Biz buzz // New improv theater

New Lyn-Lake improv theater will focus on long-form

A new improv theater is coming to Lyn-Lake this fall, leasing the space formerly held by Lava Lounge clothing store at 3037 Lyndale Ave.

Huge Improve Theater, the nonprofit company that is leasing the space, plans to have a roughly 100-seat theater open in late October and is pursuing a beer and wine license from the city.

While Minneapolis already has improv theaters like Comedy Sportz and Brave New Workshop, HUGE Executive Director Butch Roy said the Lyn-Lake theater will be dedicated to a unique form of improv — long-form. No theater in the Twin Cities is devoted to the form.

Most know improv in its short form through the “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” TV show and Comedy Sportz theaters in large U.S. cities.  

But long-form improv is much less structured than the short scenes of “Whose Line.”

Audience members will give the cast a suggestion, and the players will act out an entire production based on that suggestion, allowing a group of comedic minds to shape the narrative as they go.

Roy said long-form productions are inevitably funny, but can at times become surprisingly poignant.

“I think that’s the beauty if improv. Because it can be anything and because people expect it to be comedy, they’re really along for the ride with you,” Roy said. “So when you can take that turn and do something dramatic and honest and touching, the response is so immediate and so much more rewarding than if you go expecting to see a scripted drama and that is what they deliver.”

Currently, Roy produces an improv show called Improv-A-Go-Go at Brave New Workshop, 2605 Hennepin Ave. S.

Roy said there are long-form improv theaters in several cities, bigger and smaller than Minneapolis.  

Roy said he’s attended Chicago Improv Festivals and discovered that after New York, Chicago and L.A., Minneapolis is the most represented city when it comes to the volume of improv performers at the events.

That further solidified his idea that Minneapolis is ready for its own long-form improv theater.

Roy is asking for donations to help fund the renovation of the theater. Donations, tax-deductible, can be made at hugetheater.com/fundraising.

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Life Time Fitness opens yoga and Pilates boutique

Life Time Fitness has unveiled its first LifePower Yoga studio in the state in Uptown.

LifePower Uptown, 2901 Hennepin Ave., has five studios for yoga and Pilates classes, a LifeSpa, dressing rooms and lounging areas.

The class lineup includes a variety of yoga styles, including Ashtanga, vinyasa, meditation and restorative, among others. There will be heated and non-heated classes.

“At Life Time Fitness, yoga has become a core part of our overall healthy-way-of-live offering,” said Jeff Zwiefel, executive vice president of operations for the Chanhassen-based company, in a news release. “With the rise in popularity of yoga, our new space provides consumers with new opportunities to begin or further deepen their practice. We are excited about extending our LifePower brand and the opportunity to join the urban community of Uptown.”

The 10,000-square-foot studio housed in the former Walker Library building has a variety of packages for people interested in taking classes. It ranges from $17 for a single drop-in class to $89.95 for a monthly unlimited membership (the monthly rate for people ages 26 and younger is $69.95). The classes are free for Life Time Fitness members who have the Onyx level.

Life Time Fitness has two other LifePower studios in Arizona.

Southwest is home to many yoga studios, including the fast-growing CorePower Yoga, which also has a studio in Uptown.

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Szechuan restaurant opens at Lyn-Lake

From Southwest China to Southwest Minneapolis, Szechuan cuisine is back at the Lyn-Lake intersection.

Szechuan Spice has opened its doors in the space vacated by Zen Restaurant, 3016 Lyndale Ave. S.

Manager Jenni Shi and her husband and chef ChangFu Xue will run the new space. They also manage the popular Tea House restaurant in St. Paul.

The restaurant uses dried chili peppers and peppercorn to make bold and spicy dishes. It’s named after the Sichuan Province in Southwest China. Its muggy and humid climate encourages people to eat spicy food in order to beat the summer heat.

Sichuan is where Shi and Xue began their restaurant experience. Xue, before moving to the United States, was head chef at a five-star hotel restaurant in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan. The couple also operated a restaurant in New York City before moving to the Twin Cities a few years ago.

Shi said she’s applying for a beer and wine license and also is asking approval to place a few tables on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant.

Szechuan Spice is open for dine-in and takeout from 11 a.m.–10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and from 11 a.m.–11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Call 353-4281.

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Heidi’s Minneapolis finds new location at Lyn-Lake

Five months after flames destroyed their 50th & Bryant location, the owners of Heidi’s Minneapolis have announced they have signed a lease to relocate their restaurant to 2903 Lyndale Ave. S.

Stewart and Heidi Woodman plan to have the former Vera’s Café turned into a 55-seat restaurant by mid-October. They also plan to have a 28-seat patio.

The new Heidi’s will be designed by Jim Smart, a retail and restaurant designer. The space is slightly larger than the old Heidi’s. It will have a full bar and extensive wine program.

The new restaurant will have many of the same qualities as the old location, according to a press release. Favorites like braised lamb shank will stay on the menu, but new and bold dishes will also be introduced. The restaurant will stay committed to offering all entrees for under $20.

“We’re going to keep the same commitment to a four-star experience at two-star prices,” Stewart Woodman wrote on his website. “We will always want Heidi’s to be the kind of place where you can have memorable night out without feeling like you have to dress for Oscar night. Unless you want to.”

The Woodmans were out of town and could not be reached for further comment.

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Bubble Me turns into Sawatdee Express in Uptown

Supenn Harrison didn’t intend to open a Sawatdee Thai restaurant in Uptown, but when she and a business partner’s idea to have a shop that serves Thai and Bubble tea didn’t work out, she turned Bubble Me, 1404 W. Lake St., back into what has worked well for the Twin Cities restaurateur of 31 years.

In July she transformed Bubble Me into a Sawatdee Express, offering a limited menu of Thai food for eat-in or takeout and extended hours to serve the late-night crowd.

For Harisson, it will be the seventh Sawatdee she has opened in Minnesota. She began the company in 1979 with the opening of a Sawatdee in St. Paul. She has since added four full-menu restaurants and two express locations.

“I have longevity,” joked Harrison, who moved to Minnesota from Thailand 38 years ago to attend graduate school at the University of Minnesota. “It’s just an American dream. I never think that I was going to do many, many restaurants. But it just keeps going and going.”

Her new Uptown location will serve a limited menu of spring rolls, egg rolls, Pad Thai, curry and Rama Thai Delight. It will also have a selection of healthy Thai salads. It will continue to sell bubble tea.

Sawatdee Express is open for dine in and take out from 11 a.m.–10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m.–3 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays; and noon–9 p.m. Sundays.

To order, call 353-6684.

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New name, same ‘Cause’    

Sauce Spirits & Soundbar, 3001 Lyndale Ave S., is changing its name to Cause Spirits & Soundbar.

The Lyn-Lake music venue, art gallery and restaurant had to change its name because a chain restaurant, Sauce Pizza & Wine, opened in St. Louis Park and has a trademark on the Sauce name.

But owner Mike Riehle, in a statement, reminded customers that changing two letters in a word will not equate to changes in what the establishment does best: “providing the residents of Lyn-Lake an authentic, independent offering of live music, art, and family recipe pizzas, pastas, and breakfast and bar favorites.”

— Sarah McKenzie contributed to this report