From ballet to B.B.: DECC provides a 'home' for high-quality entertainment
For the Minnesota Ballet's recent production of Cinderella, performers needed three trapdoors, four backdrops, a staircase that rolled on and off the stage, and a pumpkin carriage with a horse. There was only one theater in Duluth that could pull...
For the Minnesota Ballet's recent production of Cinderella, performers needed three trapdoors, four backdrops, a staircase that rolled on and off the stage, and a pumpkin carriage with a horse. There was only one theater in Duluth that could pull off a production like that.
The Duluth Entertainment Convention Center has been a staple in the Duluth arts and entertainment scene since its completion 50 years ago. It has brought in world-famous performers and created a space where local artists can dream bigger.
"We need a large space with technical capability for scenery and room for large-scale choreography," said Minnesota Ballet executive director Robert Gardner. "It can house big-name touring acts and give local cultural institutions space to really grow and put on quality productions."
Christine Seitz, executive director of the Duluth Playhouse, credits the DECC with leadership for entertainment in the community. "Because we have the DECC we are able to bring in Broadway road shows," Seitz said. "The DECC is a steward in our community for high-quality arts and entertainment."
According to Seitz, the artistic community is enriched by these traveling shows. "Playhouse staff and community artists get to see these newer shows and it's like homework for us," Seitz said. "These new musicals let us see what's going on."
Both the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra and the Minnesota Ballet have performed with the DECC since it was built.
"It was a partnership when they built Symphony Hall," said DSSO executive director Rebecca Petersen. "We were one of the first performance groups in 1966, when we were just the Duluth Symphony Orchestra."
The ballet company now known as the Minnesota Ballet opened the year before the DECC.
"We had dancers perform at the grand opening of the arena complex," Gardner said. "We've had a long relationship with the DECC."
Gardner hopes the DECC and the Minnesota Ballet will continue to grow together.
"I hope that it continues to upgrade," Gardner said. "As we grow, we demand more of the theater technically and artistically."
Gardner took charge of the company while it was still located at the Duluth Depot.
"As our company grew, we moved to the DECC to do bigger productions," Gardner said. "It became the ballet's home theater quickly."
The DECC is not only considered the "home" of the Minnesota Ballet.
"People are used to our doing things at DECC," Petersen said. "It has become our home for Masterworks and Pops concerts."
The Duluth Playhouse chose the DECC to stage its 100th anniversary production of Les Miserables, collaborating with other community arts organizations.
"The DECC is the one facility that can allow us all to work together," Seitz said. "The DSSO, the Minnesota Ballet, and the Playhouse created a community-wide event, and it was the only facility to do it in."
Anna Tanski, executive director of Visit Duluth, called the DECC "the crown jewel of waterfront."
"It draws visitors from around the midwest for the sole purpose of whatever event is going on," she said.
Not only does the DECC draw visitors, it also draws artists. According to Petersen, during the DSSO's search for music directors, the candidates were dazzled by the professional, acoustically engineered space.
"Since the acoustical shell was added, the sound enhancement is impressive," Petersen said. "We rehearse in the DECC, when we rehearse elsewhere the musicians comment that they can't hear each other as well."
According to Petersen, the DECC was an early incubator for arts and entertainment in Duluth.
"Prior to the arts district on Superior Street, the DECC was the entertainment venue of the city, bringing together all aspects of entertainment," Petersen said.
Today, Duluth has many venues, including theaters at the Depot and Teatro Zuccone, as well as the NorShor Theatre which is currently being renovated, but none can eclipse the 2,200 capacity of the DECC.
"We hope to go to the (newly opened) NorShor for new works and cutting-edge pieces, but DECC will continue to be our home," Gardner said.