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The James Theater giving old Riverside Theatre location new life as space for new creators

Published: Apr. 6, 2021 at 10:46 PM CDT
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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) - The building at 213 North Gilbert St. in Iowa City is the future home of The James Theater, a space for performing arts and workshops, and a home for creators.

The building is the former location of Riverside Theatre. Now, the space is being leased by Mark and Leslie Nolte. Leslie Nolte opened the Nolte Academy in Coralville 21 years ago, and she and her husband are heavily involved in the arts in Coralville and Iowa City. Now, they’re starting a new adventure.

The James Theater, named for Leslie’s father, hopes to help local artists with the “growth process”, giving smaller creators a chance to perform in a real venue.

”So there’s this backwards model it says you need money to create art, yet you need to perform your art in order to make the money. Then where does the creation phase fit in?” Leslie said. “And I love being a part of the creation phase, it’s my favorite part of teaching.”

Leslie said the space will go through 60 to 90 days of remodeling, which will start in around a month. The renovations will include updates to the lobby, dressing rooms, bathrooms and stage. Leslie said the space will be more accessible, as well as more versatile, allowing it to adapt for different audience and performance sizes. It’s anticipated to seat around 130 people.

Leslie said she wants The James Theater to be a place for artists of all kinds.

”I would love to see high school students, who have a four-person trumpet club get somewhere to perform. I would love to slam poets to come out,” Leslie said. “I would love the artists who have been working in their garages, or their church basements, to have a real stage with a real audience.”

Leslie said they’re hoping to raise the curtains on The James Theater sometime late this summer. They’re raising some initial funds with a “Sponsor A Seat” campaign.

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