Germinal Stage returns with a new season in a new location

Ed Baierlein founded Germinal Stage in 1973 in a Market Street space, and later moved to a tiny theater on West 44th Avenue, just off Federal Boulevard. Here, for 26 years, he staged an eclectic mix of American and European plays: some experimental, others realistic, some profound and others just profoundly funny.

Last year, Baierlein sold the building and closed things up. Now Germinal is returning for a summer season at the 73rd Avenue Playhouse in Westminster. The building, which originally lacked a bathroom, has been refurbished and has just passed inspection. "Now that we're officially good to go, I just have to tell people about it," says Baierlein.

See also: Germinal Stage is leaving its theater building, but the memories play on

In his closing production last year, Baierlein made an emphatic statement: casting almost everyone who'd ever had anything to do with Germinal -- actors, observers, attendees -- in Peter Handke's Offending the Audience.

Only Baierlein would bid goodbye to his faithful followers with this teasing thumb in the eye of a non-play. It was a clear reminder that as a director, he does things his way: no poll or pulse-taking, no finger in the wind, no attempt to spread the word or increase his small but devoted audience. One of the most literate theater people around, Baierlein chose his seasons based on his own taste -- scripts that appealed to him or posed interesting challenges. And he tended to be grandly dismissive of any work more contemporary than, say, Arthur Kopit or Harold Pinter.

The latest updates on the Germinal website carry that same inimitable stamp. He describes the theater as "the 40 year old runt stepchild of small, non-profit theatres -- a corner grocery of Thespis holding its own against the supermarkets. We're an actors' theatre, semi-rough, minimalist when we can afford it, doggedly hopelessly vaguely postmodern, but back pedaling forward to ritual, advancing rearward to modern, or sidestepping to shamelessly theatrical in more lucid moments."

Beneath that, he writes: "Immediate goal: search for wealthy but empathetic private patron. Immediate outlook: dismal to bleak."

But Baierlein's new location is promising and Germinal's audience, many of whom already drive from Boulder, Arvada, Broomfield or Lakewood, is likely to follow him there. The place is, as he points out, is not very far from the old theater and "as easy or easier to get to."

Baierlein's great strength -- and also perhaps sometimes a drawback -- is a love of continuity and a kind of artistic endurance, so it's no surprise that for his re-opening he has selected familiar authors. He is remounting a piece based on Orwell's Animal Farm that he staged ten years ago, and re-entering the world of two playwrights with whom he has considerable experience: Shaw and Pirandello.

The season comprises Pirandello's Six Characters In Search of an Author, running from May 2 to 25; a trio of Shaw one-acts, June 27 to July 20; and Animal Farm, August 22 to September 14.

"Shaw has always been popular for us," Baierlein explains. "With Animal Farm, at least the majority of that cast is still around. It was a really successful production and and a lot of fun to do. Six Characters I've never done but it's a Pirandllo I've always wanted to do, and I'm interested in adapting it -- so it's essentially a new script.

"I'm anxious to get going again. The last six months I've been biding my time and doing stuff I'm no good at like getting used to my new computer and dealing with construction. I designed the inside of the building and the stage. It's the third theater I've designed and that's fun. But when it comes time to put in the electricity or the plumbing I'm a little out of my depth.

"And I missed working with the actors. That's what keeps you young."

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Juliet Wittman is an investigative reporter and critic with a passion for theater, literature, social justice and food. She has reviewed theater for Westword for over a decade; for many years, she also reviewed memoirs for the Washington Post. She has won several journalism awards and published essays and short stories in literary magazines. Her novel, Stocker's Kitchen, can be obtained at select local bookstores and on Amazon.
Contact: Juliet Wittman

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