It's rare to find in high schools the caliber of performances like those delivered annually by the Minnetonka Theatre program.
It takes lots of work to deliver so many high-quality plays and musicals; under the leadership of artistic director Trent Boyum and associate director Lauren Bartelt, the Minnetonka Theatre program is a year-round endeavor.
"To get to put on shows year round is amazing," Bartelt says. "Plus, working with students in grades four through 12 and watching them grow over the years is very fun."
Production teams meet over the summer to work on concepts, designs, sound, lights and costumes, and acting auditions typically take place during the first week of school. There are also auditions and rehearsals for the pit orchestra, as well as interviews and selection of the behind-the-scenes crew.
Most productions have roughly as many backstage crew members as onstage cast. Last season's production of "Titanic," for instance, had 25 people just on the costume crew.
"It's a unique program here in Minnetonka thanks to the School Board and the District, because they support the arts," Boyum says. "That allows us to put on the award-winning level productions that we do."
Indeed, last season Hennepin Theater Trust awarded Minnetonka Theater the Spotlight Education Award for Musical Theatre, which is, essentially, the Tony Awards for Minnesota high school theater. Of schools that perform two musicals each season, Minnetonka High School is the only to earn two excellence awards in one year. The high school has also won the state one-act play competition each of the past two years.
The quality of the productions is not lost on the City of Minnetonka and its surrounding communities. "Because of the caliber of shows, lots of community members attend the shows. They may not have children at the high school, but they just think it's a good theater value," Boyum says. "Theater-goers in the area have Old Log, Chanhassen and us."
Amanda Tahnk-Johnson, a member of the MHS class of 2018 who has performed with Minnetonka Theatre since her freshman year, says one of the best parts of acting is bonding with the cast and crew as they move toward a common goal.
"There is an entire staff of professionals working extremely hard to help put on the best productions possible and to provide the best experiences for all of the students," she says. "We put in a lot of work, but I love watching it all come together in the end."
Judging by the lineup for the 2017-18 season, this school year should be no different. Tickets are now on sale for the current season, which kicks off on Nov. 4 with Leonard Bernstein's famed musical "On the Town."
The holiday season will bring a community theater production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat," and in January Minnetonka Theatre will turn its attention to the one-act play "Master Class" by Terrence McNally.
The program will then perform Neil Simon's comedy "Rumors" in the Studio Theater in February, before ending the season with the Broadway musical "Mary Poppins" in the spring.
For tickets, visit the Minnetonka Theatre Box Office.