“It’s going to be a busy year for Deaner,” the article notes. “She’s involved with a TBA project at the soon-to-reopen NorShor Theatre, and Superior Siren are launching their new album with a series of shows in January. What’s more, Deaner’s joining the Minnesota Music Coalition board of directors with the hope to ‘help bridge the gap between the metro and the North Shore.'”
The Growler is a monthly craft-culture magazine published out of St. Paul.
[Editor’s note: Duluth’s NorShor Theatre has been closed for more than seven years. It will reopen in February when the new operator, the Duluth Playhouse, launches its production of “Mama Mia.”
The NorShor, of course, has a long and storied history, including a stretch from 2006 to 2010 when it operated as a strip club called the NorShor Experience.
For this week’s essay we’ve once again pulled out a relic from the archive of Slim Goodbuzz, who served as Duluth’s “booze connoisseur” from 1999 to 2009. Ten years ago he paid a visit to the NorShor and published this bawdy report for Duluth’s weekly Transistor.]
Big Lips has the method down.
Every 10 minutes or so, he rises from where he’s been sitting alone at a table in the corner. Then, with his hands casually in the pockets of his camouflage jacket, he simply takes a little stroll, puckering his big fat lips and whistling as he looks to the left and to the right and behind him, making sure that no one is videotaping him or that his wife isn’t standing behind him ready to clobber him with a frying pan. Eventually, he makes it the 10 or 15 feet to the stage where some naked chick is grinding her life away. “Well,” he appears to suggest, “as long as I’m on my stroll, I might as well tip this stripper.”
This documentary by Bill Draheim follows Mike Watt and his band at the time, the Jom and Terry Show, as they drive into Duluth and load in for a performance at the NorShor Theater on May 28, 2002. They tour the old R. O. Carlson’s bookstore, do some sightseeing in Canal Park and spend the night at Shaky Ray Records before heading south for shows at the Turf Club in St. Paul and the 7th Street Entry in Minneapolis.
Watt wrote extensively about the tour, and the Duluth stop, on his “Our Oars Became Wings” Tour 2002 Diary. He marvels in the diary and in the film about seeing Lake Superior for the first time. He also mentions in the diary getting a tour of “the secret tunnels” under the NorShor and how it “feels haunted down there.”
At a May 31 news conference, Duluth Playhouse Executive & Artistic Director Christine Gradl Seitz showed off a canvas painting discovered by workers busy renovating the NorShor Theatre. The Duluth News Tribune reports the painting was “behind a suspended ceiling that was installed in 1941 when the existing Orpheum Theatre was converted into the NorShor. The grand theater’s original balcony had been concealed and transformed into a makeshift attic. But Gradl Seitz said a careful exploration of the space revealed ‘this beautiful mural, which we believe dates back to 1910, and the original Orpheum.'”
The NorShor is expected to open in early 2018; the Playhouse has a run of the musical Mamma Mia scheduled for Feb. 8-24. Renovation work is about 60 percent complete.
The theater was purchased by the Duluth Economic Development Authority in June 2010 for $2.6 million. The $30.5-million renovation began in summer 2016. It is a partnership between Sherman Associates and DEDA. The 750+ seat theater will serve as an arts center managed by the Duluth Playhouse.
This photo was found in the Duluth Playhouse‘s archives. The kids, enjoying concessions at the NorShor movie theater in what appears to be the 1960s, are listed as: “Sandy Audio? Atto, Otto, Ottio? 5 years” and “Judy Hanson 8 years.”
The deal to restore Duluth’s historic Norshor Theatre has finally come together, and renovation work is underway. Last week, WDSE-TV‘s Almanac North hosts Dennis Anderson and Julie Zenner discussed the project with Duluth Mayor Emily Larson and Duluth Playhouse Executive and Artistic Director Christine Gradl Seitz.
It was ten years ago — May 24, 2006 — that the NorShor Theatre first hosted exotic dancers, with two simple words on the marquee: “Live Girls.” Later, the words “Adult Club” would appear above the theater’s new business name: the NorShor Experience.
The announcement in 2013 that the NorShor Theater’s “tower marquee will rise again” appears to have been overly optimistic. During the Duluth City Council’s debate and 8-1 approval of plans to renovate the historic theater, Councilor Joel Sipress noted:
“The tower is not part of this restoration. There is some talk of maybe that being a future endeavor. [I] just don’t want anyone to be disappointed that when this is done the tower isn’t there. So I just thought I would share that with the public.”
Video of the full council debate and public comments is above. Sipress’ brief mention of the tower is at the 37:07 mark.
The city of Duluth announced in a news release today the restoration Duluth’s historic NorShor Theatre could begin before the end of 2015, with a grand reopening expected in mid 2017, now that the project has finalized its funding sources.
David Montgomery, Duluth’s chief administrative officer, shared details with the City Council during its Monday committee-of-the-whole meeting. He said none of the funding will come from property taxes.
The state bonding bill that passed the Minnesota Senate today includes funding for Wade Stadium and NorShor Theatre renovation, and construction of a water-delivery system for Spirit Mountain.
“Restoring Wade Stadium will ensure the iconic ball field will continue to be enjoyed by players and fans for decades to come,” Duluth Mayor Don Ness said in a news release. “The Spirit Mountain water project will allow the ski hill to get off of the city’s treated water, saving money and opening up other potential development in the western part of town. The NorShor Theatre & Arts Center will serve as a catalyst for new development in old downtown.”
Here we are, ten years later, and the marquee at the NorShor hasn’t quite been lit up yet … but it seems like we’re getting close.
The “Light Up the NorShor” fashion show fundraiser was held on Feb. 28, 2004. There must be a video of the entire event somewhere; I seem to remember it aired on public access TV. The show was organized by Adeline Wright and Laura Scheu (who became Laura Ness two months later).