Kasono Mwanza, unhooking his body mic after a performance of "Hairspray," is one of the UMD grads who found stage work at Chanhassen Dinner Theatre. Photo by Jeff Wheeler.
Chanhassen Dinner Theatres and the University of Minnesota-Duluth have formed an educational and professional alliance. The program creates opportunities at Chanhassen for graduates of UMD’s theater department, and uses professionals from the dinner theater to educate students.
Internships, fellowships and scholarships will be available for graduating seniors to work at Chanhassen. The dinner theater gets a pipeline of young talent, and the school receives the cachet of a partnership with the largest independent producer of musicals in Minnesota. In the past few years, several UMD graduates have worked at Chanhassen, such as Kasano Mwanza (now in Hairspray) and Brian Skellenger (several productions).
"Every time we see someone with UMD on their resume in an audition, we circle it and pay attention because they’re good," said Michael Brindisi, Chanhassen’s artistic director.
Brindisi said he suggested the idea to Kate Ufema, a UMD theater professor. Fellowships also would extend to technical and administrative positions at the theater.
Chanhassen professionals would also do workshops in Duluth as part of the affiliation.
"All our theater majors would have interaction with the Chanhassen staff," Ufema said.
The agreement is somewhat informal between the two entities. There is no requirement that Chanhassen take a specific number of graduates in internships or fellowships. Professionals doing work at Duluth will receive expenses only.
"It’s a recruiting tool for the school," Brindisi said. "Every time I go up there, I seem someone I really like."