (15000438), a distinction that “deems the property worthy of preservation.”
- On March 28, 2016, the State Street Theater formally applied for funding from an extension of New Ulm half-percent sales tax through the City of New Ulm’s RENU (Reinvest in New Ulm) Committee. Though not selected, RENU would have provided needed funds to install new seating, paint the auditorium, construct new and upgrade existing restroom facilities, restore the historic murals, install a new loading dock and elevator, install a catering kitchen and theater bar, create an orchestra pit, and perform handicap upgrades and improvements.
SSTC now embarks on a new chapter and seeks additional board members, fundraisers, volunteers, and donors. The spectrum of opportunities encompasses work on theater productions and companion projects to assisting with historic preservation, fundraising (including grant writing), facility maintenance, and overall business management. All ages are welcome, from our youth workshops and summer camp performers to senior community members. Anyone can participate: from selling and taking tickets, constructing sets, making props, hanging posters, working in the office and of course, performing on stage or in the orchestra.
From full scale musicals to radio theater, from Tennessee Williams to Neil Simon, from Oktoberfest parades to forgetful nuns, and from straight line to harmonizing, “The State” brings a variety of plays, musicals, murder mysteries, holiday shows, workshops, comedies, and classes to its regional audience.
Call the office for tours and for opportunities to help (507) 359-9990. Join us at Your Community Auditorium!