New theater manager hopes to eventually bring in more for the younger demographic

Published 9:00 pm Friday, March 31, 2023

The Marion Ross Performing Arts Center has a new building manager, John Caucutt.

“I saw [an advertisement] on Facebook, and it checked all the boxes of stuff that I have done in the past, and I was looking for something to stay in Albert Lea,” he said.

Describing the position as a perfect fit, Caucutt had been to the theater a few times to see shows but admitted to not being too familiar with the theater before taking over.

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He did, however, have experience renting out apartments and managing buildings, primarily student housing, something he did for a decade. That meant managing mechanical things such as furnaces, bathrooms and other things to ensure issues were handled before items broke.

There were also contracts with different groups, such as cleaning crews and plumbers.

“Contracts [at the center] are with the cleaning crews but then also with the bands,” he said.

And his work himself in a band provided experience working with concerts, something he said will be one of his main responsibilities at the Marion Ross theater.

“Book concerts, deal with contracts and contractors for the cleaning crews and the windows and the electricians and then interfacing with the city, because the city does all the building,” he said.

At the same time, he knew there would be a learning curve. Presently, he plans to keep the current system in place so things are similar to the way former manager Neal Lang ran the building.

That doesn’t mean things will stay status quo, however.

“Neal’s given me a couple tips on the kind of changes that he would have liked to see had he stayed,” he said.

He also likes the way ticketing is currently handled, as well as the board, describing them as “professional.”

Caucutt said working with Lang was helpful, especially as it related to working with a ticketing system and providing contacts with different experts and learning new skills, such as running a back projector.

Short-term, he wants to make a smooth transition to building manager, “not upsetting the apple cart,” and developing consistency with entertainment.

In the long-term, he wants to bring in entertainment that would appeal to a younger demographic.

“Neal actually said you’re going to have to do that because that’s just the way the population is going to turn over here,” he said.

So he has booked Sherwin Linton, a performer who does a Johnny Cash tribute show, the DC Drifters, Gregg Hall and the Wrecking Ball, a La Crosse, Wisconsin, performer who helped to build a music scene there, and Ben Bailey, a comedian who hosts “Cash Cab.”

And branching out into comedy was something he wanted to do, noting a performing arts center entails a lot of things.

The theater will still host four plays each year though through Albert Lea Community Theatre.

“What I do is sort of supplemental to that, but not the main focus of the theater,” he said, adding his familiarity dealing with booking agents and musicians provided a wealth of contacts that could bring in a good program.

To that effect, he’s thinking about adding a concert series at some point, which he described as a mix of music, comedy and other performing arts. He also wants to do a variety show similar to “Austin City Limits” or “Prairie Home Companion.”

Caucutt, who took over for Lang in February, has a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. He has lived in Albert Lea for nine years.

He is also open to suggestions from residents in terms of entertainment brought to the Marion Ross Performing Arts Center.