Storefront Theatre of Indianapolis Finds Permanent Home in Broad Ripple

Photography provided by Brian Brosmer & STI

For Ronan Marra, Storefront Theatre of Indianapolis‘s (STI) new, permanent location in Broad Ripple will be more than just a place to offer live theatrical performances. It’s part theater, part art and photography gallery and part rehearsal and educational space, and STI leaders hope it will serve as a new artistic hub for midtown.

In 2017 STI kicked off its inaugural season with two shows at IndyFringe – “Infinity” – written by Hannah Moscovitch, and “Prowess,” penned by Ike Holter. During the kickoff season Marra, STI’s founder and artistic director, began contemplating the idea of a permanent spot from which to operate in Indy and offer seasonal productions. In July, the company secured a 7,500-square-foot space previously occupied by C.T. Peppers nightclub, which sits below the former Crackers comedy club near the corner of College Avenue and Broad Ripple Avenue.

A 50-seat performance area is only one piece of the puzzle. Marra plans to keep a full-time gallery for photography and other art forms, with moveable panels allowing artists to arrange the space as needed. Guests will come in through the College Avenue entrance and see the gallery area immediately upon passing through a ground-floor lobby and descending the entryway staircase.

“Plenty of theaters have art hanging and galleries and things like that, but we love the idea of people coming down the stairs and then finding themselves automatically immersed in a neat gallery,” Marra says. “We’re as excited about that as we are about the performance space.”

The theater itself will feature matching collapsible doors and non-permanent risers, both of which will allow directors to customize the physical configuration of their particular production.

“Originally we were going to put some drywall up and have a permanently closed performance space, but we decided there are so many possibilities with leaving it as an open concept for educational classes, acting classes, rehearsals or what have you,” Marra says. “And then with moveable panels and collapsible doors, we can still close different areas off if we want to.”

Storefront board members decided to pursue a two-way liquor license, and beer and wine will be sold from a bar that sits near a box office and general information desk. Marra plans to hold two to three shows per season and offer the venue as a rehearsal space for fellow theater companies.

“There aren’t a lot of options for rehearsal places here or in a lot of other cities for that matter, so we want to provide that,” Marra says. “And since we’re a non-profit, the goal is to have the place pay for itself by renting it out to different organizations.”

Board President Julia Pritchard, who also owns Fortitude Fitness above the Storefront space, is excited STI will be able to host educational classes such as acting lessons.

“I have clients who have kids and want to get them into acting classes and have to take them either downtown or up to Carmel,” she says. “And if they want to see a show, those are pretty much the only options too. I think the theater is not only necessary for Broad Ripple’s growth but with all of the new restaurants and things that are going in, all of these businesses will feed off of each other.”

Before relocating to Indy in 2015 with his wife and son, Marra spent 14 years in Chicago as co-founder and co-artistic director for Signal Ensemble Theatre, where he directed and wrote dozens of productions. He says early on, Signal took off faster than he and his colleagues expected, leaving the group to play perpetual business and administrative catch-up.

“We were always hamstrung by the administrative side of things because we didn’t plan that part of it out before we started,” Marra recalls. “I always thought to myself that I wanted to reboot and do it right – and Storefront I think is the result of that. Also, I found when I moved here that Indy has a larger theater and arts presence than I was aware of. So those two factors came together.”

Marra hopes to open the doors to Storefront Theatre by January and hold his first performances at the venue before spring. He has shows in mind for Storefront’s second season but is waiting to announce titles until the proper legal rights are secured.

“I have a lot of shows in mind that I think would work well here, and we’ll be focused on new work by female and minority playwrights,” he adds.

Pritchard feels the timing is ideal in midtown for a fresh, new artistic presence, which she says has shifted to other areas of the city in recent years.

“Broad Ripple used to be the place for arts for Indy, and I feel like a lot of that has moved downtown and up into Carmel,” she says. “Broad Ripple really needs, and is craving, a stronger arts presence.”

Marra says STI has been welcomed with open arms by the Broad Ripple community since announcing its upcoming presence and looks forward to forging local partnerships and relationships as the company grows.

“Everyone around here is great, and we got to know the BRVA (Broad Ripple Village Association) as soon as we announced that we were coming,” he says. “Louie’s Wine Dive already hosted a fundraiser for us. It’s all about community, and we want to put a large focus on that aspect.”

Call 317-643-0329 or visit storefrontindy.com for more info on Storefront Theatre of Indianapolis including previous and upcoming show info, a link to join Storefront’s mailing list and a donation page.