Stage Werx, the Mission’s 12-year-old independent theater on Valencia Street, will be closing early next month as its current owner and operator retires.
However, the new tenants of the performance venue, co-founders of a small local production company, are keeping the space at 446 Valencia St. between 15th and 16th streets a theater, and renaming it Eclectic Box.
The new theater will host events in the same vein as Stage Werx, according to its new tenants — largely live performances like scripted plays, sketch comedies, improv, dance performances and cabaret-style shows, as well as workshops, seminars and movie screenings.
“We just want to carry the tradition on, and we want to just kind of build off of what Ty has already created, and just continue to build community,” said Dani Spinks, referring to Stage Werx founder Ty McKenzie. “We want the whole spectrum.”
Stage Werx’s closure was first reported by Broke Ass Stuart.
Spinks and partner Joe Waterman, co-founders of the production company Dreams on the Rocks, will officially take over on November 1, and Eclectic Box’s first show will be in December, which is a Dreams on the Rocks production. The theater will begin renting out space to production companies and artists on Jan. 1.
Earlier this spring, McKenzie emailed renters who leased space at the theater this year, informing them that she would retire in October. She asked if anyone would like to take over operation of the space, and Spinks and Waterman stepped up.
“Ty’s an incredible person,” Spinks said. “She’s put so much hard work, but also heart work, into Stage Werx, and has built this beautiful space for creativity, and for performers to come and play, and feel safe doing so.”
McKenzie has declined to comment on the closing of Stage Werx.
Spinks and Waterman, both queer, want the theater to be queer-centric and to welcome more queer performers in their shows and open up the space more to queer companies, offering a safe venue for the queer community and allies.
Spinks and Waterman are looking to renovate the space: Repainting the box office, installing an updated lighting and sound system, rebuilding the tech booth and building a second dressing room upstairs.
Spinks began her theater career as a special-effects artist before branching out into writing, directing and producing plays. In 2014, she co-founded the production company Dreams on the Rocks with Waterman. Now, Eclectic Box will become their company’s permanent home.
Spinks came to know McKenzie when she was working as a special-effects makeup artist at the Dark Room Theater on Mission Street, a tiny venue that McKenzie was working at that once served as a launching pad for artists and performers new to the city.
The Dark Room closed in 2015, but the pair have stayed together: Dreams on the Rocks has put on shows at Stage Werx as well as the Phoenix Theater on Mason Street, where McKenzie works as the technical director.
Her fondest memory of Stage Werx is the stage production of “Edward Scissorhands” this July, a show that was postponed due to the pandemic. She recalled spending the whole month of July at Stage Werx, working on the show and talking with McKenzie about taking over the space at the same time.
“We’re really, really lucky,” Spinks said excitedly. “So many companies are already booking with us for 2024.” Many improv performers and sketch groups are looking for a new home since the closing of PianoFight and Exit Theatre, said Spinks, and Eclectic Box might just become their new haven.
Stage Werx will be having its final show Oct. 7 with a reunion performance from Uphill Both Ways, a local male sketch comedy troupe.