Theater group has big plans in Rosemount

  • Article by: LIALA HELAL , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 13, 2013 - 2:00 PM

A Rosemount community theater is in the works for the Steeple Center.

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From left, board member Dottie Illg, artistic director Keith Reed and advisory board member John Loch at the Steeple Center in Rosemount.

Photo: JOEL KOYAMA • joel koyama@startribune.com,

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It might be disturbing. It might be heartening.

The emotions that audiences take away from theater productions start dialogue, and that builds a sense of community. That’s one thing a new community theater would bring to Rosemount, planners say. They not only want to provide a new scope of art in the area, but also get residents to interact with one another.

“Like any art, it’s enriching,” said Keith Reed, artistic director of the community theater group, called the Front Porch Players. “People come away with different perspectives.”

The Rosemount Area Arts Council (RAAC) is forming an advisory board and recruiting participants to start a community theater. Reed, who is leading the initiative, has been active in theater for the past 25 years, running a theater company, acting, playwriting and directing. He’s also secretary of the RAAC board.

Planners hope to have something launched this year. Its home would be the Steeple Center, the city’s multi-use building, formerly St. Joseph’s Church.

“We want the Steeple Center to be known as a playhouse,” said John Loch, theater advisory board member and RAAC board member.

Loch says there were a few community theaters in Rosemount’s history, but they only lasted one or two years because they had no home.

“There are some things that you look at as being part of a successful community, and Rosemount has a lot of things going for it already,” Loch said. “[The theater] is one more piece of the puzzle of building a successful community.”

Developing local talent and giving people an outlet for theater arts is one of the goals. “People think, ‘I can’t get involved because I can’t act,’ ” Reed said. “You don’t need to be an actor. I just think that it’s really important that people are aware of this.”

In fact, members of the arts council are meeting to talk about setting up a series of classes for people who want to learn more about theater production, who would then participate in the plays. Topics would include set design and building, sound, lighting, stage management, directing, acting, backstage operation and makeup.

The theater group welcomes both Rosemount residents and people who live elsewhere. Organizers hope the first performance will be late this year or early in 2014.

A true arts center?

The group faces some challenges, though.

One is that the Steeple Center is used on Sundays by City on the Hill Church, which rents the space from the city. That would mean no stage sets could be put up for rehearsals and no performances could be scheduled for Sundays. The group is in talks with the pastor and the city to come up with a solution.

Years ago, a city task force recommended that the Steeple Center could be a multi-use facility in the short term, and an arts and cultural center in the long term. “It was just really based on how things progressed,” said Dan Schultz, Rosemount’s parks and recreation director.

RAAC has a service agreement with the city to use the space rent-free because they provide a city welcome and information center in the building, Rosemount’s “Front Porch.”

“We’re in support of any groups who can bring anything to our town,” Schultz said. “Those kinds of things strengthen our community.”

The arts council hopes to fund the theater with various grants and start small in the beginning. A recent meeting drew about 30 people interested in participating. Planners hope the same interest is shown for a future children’s theater.

“Art transcends all ages,” Loch said. “You have young people and senior citizens sitting side by side, creating art and enjoying art. … It gives them an appreciation of the world around them and the people around them.”

He calls the launching of the theater a “turning point” for RAAC. “To me, this is very high up in our major milestones,” Loch said. “We’re committed to building a community. We have just chosen the arts as the venue to do that.”

To find out more about participating in the theater, contact RAAC at rosemountarts@gmail.com or call 651-600-8693.

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  • Dottie Illg, Keith Reed and John Loch at the Steeple Center in Rosemount: “We’re committed to building a community,” Loch said. “We have just chosen the arts as the venue to do that.”

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