Commonweal Theatre continues tradition of free shows for county residents | Entertainment

LANESBORO, Minn. — Live professional theater is not something usually seen along Main Street in rural southern Minnesota. That is, unless it’s Lanesboro’s Main Street and the Commonweal Theatre is providing the entertainment.

Area residents can partake of that entertainment for free on special nights throughout the theater’s season.

The professional theater company has been in Lanesboro since 1989. By the end of its season, the company can have up to 29 people. As one of the only professional theaters in the area, the company has dedicated itself to making theater accessible for all.

Commonweal offers free nights — one per play — to residents in Houston and Fillmore counties. Those who work in the counties also can attend the free shows.

“It’s so popular we’ve had to instate a four-ticket maximum for groups,” said Adrienne Sweeney, a Commonweal actor and director of marketing. “If it doesn’t sell out, we normally get crowds up to 200 people.”

The theater started free nights around eight years ago after they noticed many locals could not afford the normal ticket prices: $35, $15 for students.

“Local business owners and students have given us some of the greatest word of mouth promotion,” Sweeney said. “We have students work for us, and small business owners who are strapped for cash. We would offer discounted tickets, but they weren’t getting used.”

The switch to free nights was a logical step for Commonweal. The free show tends to be the preview performance between the dress rehearsal and opening.

“The theater can only happen with an audience,” Sweeney said. “Who you are sitting with that night, it’s never going to happen again. You are sitting with your neighbors while you learn about things that you may have not seen before.”

This year’s plays include “The Elephant Man,”…

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