How Bob Dylan saved a Minneapolis theater
The North American Tour premiere of Tony award-winning musical “Girl From the North Country” has kicked off in Minneapolis.
It is the very same theater once saved by – and owned by – Bob Dylan himself.
Minneapolis’ Historic Orpheum Theatre, part of the Hennepin Theatre Trust, is the site of many Broadway touring shows.
It’s an appropriate tour launch for the show that reimagines 20 legendary Dylan songs.
Dylan fans will be aware of his Minnesota upbringing (Robert Zimmerman was born in Duluth in 1941, and raised in Hibbing, Minn.) and his year spent in Minneapolis attending the University of Minnesota.
At this time he was playing at local coffeehouses and in friends’ homes.
A lesser-known Minneapolis-Dylan fact: the historic Hennepin Avenue theatre could’ve been lost to demolition in the late 1970s if not for Dylan’s help.
He purchased the theater in time for a reopening on July 3, 1979, with the three-week run of the National Touring Company of “A Chorus Line.”
In 1988, he and his brother sold the theater to the City of Minneapolis, and it was renovated and reopened in 1993.
In 2005, the city transferred ownership of its theaters to the Hennepin Theater Trust.
If not for Dylan, the theater may not exist today. (More history of the theater is here.)
For fans visiting the city, Dylan-connected spots remain in Minneapolis :
The Eduardo Kobra mural, “The times they are a’changin,” is located at Hennepin Avenue and 5th Street
Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity house at the University of Minnesota
Gray’s Drugstore (Dylan lived in an apartment above this business)
Orfield Labs (formerly Sound 80 Studios) is where he re-recorded half of his “Blood on the Tracks” album in December 1974.
“Postively 4th Street” mural near the Varsity Theatre.
“Girl From The North Country” is the first theater piece ever commissioned by the iconic singer/songwriter.
Written and directed by Irish playwright Conor McPherson, the musicals orchestrations won a Tony Award for Simon Hale.
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