Theatre NXS plans for black box multipurpose venue

Thursday, February 19, 2009 | 7:05 p.m. CST; updated 9:39 p.m. CST, Thursday, February 19, 2009

COLUMBIA — The idea behind Theatre NXS has been brewing in the back of artistic director LR Hults’ mind for years now.

Theatre NXS, or "Theatre in Excess," was incorporated in June 2007. The theater company had its debut in September 2007. At the time, Hults hoped to move the company into a location on Walnut Street dubbed "The Catacombs."

If you go

What: "Further Adventures of Tom and Huck," "Normalcy," "Jack in the Box" and live music

When: Doors open at 6:30 p.m., curtain goes up at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; doors open at 1 p.m., Ironweed band at 1:30 p.m., curtain goes up at 2 p.m. Sunday

Where: The Mule Barn building, 501 Fay St.

Admission: Free to prior donors, must call ahead; $10 for reserved tickets and $12 at the door; call 443-0577 for reservations

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Plans have since changed.

Hults is trying to raise about $15,000 to cover the initial expenses of Theatre NXS in what he hopes will become its new venue: The Locker, an old 50-foot-by-28-foot refrigerator in The Mule Barn building on the corner of Fay Street and Hinkson Avenue. The Locker, once properly renovated, would be a versatile black box venue, Hults said.

Black box theaters are venues in which stage and technical accommodations are simplistic in design. Although technically limited, they provide flexibility in stage arrangement and seating placement. Black box venues are often constructed in old or abandoned buildings such as warehouses or cafes and provide homes to independent and experimental theater.

Theatre NXS's next production will be the world premiere of Don Nigro’s “Further Adventures of Tom and Huck." It begins this Friday at The Mule Barn building, which is being donated by Brian Pape for the weekend. The one-act play is an unexpected twist on the normal perception of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.

Watch a video preview of Theatre NXS:

As described by Hults, the story is this: Tom Sawyer is a wealthy sausage-factory owner living in New York and married to Becky Thatcher, an oversexed alcoholic. Huck Finn appears on the scene — a total bum back from the war.

Two other Nigro works will be presented. "Normalcy" and "Jack in the Box" are both 10-minute, one-act plays that will be presented before the main show. It will be the premiere production of "Jack in the Box" and the Missouri premiere of "Normalcy," according to Hults. He said Don Nigro has published more than 200 plays of exceptional quality.

Live musicians are scheduled for each night: Bruce Poe on Friday, Sutu Forté on Saturday and Ironweed on Sunday.

Hults has seen Columbia theater come a long way over the years.

"The theater market is really growing, and the vision of what people will come see is expanding, and that is exactly what we are hoping to create a venue for" in Columbia, Hults said. "Last year, all we could say was, 'Look at the Ragtag,' but now we can say not only the Ragtag but, 'Look at the success that these other theaters (the Columbia Entertainment Co.'s Second Stage and the Independent Actors Theatre) are having. There is a market in this town for really edgy stuff.'"

If everything goes as planned, Hults will rent out space in The Locker to other theater companies and groups at a discounted rate. Hults hopes to make a profit with The Locker by hosting live music on Friday nights and renting out the space for events and parties on nights when there is not a theatrical production.

"We are trying to expand the idea of theater and reach out into the edges and the mainstream … we are not committed to any one style," Hults said.

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