Duluth's NorShor Theatre ready to reprise its starring role

Revitalized venue will once again serve as host stage for city's arts community

The world of theatre is represented by twin masks of comedy and tragedy.

In Duluth, nostalgia also enters the picture—especially when the old NorShor Theatre is mentioned.

“There are so many people here who have vivid memories of the NorShor—it was the first place they saw a movie, and so forth,” notes Christine Gradl Seitz, executive and artistic director with the Duluth Playhouse theatre company.

“In fact, I also met someone who said their grandmother was in vaudeville, and had performed on stage at the NorShor. That would have been way back in the 1930s,” she adds. “It definitely has a special place in many people’s hearts.”

Having started life in 1910 as the Duluth Orpheum, a three-tiered opera house, the NorShor has played host to silent film, performing arts, live music, and movies, once having housed the largest screen in the northwest.

Shuttered in 2010, it was purchased by the Duluth Economic Development Authority—and thanks to a $30.5-million renovation project started last summer, the NorShor Theatre will be part of the Duluth arts community’s future, as well as its past.

With the Duluth Playhouse as its anchor tenant, the NorShor will provide a venue that’s highly coveted by theatre, music and dance groups in the Twin Ports. With a 650-seat theatre, two reception lounges and bars, orchestra pit, dressing rooms and rehearsal studios, the NorShor will be the lynchpin of an area officially designated as the city’s historic arts and theater district (HART) when it reopens in February 2018.

“We’ll be bringing in regional, statewide and national acts. It’ll also be a home for other local arts groups—we have a professional symphony, a ballet company, an opera company, a music series that’s currently happening at the University of Minnesota-Duluth campus,” says Gradl Seitz.

“We have some smaller facilities and then we jump right up to a 2,000-seat roadhouse venue. Groups basically jump from one stage to another,” she notes. “The renovated NorShor Theatre will serve a real need—as a designated community arts venue in our town.”

Enbridge is committed to improving quality of life the communities where we live and work. In 2016, we invested more than $13.4 across North America in community-strengthening initiatives, with more than $800,000 of that invested in Minnesota.

Recently, we signed on as title sponsor for the Lights On Duluth space in the refurbished NorShor—an area that will be used for receptions, community arts kiosks, small-scale performances, CD release parties, and other events.

“There’s a lot of anticipation around the NorShor,” says Gradl Seitz, “because it will serve an exciting, vibrant and forward-thinking arts community.”