See inside St. Ann’s new Tobacco Warehouse theater

On the edge of their seats: The audience enjoys a performance at the new St. Ann’s Warehouse theater on Oct. 6.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

All this theater’s a stage!

Offbeat performing arts outfit St. Ann’s Warehouse finally raised the curtain on its first permanent venue in the landmarked Tobacco Warehouse in Brooklyn Bridge Park on Tuesday, after operating out of other people’s buildings in Brooklyn Heights and Dumbo for 35 years.

The theater made a name for itself by staging boundary-pushing shows in those temporary spaces — including puppet operas and films accompanied by live orchestras — and will be able to continue that tradition after turning the new building into one giant performance space that it can configure to suit all sorts of unconventional productions, said the organization’s head honcho.

“We never knew how long we’re going to stay somewhere, so we never built walls or defined spaces, which gave us the opportunity to perform shows that otherwise would never have found a home,” said founder and artistic director Susan Feldman. “So we’re definitely taking that legacy with us here.”

St. Ann’s spent several years and $30 million erecting a steel and glass box within the walls of the gutted Civil War-era warehouse, which it is leasing from the city. The cavernous main space has room for about 700 spectators, while a smaller studio space can seat around 100. The building also houses an open air courtyard the company is turning into a public garden, slated to open next spring.

The company first opened in the Church of St. Ann and the Holy Trinity on Montague Street in Brooklyn Heights in 1980, where it stayed until 2001 before bouncing around several Dumbo warehouses while it set up its new home on the waterfront — a process that was stalled for several years while local preservationists challenged its occupation of the formerly public building in court.

The theater’s first season in its new digs will officially begin on Nov. 6 with a production of William Shakespeare’s “Henry IV” set in a women’s prison. But the performing arts venue will also host a series of shows this month to celebrate its opening, including an Irish folk music performance on Oct. 18 and a 150th birthday celebration of the Nation magazine on Oct. 24.

You can also get a gander at the new theater without paying for a ticket at an open house event on Oct. 17, which will include guided tours, live performances, and food trucks.

Open house at St. Ann’s Warehouse [45 Water St. between New Dock and Old Dock streets in Dumbo, (718) 834–8794, www.stannswarehouse.org]. Oct. 17 at noon–6 pm. Free.

Reach reporter Harry MacCormack at hmaccormack@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow him on Twitter @HMacBKPaper.

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