Empire Arts Center theatrical group announces 2021-22 season, opening with Sondheim's musical comedy 'Company'

Empire Theatre Company planning four, in-person productions, plus an "incubator series," through April at Empire Arts Center

071119.N.GFH.Empire Arts Center Exterior
The Empire Arts Center in downtown Grand Forks. Shawna Noel / Submitted Photo

The Empire Theatre Company will open its 2021-22 season next month with the musical comedy “Company” for in-person audiences at the Empire Arts Center in downtown Grand Forks.

Three other shows and an “incubator series” will follow in October and through April.

The launching of Stephen Sondheim’s “Company,” which is set for 7:30 p.m. Aug. 11-14 and 18-21, marks the reemergence of live theater at the Empire Arts Center after more than a year of COVID restrictions, said Kathleen Coudle-King, the new ETC managing artistic director.

The original “Company” production on Broadway was nominated for a record-setting 14 Tony Awards, and won six, she said. The ETC production is directed by Chris Berg.

The motto for the ETC’s 10th season is “cautiously optimistic,” Coudle-King said. “No one has a crystal ball, but we are hopeful that the community is headed toward a return to normal. We are moving ahead, fingers crossed, ready to welcome the public back to the Empire Theatre.”


The storyline in “Company” revolves around Robert, a single man who is unable to commit fully to a steady relationship, much less marriage; the five married couples who are his best friends; and his three girlfriends.

Unlike most book musicals, which follow a clearly delineated plot, “Company” is a concept musical composed of short vignettes, presented in no particular chronological order, linked by a celebration for Robert’s 35th birthday, Coudle-King said.

In October, the uplifting classic “Annie” will remind audience members of all ages that “the sun will come out tomorrow!” she said.

Dates and times for the show, directed by Peter Foss, with music direction by Emily Bibow, are Oct. 7-9 and 14-16 at 7 p.m., and Oct. 10 and 17 at 2 p.m.

Just in time for the holiday season, the ETC will present “The Holiday Show,” starring Misti Koop and featuring local performing arts groups, including the North Dakota Ballet Company and UND’s Low Brass ensembles, as well as other surprise guests, Coudle-King said.

Performances are planned for Nov. 26-27 and Dec. 2-4 at 7 p.m., and Nov. 28 and Dec. 5 at 2 p.m.

In February, “The 39 Steps,” a parody of Hitchcock’s convoluted screenplay, will take audience members from London to Scotland in a high-energy, laugh-a-minute game of espionage, Coudle-King said. In this show, directed by Emily Wirkus, 250 characters will be played by two actors.

Dates for the show are Feb. 10-12, 17-19 and 24-26 at 7:30 p.m. The show ticket will allow entrance to a screening of the film “The 39 Steps” at the Empire Arts Center. Seeing the Hitchcock film “is not a spoiler, but will add to your amusement,” Coudle-King said


The ETC is also planning a new venture that will bring more diverse voices to the stage, she said. The Incubator Series, a festival of 10-minute plays by women-identified playwrights from the U.S. and Canada, will be presented March 31, April 1-2 at 7:30 p.m. and April 3 at 2 p.m. The plays will be curated by Coudle-King with multiple directors.

For more information, including updates, cast photos and “behind-the-scenes” news, go to .

To request a season brochure or to purchase season tickets, send an email to: .

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Kathleen Coudle-King, managing artistic director of the Empire Theatre Company, has announced the troupe's 2021-22 season, which opens in August with Sondheim's musical comedy "Company". She is shown here in a Herald file photo taken at the Fire Hall Theatre. (Photo by Eric Hylden / Grand Forks Herald)

Pamela Knudson is a features and arts/entertainment writer for the Grand Forks Herald.

She has worked for the Herald since 2011 and has covered a wide variety of topics, including the latest performances in the region and health topics.

Pamela can be reached at or (701) 780-1107.
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