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Setting the Stage in COMO

Setting the Stage in COMO

  • "Setting the Stage in COMO" originally appeared in the April 2024 *20 Under 40" issue of COMO Magazine.
Greenhouse Theater Project Grounded

GreenHouse Theatre Project continues to grow beyond the boundaries of conventional storytelling.

When Elizabeth Braaten Palmieri, founder and artistic director of GreenHouse Theatre Project, moved to Columbia for her husband’s job in 2010, she had no idea she was going to meet her creative soulmate and create a theater company with a lasting, international presence.

“We were both transplants and both actors, directors, and theatre educators,” Palmieri said of meeting partner and co-founder Emily Adams. “Our brains clicked, and we shared the same vision for performance and performance style.”

The two sat down in a coffee shop downtown and started planning what would become the GreenHouse Theatre Project. 

“A greenhouse is a place where things grow and prosper, but they’re also where things die. And then there’s the rebirth of new stuff and new ideas.” Palmieri mused. “We approach every bit of material we do as a living, breathing, creative organism.”

Before they started, there wasn’t any project like it in Columbia.

“When we started, people were like, ‘Wow, I can’t believe you’re doing theater and like all these crazy places.’ And really at the core of it, Emily and I are just storytellers, and we can do what we do almost anywhere,” Palmieri said.

Their first performance was at the Columbia Art League. Tickets were only $8; there was no social media. It was entirely a community supported endeavor.

“People showed up,” she recalled. “We sold out all of our nights. People bought artwork. It turned out to be a really good business collaboration. Our audiences, oftentimes, were new to the spaces we are performing in.”

From there, the company grew. What started as just the two has grown into two sister theater companies. 

“Emily ended up moving back to the UK,” Palmieri said. “She started GreenHouse UK. There’s this really nice sisterhood of creativity between us.”

The transatlantic sisterhood of creativity opened more doors than either could have imagined.

“I took the theater company over to the UK several years ago and we performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival,” Palmieri said. “And I’m actually bringing the company back over to the festival again this August.” 

In Columbia, the theater company has continued. Palmieri said the aim is to incorporate the location as a character within the play; not changing anything but showcasing each site’s unique features.

“We never want to build a set or try to cover anything up,” she said. “We’re usually in the space because of the aesthetics that it offers. We’re not going into space and trying to cover anything up.”

Greenhouse Theater Project Rock Wall Violin
Greenhouse Theater Project Grounded
Greenhouse Theater Project Aerial Performance

GreenHouse Theatre Project has performed in yoga studios, on roofs, at lakes and small farms, and even a rock-climbing gym.

“We did a show in Como Rocks Climbing Gym in December,” said Palmieri, who co-owns the climbing gym with her husband. “I was bringing a puppet artist to town, and we devised a piece for the space. It was hilarious. We were climbing on the wall with these giant headpieces on.”

The project is funded by dedicated members and sponsorships. This year, GreenHouse Theatre Project will put on a one woman show called “A Woman Named Gravity,” “A Streetcar Named Desire,” and an adaptation of “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe,” all with locations to be announced. The theater also expects visits from various artists from around the world. For the most up to date information on shows, how to become a member or how to join the project, follow GreenHouse Theatre Project on social media. 

GreenHouse Theatre Project
[email protected]

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