July 3, 2014 Updated: July 3, 2014 at 6:24 pm
Downtown Colorado Springs is adding another venue for the performing arts - a more intimate setting that supporters hope will attract more people to the area.
The Mezzanine, a private performance, members-only venue that's been developed as a branch of the Colorado Springs Conservatory, will open Thursday with its first showing of "The Last Five Years," a two-person musical theater piece.
The venue will be located at 20 N. Tejon St. in the heart of downtown, on the second floor of a building that also houses The Mansion nightclub. Mezzanine patrons will enter the venue from an alley behind the building..
Modeled after performance venues in New York and other cities, the Mezzanine will host 16 to 20 shows each month, including theater, a variety of music, literary art, burlesque, and other types of performances, said Linda Weise, the Conservatory's founding executive director. It contains a full bar and will seat about 100 to 150 people.
Sam and Kathy Guadagnoli, local entrepreneurs who own several downtown bars and nightclubs , own the building and designated roughly 2,000 square feet for Mezzanine performances. They spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to renovate the venue, Sam Guadagnoli said. The Conservatory will use the space at no cost, and the Guadagnolis say they plan to donate all proceeds to the organization.
"This is such a good thing for the community because it involves all genres of theater and all genres of art," Kathy said. "It's about bringing Colorado Springs to another level."
Weise said the venue will allow alumni who have returned to the Springs to showcase their work and bring new talent to the area by leveraging their connections with artists worldwide.
"It's going to be a reason for young performing artists to stay in Springs," she said. "It will speak to all ages."
In addition to 'The Last Five Years," July's programming will include musical performances ranging from cabaret to house music. The venue will be open to the public until October, when it will become a members-only club. Individual memberships cost $300 per year; membership packages cost $1,200-10,000 annually.All will be tax deductible.
Weise said the club's members-only designation is intended to create an intimate atmosphere characterized by respect for the performers. She expects the club to appeal to Conservatory alumni and donors, as well as a variety of others across the community.
"We've gotten feedback that people really appreciate the exclusivity," she said. "They'll know that the people who are there are there for the same reasons they are."
The club's membership requirements will differentiate it from other performance venues in the Springs area, such as downtown's Pikes Peak Center. Its small size and focus on edgy, sophisticated programming also will set it apart, Weise said; the Pikes Peak Center has about 2,000 seats in its main hall and typically hosts shows that appeal to a broad audience. All shows at The Mezzanine will last 60-90 minutes.
"What makes it unique is the performance art," Weise said. "Because of its size, it's going to be super accessible. It's going to be material that doesn't require you to sell 300 seats to fund it."
Last month, Colorado Creative Industries recognized the Springs' downtown as a "creative district," or an area with numerous cultural landmarks and creative venues. Susan Edmondson, president and CEO of the Downtown Partnership advocacy group, said the opening of the Mezzanine will further enhance the city's artistic atmosphere.
"It's a great use of a space in that business that had been underutilized," Edmondson said. "It'll bring a different kind of crowd downtown."