Scenic Resources

Rick Polenek, resident designer at the Century College Theatre Department located between St. Paul and Minneapolis, visits Theatre Antiques when in need of “some nice mid-century furniture pieces,” which always has “quality and good variety,” or he heads to Mill Antiques in nearby Stillwater. “The whole town is a treasure trove for furniture or prop hunting,” he says.

Polenek also finds a “great variety of miscellaneous for creative prop building” at Ax-Man Surplus or he rents one of the beautiful pieces the Guthrie Theatre has built. For “bolts and bolts of fabric,” he heads to SR Harris Fabric Outlet.

Costume Sources

For costumes, SR Harris is the place even if you live in another major city. Costume designer Matthew J. LeFebvre, who teaches at the University of Minnesota, says the warehouse carries various fabrics at prices so reasonable that some “designers who are based in Chicago and New York in contract negotiations try to arrange trips to Minneapolis just to shop fabrics here.” Treadle Yard Goods, “a small fabric shop that carries a variety of specialty fabrics, primarily natural fibers,” also makes his list for hard-to-find fabrics.

LeFebvre adds Capitol City Hatters, “a fantastic place to find gorgeous men's hats both wool and fur felt. They carry hats that can't be found on the typical hat store website.” And Hayley Bush, whose “really great eye for clothing and accessories that have wonderful stage potential” impresses him, owns LULA, a vintage clothing store. “She got me a vintage 60's three-piece man's suit in a 48L for a production of Two Trains Running that I did at Kansas City Repertory.”

CostumeRentals, a combined project of Guthrie Theater and The Children's Theatre Company, has a collection of more than 30,000 theatrical costumes.

Light and Sound Resources

LD Marcus Dilliard and Guthrie lighting supervisor Matthew Reinert visit Gopher Stage Lighting first, for rental and purchasing. “Someone there always has information on every obscure piece of lighting technology built in the last 30 years,” says Dilliard. Reinert, who also purchases from Norcostco and Stage Technology, notes that Gopher co-owner “Joe Holloway was production electrician at the Ordway in St. Paul for years, so he really knows both ends of the business.”

Sound designer Scott Edwards has found an “honest and knowledgeable dealer” at American Pro Audio, a resource for equipment and repair. Audioquip Inc. offers “great gear and very low prices” for wireless mike and intercom rental. The folks at SWE Sound Productions, Inc., specializing in computer, networking, and sound design, are experts in Stage Research's SFX software. Metro Sound is a JBL dealer, and AVFG, Inc. provides complete technical staging and speaker rental and has “very well kept gear.” Designers go to Ohlin Sales for batteries, AEI for electronic supplies, and Precision Powerhouse for tape and CD duplication.

Theatres serve as resources to one another, too. “We have some amazing craftspeople on staff,” says Reinert, who gets calls from schools, event planners, and theatres asking how the Guthrie did a particular trick. The Guthrie lends equipment to other institutions and sometimes borrows from the Minnesota Opera or The Children's Theater Company. “I think that's part of the deal in being a regional theatre. Helping people out when they need it,” Reinert says.


Polenek researches “all types of period furnishings and decorative arts” at the Minnesota Historical Society Bookstore and studies historical backdrops and scenic paintings at the Twin City Scenic Collection, where U-Minnesota has catalogued 20th century scenic renderings.

LeFebvre says the Goldstein Museum of Design at the University of Minnesota, is “dedicated to fashion, interior, and graphic design and has an amazing collection of clothing dating back to the mid 18th century.” He also turns to James Harrington, an expert on period garment construction. Harrington started gathering information for his work as a draper at the Guthrie, and now he does research for several prominent costume designers.

Dilliard finds inspiration and “centuries of lighting research in” the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, and he relaxes at the conservatory in the Walker Art Center. Exhibits at Walker “incorporate lighting technologies I haven't seen anywhere else,” and displays at the Minnesota Historical Society “are often very theatrical, but they incorporate technologies not typically used on the stage.”


Dilliard says work at Theatre de la Jeune Lune is “always passionate and thoughtful. They take chances like no other company I know.” Reinert and LeFebvre second this. The Guthrie Theater and The Children's Theatre Co. also top most lists, but LeFebvre notes that there are gems among lesser known venues, including Bryant-Lake Bowl, “a bowling alley that has a small cabaret theatre attached where you can see original works, small one-person shows, and occasionally productions like Sweeney Todd.” There is also the Minnesota Centennial Showboat, a 200-seat facility that produces turn of the century plays. Polenek, who is doing scenery and props for The Importance of Being Earnest on the Showboat this summer, says it is a re-creation of a 19th century paddlewheel showboat moored on the Mississippi River.

Polenek also likes the Park Square Theatre, an “intimate theatre with an interesting repertoire of area premieres and classics,” the Historic State Theatre, a “beautifully restored legit theatre now home to Broadway tours and concerts,” the Ordway Center, a “beautiful venue with superb acoustics,” the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, and the Minnesota Opera, which Dilliard also names.

If you have used design resources in Atlanta, Orlando, Seattle, or Providence, contact Davi Napoleon at



Guthrie Theater Rental: 612-375-8722

SR Harris Fabric Outlet: 763-424-3500,

Theatre Antiques: 612-822-4884

Ax-Man Surplus: 651-646-8653,

Mill Antiques: 651-430-1816


SR Harris Fabric Outlet: 763-424-3500,

Capitol City Hatters: 651-224-2701

CostumeRentals: 612-375-8722,

LULA's Vintage Wear: 651-644-4110,

Treadle Yard Goods: 651-698-9690,


Gopher Stage lighting:

Norcostco: 800-220-6920,

Stage Technology.:


American Pro Audio: 952-938-7777,

Metro Sound & Lighting: 651-647-9342,

Audioquip Incorporated: 651-642-1805

Audio Visual & Film Group, Inc. (AVFG): 763-488-6500,

Ohlin Sales: 800-626-4173, 952-294-0222

AEI: 763-543-2585,

Precision Powerhouse: 612-333-9111,

SWE Sound Productions, Inc.: 612-209-2810,


Goldstein Museum of Design:

James Harrington:

Minnesota Historical Society: 651-296-6126,; MHS Bookstore: 651-296-4694,

Walker Art Center: 612-375-7600,

The Minneapolis Institute of Arts:

Twin City Scenic Collection:


Guthrie Theater:

Children's Theatre:

Theatre de la Jeune Lune:

Bryant-Lake Bowl: 612-825-3737,

The Minnesota Centennial Showboat:

Park Square Theatre:

Historic State Theatre:

Ordway Center for Performing Arts:

St. Paul Chamber Orchestra:

Minnesota Opera:

[Editor's Note: Information is provided by participating area designers and as such omissions are possible. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of resources but rather a snapshot from a handful of artisans.]