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Backstage at the Z

Let There Be Lights

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A Zephyr Theatre Newsletter for Those "In the Know"

Executive Director's Note

Springtime at The Zephyr Theatre – here we grow!

Growth has always been the central theme of spring, and it has always been our central focus here at The Zephyr Theatre as well.

It happens year after year, Mother Nature raises the curtain on her grandest annual performance – spring! Excitement, expansion, and new beginnings abound.

We see that same change happen here at The Zephyr Theatre every year, but especially this year.

Our passionate pursuit for sustainable annual growth brought us to a remarkable high point. Despite covid and the unforeseen setbacks, we took great strides for expansion and development throughout 2020.

Can anyone guess where all the growth and success have been? Most would say the Ice Palace Maze, however development you might not see is the expansion of our student theatre program and the amazing staff and volunteer base that continues to increase. We see partnerships, existing and new, that promise an absolutely not-to-be-missed season of theatre ahead, with endless creative opportunities and outlets for the community.

To tie it all up with a bright spring-colored bow, we have a lot of growth to celebrate from the past 12 months. We haven’t slowed down in the least, and we cannot wait to start incorporating live theatre back into a grand creative adventure for the year ahead.

— Calyssa Hall, Zephyr Theatre executive director

Let There Be Lights

Stephani Atkins, executive director of StoryArk, pitched a dual fundraising program.

Now, that’s a bright idea.

Money gained from an April 18 fundraiser will be used to buy LED lights for The Zephyr’s indoor stages, Calyssa has announced. Her decision is both practical and symbolic.

Previously, The Zephyr has rented or borrowed lights for its staged productions. Sourcing the lights sometimes has been a hassle. “It’s time to own our own lights,” Calyssa said. Besides, how appropriate to light up the theatre after the darkness of the coronavirus restrictions.

It was easy to say yes to Stephani Atkins, the enthusiastic executive director of StoryArk, when she proposed a dual fundraiser. That Stillwater-based non-profit, which provides story-telling opportunities to students in grades 6 through 12, already had a program.

“New Neighborhood: Welcome to Running Springs” is a creative take on an old-fashioned board game. Stephani bills it as “Clue meets Zoom with some Hollywood celebrities.”

The script was written by four of the actors, including LA-based TV series actor Charles Carpenter, and features two others, LA-based actor Susan Mayes, and Emmy Award-winning writer Ken Levine.

The murder-lite script, more humorous than gritty, focuses on a neighborhood get-together of new residents. The one-hour production stars those six actors, but thanks to the interactive magic of Zoom, all online audience members will have roles as party guests and then detectives. They will get to grill suspicious characters in real-time and chat among themselves in breakout rooms.

These gumshoe wannabes will have other hints at hand, too. Each ticket holder will receive a box of clues and a cocktail kit to open and puzzle over during the live event. Hopefully, they’ll solve the mystery before it’s too late.

“New Neighborhood: Welcome to Running Springs” will be broadcast via Zoom at 3 p.m. April 18. Tickets, which will include Zoom access and a box of clues, are $75 per household computer. Deadline for ticket sales is April 9. To order tickets, go stillwaterzephyrtheatre.org.

Proceeds from ticket sales will be used for Zephyr lights. StoryArk will use money from the sale of additional clues purchased during the live event to buy iPads for students who lack the technology to participate virtually in story-telling programs.

Making the Magic and Production Updates

A behind-the-scenes look at what’s happened and what’s coming up!

Staff Profile: Mike Tober

Mike Tober, actor and director

Freelance theatre professional Mike Tober discovered his love for theatre in middle school shortly after being cast in his first play, “A Christmas Carol.”

“I remember being in the ensemble and being mesmerized by the actors playing the leads,” Mike said. “I was instantly inspired to be just like them.”

Shortly after, “being bit with the theatre bug,” Mike discovered an important lesson in handling rejection in the arts.

“In my first year of high school, I didn’t get cast in any of the plays or musicals. But rather than calling it quits, I was motivated to learn, grow, and better myself for future opportunities,” he said.

“Although facing rejection at the time was not a fun thing to face in my youth, I’m incredibly grateful for the hard lessons I learned early on to put me on the right path of pursuing a strong work ethic.”

And it seems to have paid off.

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Since then, the 29-year-old Minneapolis resident has beefed up his resume with many opportunities. He has performed at The Guthrie, Classical Actors Ensemble, Minneapolis Musical Theater, Theatre Pro Rata, Theatre in the Round, Glowing Ember Theatre, A.Y.N.E. Productions Co. (Minneapolis); Artistry Theater, Sidekick Theatre, Chameleon Theatre (Bloomington); Lyric Arts Main Street Stage (Anoka); Lakeshore Players Theatre (White Bear Lake); Actors Theater of Minnesota (St. Paul); Paul Bunyan Playhouse (Bemidji); and The Phipps Center for the Arts (Hudson, Wis.).

At The Zephyr, he has played the role of Antonio, the pirate who risked his life to demonstrate his love for Sebastian, in “Twelfth Night” (2018); Harry Bailey, George’s brother, the war hero, in “It’s a Wonderful Life” (2019); and Borachio, the deceiving villain, in “Much Ado About Nothing” (2020).

“My favorite role was Antonio,” Mike said. “The Zephyr allowed us to dive deeper into a version of that character, demonstrating a romantic love for Sebastian as opposed to a traditional portrayal of brotherly or paternal love.”

Off the stage, Mike has also made a name for himself as a director. He is currently co-directing “Newsie!” with Calyssa Hall. His actors, in first through 11th grade, are enrolled in a drama club offered by Faith Christian Home Educators, a cooperative resource for parents who homeschool.

These students have been learning to act, sing, and dance during one-hour classes each week since September. Mike came onboard in October to help direct the 26 students through the ambitious musical, which includes roughly 20 songs during its 2.5-hour run.

“Newsies,” the story of cheeky kids who hawk newspapers in turn-of-the-century New York City, will be presented at The Zephyr May 7, 8, and 9 to a limited audience of parents, siblings, and relatives.

Mike, who supplements his theatre income with work as a personal shopper for Instacart, said he was particularly grateful to have contract work with The Zephyr during the pandemic. In addition to “Newsies,” he directed in-school productions of “Seussical Jr.” (during summer camp, 2020) and “James and the Giant Peach” (at Anderson Elementary, 2020).

“For many of the kids, this is their first time on stage,” he said. “Watching their confidence grow has been a fulfilling experience.”

“It’s rewarding to create a safe space where kids can make choices, try, fail, learn, and grow,” Mike said. Many theatre skills — working well with others, gaining poise in front of audiences, handling criticism and feedback, owning responsibility for roles — “are incredibly valuable life skills to take away from these experiences,” he said.

Mike is doing more work with The Zephyr. He is one of four directors and teaching artists ushering students through the Stillwater Community Education production “In the Spotlight: Hollywood Drive-in Musical.” This multi-school song fest will be presented mid-May on the outdoor stage at the theatre.

Additionally, Mike is teaching an online Shakespeare Monologue Workshop this spring. In June and July, he will return to Classical Actors Ensemble to play the roles of Lysander and Flute in an outdoor production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Looks like this theatre pro’s resume keeps growing.

 

What's Coming Up

We are doing virtual events where we can and hope to open the doors, or parking lot, to all of you as much as we can!

    • Sunday, April 18, 2021  Welcome to the Neighborhood!  Via Zoom, a thrilling interactive murder mystery, in partnership with StoryArk.    Read more.

Stay tuned for more information.

What can YOU do to help?

One way that makes a BIG impact in how people find The Zephyr are positive review on various sites such as Google, Nextdoor, and TripAdvisor. 

Please take a short moment and share a memory of a great experience you’ve had at a performance, concert, or other event through The Zephyr Theatre. 

We appreciate your support!

Perks of Sustaining Members

There are numerous perks of being a Sustaining Member, here are a few of them!

  • Discounts on tickets
  • Sustaining Member lapel pin
  • Recognition in playbills (as your preferred name or anonymously)
  • Show your support for the arts community!

How to Support

If you are an individual or family who has the ability to support The Zephyr, please visit our webpage to see the options available.

They include one-time donations, becoming a Sustaining Member, in-kind gifts, purchasing a commemorative paver, and more.

Thank you so much for connecting with us through Backstage at the Z!

Stay tuned for more to come, stay connected with those you love,
and please please please stay safe.

You can find more information about The Zephyr
on our website, Facebook page,
or follow us on Instagram (@stillwaterzephyrtheatre).

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