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‘It costs nothing to hope’

MSU Summer Theatre makes plans

Submitted Photo A few of the shows in last year’s 54th season of MSU Summer Theatre included “Beauty and tthe Beast” and “Mamma Mia.”

The Minot State University Summer Theatre is being heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. If things do not get better by the time summer comes around, they may have to cancel their 55th season.

Chad Gifford, the artistic director of the Summer Theatre, said they could not hold local auditions like they normally would. Social distancing put a damper on the fun of being around fellow performers. Their auditions had to either be recorded and sent in, or they had to show up to an “online video group” to audition.

More than 70 people have auditioned to take part in the three musicals and one play for the summer of 2020.

Gifford said the original plan was to begin with “Something Rotten,” following two men who are trying to compete with William Shakespeare, and things do not quite go the way they expected. The second play would be the classic children’s story about the exotic “Willy Wonka.”

To shake things up a bit for their comedy play, a murder mystery comedy was thrown into the mix. “The Game’s Afoot: or Holmes for the Holidays” follows a man who is obsessed with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s fictional character, Sherlock Holmes. Trying to think like the great detective, the man attempts to solve a murder.

“The Sound of Music” will bring the 55th season to a close, following the Von Trapp’s in Nazi Germany as they struggle with family and love.

Only one of the four plays planned for 2020 has been done before: “The Sound of Music.” The others are brand new to everyone.

Some of the actors and actresses that auditioned have also taken part in many previous plays. “Both Peg Morris and Brett Olson are not only key members of the leadership team,” Gifford said, “but are also fan favorites who both graduated from MSU.” A couple of the other “popular faces” that are returning to the stage are Ryan Haider and Brittany Armstrong.

The artistic director also mentioned that he is planning to bring in some “outside talent” to help keep things rolling smoothly and bring something new to the table. This year, they were planning on bringing in Katie Langemo as a choreographer. Brett Olson and April Hubbard were to be brought on as directors. Gifford and the others of their newly found board of directors are still deliberating on having others join to “complete” their company.

When Gifford became the artistic director, he created the board of directors to share the responsibilities and leadership of the summer theater program. “We spent 2019 writing up by-laws and establishing the initial membership,” he said, “and then at the first annual meeting at the start of 2020, we set membership rotations and added an additional member.” Board members are chosen by popular vote, their terms lasting three years before their positions are up for re-election.

Gifford and the rest of the Summer Theatre crew had been raising funds to go toward their renovation project of the amphitheater. By the end of their season, they were hoping to begin construction on updating the facilities. COVID-19 may be bringing that to a halt if the pandemic doesn’t come to an end. In that case, the renovation will have to be pushed back another year.

The renovation project would include many things, according to the college’s website. A ticket office, dressing rooms, bathrooms, office space and premium seating are to be built. The summer theatre complex would have a new plaza and a drop-off/drive-through area. The physical accessibility for all patrons will be increased. The concession stands are to be moved to the ground level to give it more of a mall-type look. A stage canopy is part of the project, as well.

For each new area built, except the restrooms, there are opportunities available to name them. For more information on that, contact the MSU Advancement Office.

By making donations up to $999, the donor’s name will be put on the donor wall of recognition. Donations of $1,000-$4,999, their name will be put on the wall of recognition and get three complimentary season tickets for three years. The final gift package consists of having the donor’s name put on the wall of recognition and get six complimentary season tickets for three years.

To give donations, visit minotstateu.edu/give and be sure to change the “Designation” to “Summer Theatre Renovation.”

Architectural renderings of what the new summer theater will look like are available on their website: minotstateu.edu/theatre/revitalize.shtml.

The Summer Theatre season of 2019 was very successful. Gifford said they had record attendance. Two of the more popular shows they performed last year were “Mamma Mia!” and “Beauty and the Beast.”

One of their lesser known comedy brought in huge crowds and they were also able to get their hands on “some of the coolest costumes (they) have ever had.” “Moving forward,” Gifford added, “that has us looking into ways to improve our costuming budget as well as making sure that the non-musical comedy remains part of our lineup.”

So far, the performances have not had to be cut or canceled. On April 7, Gifford said he would have some more solid and updated information on how they will proceed for the summer on April 16. “Safety is our utmost priority, but we are taking our cues from the university president and the governor.” If either Dr. Steven Shirley or Gov. Doug Burgum give any restrictions, they will follow them.

Gifford shared some wise and positive words, “Our position on decisions this summer is simple: It costs nothing to hope. We are hoping that things turn around, hoping that people stay healthy, and hoping that our summer can go on. If season 55 does not happen this year, we will look forward to another great season in 2021. Until that decision is made, we will continue to hope.”

Hope is a wonderful thing to hold on to when things seem bleak.

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