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The alliance was signed on April 27 by Mark Harvey, head and associate professor in the UMD Department of Theatre, Michael Brindisi, CDT’s resident artistic director and president, and William Payne, UMD School of Fine Arts dean.
UMD Theatre student Kasono Mwanza and alumnus Tom Rusterholz performed in the CDT production of Hairspray in 2012. They are shown with CDT's Michael Brindisi (center).
UMD and Chanhassen Dinner Theatres have created “The Chanhassen Dinner Theatres and the UMD Department of Theatre Educational and Professional Alliance." This joint venture promises to help UMD students find employment in the world of theatre.
The alliance will provide a professional training program for Department of Theatre students, strengthen ties with Duluth and the surrounding communities, and preserve the art form of musical theatre in our communities and state. This collaboration provides valuable skills and hands on experience to UMD students, and provides the CDT access to individuals with great potential in the field of theatre.
This affiliation through UMD’s Department of Theatre and Chanhassen Dinner Theatres is a collaborative effort to:
• provide a professional training program for UMD Department of Theatre students;
• strengthen ties with Duluth and the surrounding communities in an intentional, visible and mutually beneficial partnership between organizations;
• preserve the art form of musical theatre in our communities and state.
CDT and UMD share distinguished reputations for their musical theatre programs and are locally, regionally and nationally recognized for their quality and longevity. Both organizations recognize the potential for mutual benefits and growth. “We look at this alliance as a means to preserve musical theatre, and to ensure its future in our state and our communities," said CDT’s Resident Artistic Director and President Michael Brindisi. "In recent years, we’ve hired several graduates of the distinguished UMD Theatre Department, students who have since gone on to join the ranks of Actors’ Equity, the esteemed professional actors’ union to which we belong.”
Graduates of UMD’s Theatre program have gone on to prestigious careers and can be found performing in prominent cities across the nation including: Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and Minneapolis.
Discussions for the creation of the CDT and UMD alliance agreement began in fall 2010 between CDT’s Brindisi and UMD Department of Theatre's Kate Ufema, Professor of Voice and Speech and Musical Theatre Specialist, and Director. In summer 2011, Brindisi invited Ufema to spend two weeks at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres during the build of Hairspray where she observed, inquired and met with every member of the creative design and executive staff. Since that experience, she has devoted much time to drafting an outline for what has become the official agreement between the organizations. Stated Ufema, “Both UMD and Chanhassen Dinner Theatres are taking up new paths under new leaderships, and recognize that if quality higher education is to thrive, it must integrate more deliberately with its community and those who can help the student practically transition from academia to the commercial world. Aligning ourselves with CDT is a natural fit.”
Chanhassen Dinner Theatres will provide a variety of valuable student educational opportunities for UMD theatre students, including internships, apprenticeships, mentorships, and fellowships. Students will have both paid and unpaid learning opportunities that will qualify for college credit. In addition, entry-level employment opportunities following degree completion are possible. All opportunities will require a student application, audition, and/or interview with awards given at the discretion of Chanhassen Dinner Theatres and with UMD input when requested. The number of students involved in each offering will be contingent upon CDT’s specific production needs, and the talent and availability of the UMD students in any given year.
Additionally, CDT artistic professionals will add to UMD’s theatre curriculum, serving as visiting artists to the UMD Department of Theatre to lead:
• portfolio reviews for design and stage management students;
• musical theatre and audition workshops for performance majors;
• production feedback sessions; and
• skill workshops for design/technical majors.
Moreover, CDT and UMD will enter into a joint scholarship agreement with the University of Minnesota Foundation to help fund and raise monies for an annual scholarship award for a continuing UMD Theatre student.
Future joint possibilities are currently under discussion as well and include possible production collaborations, commissions of new works, and mutual sharing of resources.
“This is another first for Chanhassen, and it’s something we are firmly committed to fostering,” Brindisi said. “For both of us, the alliance agreement represents an effort to branch out in our educational scope. This will allow us to nurture those new audiences and performers, and build upon the strong foundations established by those who have come before us to produce great musical theatre and educate great musical theatre artists – right here in Minnesota.”
Other professional training programs have developed varying types of longstanding relationships with Actors’ Equity theatre companies and their university theatre programs, including the Yale Repertory Theatre and the Yale Drama School, Alabama Shakespeare Festival and the University of Alabama’s Theatre Department, St. Louis Repertory Theatre and the Webster University Theatre Conservatory, The American Repertory Theatre and Harvard University Theatre, The Old Globe/University of San Diego Graduate Theatre Program, and the University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theatre B.F.A. Actor Training Program. These represent several mutually beneficial affiliations between highly respected professional theatres and university professional training programs at both the graduate and undergraduate levels.
ABOUT CHANHASSEN DINNER THEATRES
Chanhassen Dinner Theatres (CDT) is the nation’s largest professional dinner theatre company. It is also Minnesota’s only year-round, fully-professional producing theatre company. With scenic and costume shops on site, all design elements are created and executed by CDT’s resident artistic design and technical staff. The artistic program is led by President and Artistic Director Michael Brindisi. Brindisi works with co-owners Tamara Kangas-Erickson, vice president and choreographer, and Steven L. Peters, to manage CDT. Chanhassen Dinner Theatres is committed to delighting its audiences and creating lifelong memories with a high-quality end-to-end theatre, dining, and service experience. For more information, visit www.ChanhassenDT.com.
ABOUT UMD THEATRE
The University of Minnesota Duluth Department of Theatre, one of six cooperative units of the UMD School of Fine Arts, is dedicated to the training of excellent theater artists and production of internationally acclaimed theatrical productions. Theater students at UMD connect with faculty on a level that is rare in higher education. The UMD Department of Theatre prepares students for careers in theatre and related fields through academic, artistic and production opportunities; serves as a campus and community cultural center; and provides regional support for the performing arts. For more information, visit www.d.umn.edu/theatre.
Written by Cheryl Reitan and Zach Lunderbergt, April 2012
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