A husband-wife team with talents in the performing arts and community organizing are six months in to a new Lansing business that offers a performance place for underrepresented, niche arts groups.
Dylan Rogers and Jeana-Dee Allen—founders and members of the Lansing Unionized Vaudeville Spectacle
—opened The Robin Theatre
in late July 2015. Located in REO Town at 1105 S. Washington Ave., the 1,600-square foot space provides what Rogers and Allen say is the perfect spot for poetry, comedy and intimate performances of live music.
"Jeana-Dee and I dream a lot and chat about how it would be really great to open a community performing arts space," says Rogers. "So when we saw the opportunity to adopt this building, we remembered the idea and decided to go for it."
Rogers and Allen sold their house on Lansing's East Side in June 2014 and leveraged their capital and sweat equity to gut the vacated space that has been a medical marijuana center and succession of grocery stores. They refinished the tin ceiling, stripped floors and repainted walls, redid major systems, and built a small stage. And they did similar renovations upstairs, transforming an uninhabitable space into their new REO Town home.
"Some of my favorite times were when we were working here and had the doors open and people would walk by and say, 'hey, can I help?'" says Allen. "It was a real community effort. We couldn't have made this happen without all the help from our friends, family and neighbors."
The result of that year-and-a-half of hard work is a black-box theatre that includes a stage, full sound system, lighting and seating for 100 people. Shows to date have been a mixed bag of small theatre, comedy, poetry, a pop-up holiday market and a huge variety of local and traveling musical acts ranging from vaudeville to jazz to singer-songwriter folk. Upcoming shows will continue to build on the variety, and focus on partnerships with musical venues and arts organizations in Lansing.
"We both knew the theatre would do well, but neither of us really knew what we were really getting into," laughs Allen. "It's been a ton of work and definitely stressful, but we kept to our budget and we're both still alive. I have 12 grey hairs now, and Dylan can count his. It's all been wonderful."
Source: Dylan Rogers and Jeana-Dee Allen, owners and founders, The Robin Theatre
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
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