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Despite wicked-hot temperatures, audience members danced during the Riverside Swing Band concert. 

The Riverside Swing Band performed June 6 on the outdoor stage at The Zephyr Theatre. It was the first al fresco entertainment of the summer season for the theatre.

And there’s more entertainment to come after the Stillwater City Council, in a 5-0 vote on June 1, approved a permit that will allow the theatre to stage up to 18 outdoor events per month through Oct. 31.

“I was so grateful the council came to this conclusion,” Calyssa Hall, The Zephyr’s executive director said.

Last year, in the midst of COVID-19 restrictions, the theatre was permitted to host outdoor events. The Zephyr built a temporary multi-level stage south of the theatre building. The parking lot was turned into a safe space for socially distanced audience members. The theatre presented 42 events, attracting about 5,000 people.

“This parking-lot stage was something new for us,” Hall said, talking about last summer’s pivot from indoor to outdoor entertainment.

During the pandemic, the theatre building had been shut down completely for a while and then opened with limited audience capacity inside.

“So, we figured out how to provide live performances that were within the state’s safety rules,” she said.

The solution was eye-opening.

“The events were really popular,” Hall said. “The musicians loved the outdoor stage and so did the audiences.”

Also apparent was the importance of the outdoor events to the theatre’s bottom line.

“We discovered a new revenue stream,” Hall said. “Those funds help us do other things,” she said, such as providing education in the schools, mounting full-stage productions inside, and paying monthly bills.

Last year, the outdoor stage was used by musicians, dancers, and literary readers. The theatre’s popular annual Shakespeare in the Park was renamed Shakespeare in the Park…ing Lot and presented there.

This year, many of those performers have already expressed interest in returning to the outdoor stage. (Although Shakespeare in the Park will return to a local park, not the parking lot.) Seating capacity in the parking lot is 250.

Some residents of the nearby Terra Springs and The Loft condos had complained to the city council about noise from the outdoor events at The Zephyr last year.

The Zephyr has heard those comments and is taking measures to address them. The theatre consulted with local businessman Paul Larson from Alchemy Sound and Vision and Bruce Olson, an acoustics expert from Minneapolis.

One part of the solution will be to install multiple small speakers to keep the sound from spilling out of the parking lot. Another part will be to form a committee with theatre staff, condo

leadership and condo residents to quickly address any noise issues.

“We are really willing to work with the community to make this successful for everyone,” Hall said.

She understands the recently approved outdoor permit is for this season only.

“But I’m hoping it’s a steppingstone to a permanent permit,” Hall said.

Upcoming production

Beyond The Zephyr’s parking lot, there will be more theatre entertainment this summer. The sing-along-with-me musical “Mama Mia” will be staged at 7 p.m. July 22-25 in Lowell Park. Seating capacity for this show will be 1,000. Tickets will be available soon at stillwaterzephyrtheatre.org.

Traintrax Snacks

ribbon cutting

The official launch of the Zephyr’s Traintrax Snacks will be celebrated with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at noon June 16.

The renovated train trolley car resting on tracks between the Brown’s Creek Trail and The Zephyr Theatre is selling refreshments from 7 a.m. to noon Thursdays through Sundays.

The handy rest stop, dubbed Traintrax Snacks, offers hot coffee, cold bottled water and juice, and portable snacks, including beef jerky, trail mix, and dried fruit mix — all sourced locally. Trolley staffing will be provided through a partnership with the Valley Friendship Club.

New date for ‘New

Neighborhood’

Calling all amateur sleuths. For some interactive at-home fun, Zoom into “New Neighborhood: Welcome to Running Springs,” a Clue-like murder-mystery production hosted by The Zephyr Theatre in partnership with StoryArk.

The new date is June 27.

The murder-lite script, more humorous than gritty, focuses on a neighborhood get-together of new residents. The one-hour production stars six actors, but thanks to the interactive magic of Zoom, all audience members will also be party guests and then detectives.

The audience will get to grill suspicious characters -- five actors located in Hollywood and one located in London -- in real-time and then chat among themselves in breakout rooms.

Gumshoe wannabes will have other hints at hand, too. Each ticket holder will receive a box of clues and a cocktail kit to open and puzzle over during the live event.

“New Neighborhood: Welcome to Running Springs” will be aired at 3 p.m. June 27. Tickets, which will include Zoom access and a box of clues, are $75 per household computer. Deadline for ticket sales is midnight June 23. To order tickets, visit stillwaterzephyrtheatre.org.

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