STA Elementary 1

South Square, 202 S. Washington St., St. Ansgar, was built in 1928 as a school building for the St. Ansgar community. It operated as a school for 88 years.

JIM CROSS THE PRESS-NEWS

ST. ANSGAR — With the pending sale of St. Ansgar’s old elementary school building, a summer stock theater will be coming to the community.

The Cedar Summerstock Theater will be a chance for college students to experience what working for a professional theater company is all about.

It's spearheaded by Nancy Nickerson Lee, a St. Ansgar High School graduate.

Modified after programs Lee’s children were involved in on the East Coast, the theater is designed to be an intensive program with a rigorous rehearsal and performance schedule.

“Once the first show opens we will start rehearsing the second show during the day while continuing to perform the first show at night,” said Lee.

“Each show will feature a two-week run, with the cast, crew and artistic planners living and working out of the old elementary school building.”

Lee has been working on organizing notifications about auditions so people can begin to apply.

While final rehearsals and performances will be held at the Cedar River Complex in Osage, all of the preparation for the shows, including set designs and scene creation, will be done in the old elementary school building.

With a 10-day rehearsal period planned for each show, the idea is to give college performing arts students an opportunity to see what is in store for them in a professional setting.

“After seeing what summer stock in upstate New York, Massachusetts and Maine was like, I felt we needed to do this in the Midwest,” said Lee. "We need to give our students here the same opportunity.

“If we were to start a program like this in the city, it would just be one more theater company. Small towns are the best places for something like this. Eventually, we would like to get high school kids involved as well.”

With strong ties already in place in Mitchell County, Lee said she saw St. Ansgar as the perfect place to set up a creative space that would allow young performing artists to work on their craft.

“The idea is to create affordable spaces where people can live and work out of,” said Lee. “There is a need for creative endeavors in the community. I want summer stock to be the seed that starts things.”

With the closeness of Osage and St. Ansgar and the presence of the Cedar River Complex, Lee said making Mitchell Country a center of creative work would give both towns an investment in the arts and forge a community support system for the program.

“I chose Mitchell County because I already have so many connections here,” said Lee. “I enjoy working with people I know as well as building new relationships. I’ve already had a man from Texas call and ask how he could get involved.

“I think we could bring people from all over the country in, especially once the college students return to their colleges and hometowns and share what they’ve learned.

Chrystal Berche is a correspondent for the Mitchell County Press-News, another Lee Enterprises newspaper. 

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