MAT readies for first year on Westside

       Comedian Jim Jackson was playing a different sort of role this week - construction ramrod. MAT co-owner Jim Jackson looks as if he just lifted
a steel-beam header with one finger (and help from Bill Patterson (left) and Jimmy Strinka).
Westside Pioneer photo
       The co-owner of the Manitou Art Theatre (MAT) hopes he's doing it well. Actually, he needs to be. It's a real-life part. MAT is scheduled to open its 2008-09 season Saturday, Oct. 4 in a new locale - an 1,850-square-foot unit at 1367 Pecan St.
       The theater offers live comedy shows and classes for children and adults. Business owners and chief actors are Jackson and his wife, Birgitta De Pree, with nationally known performers also booked at times. The season as announced will run through May.
       Originally part of an industrial building, the one-story Pecan space is being completely remodeled for its new purpose. A carpentry crew this week was building the risers for the audience seating, and Jackson was pleased with his on-line find of 120 padded chairs that a science theater in San Diego, Calif., was offering free to anyone willing to come get them. The maximum seating is 90, and thus he'll have 30 extra for replacements.
       A 160-square-foot outdoor deck (for smokers or anyone wanting to enjoy the mountain view) has been built out front, and an indoor lobby framed in. Still awaiting the builders' touches are doorways, walls, a stage and lights and sound. Scott and Lise Hunt, who are friends and business associates, lease the space just to the north, and are allowing MAT to use part of that for a backstage area and other needs.
       Jackson didn't offer the total extent of MAT's monetary investment, but the lights alone cost $6,000, he said. "They'll be state of the art, and so will the sound," he said.
       Jackson and De Pree had worked out of Manitou's Business of Art Center (BAC) for seven years, but had to start looking for a new site after their rent rose drastically last spring.
       The rectangular Pecan site will be slightly smaller than the BAC's maximum of 113 for adults (150 for kids). "It will fill up pretty fast," Jackson said. However, by owning the space he and De Pree have more flexibility in the length and frequency of shows. Another advantage is the seats themselves. Because of the shared space at the BAC, Jackson and De Pree had to set up and then remove the seating for every show. Now, with a fixed space, "we'll have a better idea of what technically we can do," he said.
       When MAT first announced plans for Pecan last spring, Jackson had expressed some concern about leaving the BAC and Manitou. But the Westside may not be so bad, he's finding. Though it's hardly in an "arty" area, MAT is more accessible to the region, and easier to get to (a block west of South 21st Street; turn at the car wash and bowling alley), Jackson noted. The owner of a nearby auto-repair shop has even asked him to refer any theater customers who have car trouble.
       "We've had lots of interest from neighbors," Jackson summed up. "People ask, 'What's going on?' So far, pretty good."
       For more information, call 685-4729 or go to www.themat.org.

Westside Pioneer article