April 30, 2007
Two native Howard Lake men earn distinction for their theater
Theater made ‘Explore Minnesota’s’ top 10 list
By Jennifer Gallus
Dan and Mark Barth are brothers, originally from Howard Lake, who have created an entertainment hub with their live theater and concert establishment called Pioneer Place on Fifth in downtown St. Cloud.
This theater just made the Explore Minnesota’s list of the top 10 favorite places in Minnesota to take in the performing arts.
“The best part about this distinction is that we didn’t do anything to solicit this. One day a photographer walked in the building and said he was taking photos for Explore Minnesota and we had been named to a prestigious theater list for Minnesota,” said Dan Barth, co-founder of Pioneer Place on Fifth.
The list can be found under the Arts and Culture section of Explore Minnesota’s web site. Twin Cities actress and Torch Theater founder Stacia Rice compiled the list.
“Theater and concert-goers alike will enjoy the fact that there isn’t a bad seat in the house excellent acoustics, wonderful woodwork, and a wine bar featuring more than 200 wines,”Rice reported.
“You can also count on a truly laid back, unpretentious theater experience. As proof, you need not look any further than the second floor men’s room, where a monstrous 1913 urinal known as ‘The King’ resides,” she added.
There are only three theaters on the list that are located outside the metro area, which are Pioneer Place on Fifth, Commonweal Theatre in Lanesboro, and Jon Hassler Theatre in Plainview.
“It’s been such an honor to make the list, especially since we are relatively new,” Barth said.
The theater opened its doors Sept. 10, 1998.
“We have a seven show season with paid actors and technicians. We’re just closing our eighth year,” Barth explained.
“We host professional tours, mainly from the Twin Cities, but also from around the country of ‘off-off’ Broadway shows (off-off Broadway is two levels down from hitting the big stages),” Barth explained.
A building with history
Before the theater was even conceived, the brothers purchased and began to restore a huge building that has a rich history. Their intent was to turn it into a television studio for their other business, a video production company called Diversified Media Resources.
The building was originally built in 1913 as an Elks Club. Grand granite pillars, regal steps, chambers with running water, hardwood floors, and individual radiators were all original to the building.
“About halfway through the remodeling we said, ‘This place is pretty cool, maybe we shouldn’t be gutting it,’” Dan Barth said.
Instead, the brothers decided to leave the theater portion of the building intact, which originally was the Elks Grand Ballroom, and open it back up to the public as a venue for professional theater, comedians, musicians, and other traveling shows.
The Veranda Lounge
In addition to a variety of entertainment, the theater offers a wine bar called the Veranda Lounge.
Opened in 2005, the Veranda Lounge boasts the largest wine selection and adds to the overall experience of theater and concert-goers.
“The lounge is a natural addition to the building and lends itself nicely to the entertainment value of this venue,” Barth said.
The king of urinals
A popular attraction is a urinal called The King, which gets just about as much attention as the theater.
The King is a turn-of-the-century porcelain floor model urinal that is one-of-a-kind in the world, according to Barth.
“It’s originally from 1913 and has withstood the test of time. We literally remodeled around it,” Barth laughed.
The urinal has become a tourist attraction at Pioneer Place on Fifth and is listed as one of the world’s top 100 urinals on the web site www.urinal.net/pioneer place.
For more information about Pioneer Place on Fifth call (320) 203-0331 or (800) 851-3935, or go online at www.ppfive.com.