Category Archives: Community

Our Access program is about more than just tickets

Sarah Paquin, Education and Community Engagement Coordinator, shares her thoughts about Hennepin Theatre Trust’s Access program.

I have the honor of working with over 60 local organizations who tirelessly serve our surrounding communities every day. Through the Access Program, the Hennepin Theatre Trust distributes tickets free of charge, helping make arts accessible to local underserved communities. I am honored to play a small role in the distribution of 11,215 free tickets this year to people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford them. Though, as you might guess, the Access Program is about more than just tickets.

Walking in to this program for the first time earlier this year, I didn’t know what to expect. I was amazed at the amount of enthusiasm it brings, and impressed to see how hard the underserved organizations that we work with fight for the enrichment of their communities. These organizations are not ticket-focused, but self-betterment-focused. And the difference is obvious in how they function and serve their clientele.

It has been a joy to discover the impact that the Trust can have by opening doors to these organizations. One organization we work with is called Project SUCCESS. Not only do they take advantage of what we can offer, but take it a step further and create curriculum around these shows to bring into the classroom of local low-income schools. That way, the kids are able to experience an amazing production on stage, but also apply it offstage and take ownership of the arts community they’re surrounded by. It’s through organizations like this that we can make arts accessible to people who don’t see it as such. It’s passion like this that inspires the confidence to take part in something bigger than their current situation. Art belongs to the world, and anyone, regardless of barriers, should be able to access it.

Another organization we work with is the Sabes Jewish Community Center. This organization serves Russian immigrants (among others), many of which don’t speak English. But the power of theatre knows no bounds. One member expressed, “Such outings to performances help fight my depression and loneliness.”  Many people with challenging circumstances feel isolated from society.  But art is the great leveler.  You experience, feel, and relate along with other patrons, the actors, and the story itself. You participate in a shared experience. What a unique and effective way to bridge people together.

This year we almost doubled our distribution to these community and educational organizations due to generous donations from you, the patrons, the shows, and musicians we have come to town. It’s something that many of us want to be involved in: awakening communities through theatre. A friend of mine always says, “Life is art. If you fail to express yourself, you fail to live.” We all understand self-expression at our core.  And I think it’s a powerful and available tool for the betterment of so many lives.

Stories like these occur with each ticket offer we’re able to distribute. Thank you for partnering with us in our mission to develop arts-inspired community. The reach is farther than we can see, and the impact is life-long.

You can make more stories come to life by donating your unused tickets (which are 100% deductible for the full face value of the tickets) or by making a cash donation. For more information on our Access program, contact Sarah Paquin at 612.455.9529 or visit our website.

A Love Letter to Hennepin Theatre Trust

Three Generations of Theatre Love

From the Big Apple to the Mini-Apple, Hennepin Theatre Trust donor Denine Taylor shares her love affair with live theatre. She tells the story of how her relationship with the theatre blossomed and how she is sharing her passion as a theatre enthusiast with her son.

The January 1, 2011 performance of Billy Elliot at the Orpheum Theatre signified more than just an opportunity to see a great performance at the start of a new year. It was a fresh start and a hopeful wave goodbye to the breast cancer I had fought in 2010 and a way to welcome in a new life that would once again include great theatre. And just as I was making my own reconnection with theatre as a new Trust donor, I was passing along a generations old love of the performing arts to my son, Sam, by bringing him along for the ride.

My love of theatre began in 1963. My parents drove my older brother and me to New York City to see Oliver! on Broadway at the Imperial Theatre. Even at eight years old, I had come to love everything about New York City: the people, the energy, the cost of lunch that made my Dad wince and especially the way he and my Mom seemed to stand up straighter as we entered the theatre. Even though I was just a kid, I knew: this was a big deal.

I remember going inside the beautifully ornate theatre and nestling into the velour-covered seat. The combination of my red velvet dress on the velour seat made it impossible to move, but I didn’t want to. I was transfixed. The pure energy of live theatre came at me as if I was the only one in the audience. I wanted to scream this funny word I heard people saying: “Bravo!”

Many, many years later, my career in the newspaper business landed me in Times Square- just steps away from Broadway, Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway. As a young professional working in the city and living on a budget, I made the most of my opportunities to see Broadway shows as often as I could. As many times as I attended Broadway plays during my almost twenty years in photoNew York, there was something wonderful about knowing that whether you went to a show or not, it was still happening. Right down the street and ready to welcome you in the afternoon or evening for the experience of a lifetime.

By 1996, I was married, living in Minneapolis and the mother of an energetic six-year-old who had been diagnosed with autism. During this time, the call of motherly duty was too intense for me to reserve any live theatre. Sam went through a rough patch after our move that lasted several years. I rarely took a curtain call during this period and longed for things to settle down so I could arrange some me time for the thriving Minneapolis theatre district I had heard so much about.

These memories came flooding back to me during that New Year’s Day performance of Billy Elliot, Sam’s first live theatre performance at the Orpheum Theatre. Sitting next to him, hoping that my newly grown-in buzz cut after the last round of chemo looked chic, I was so proud that I had recommitted myself to theatre by becoming a Hennepin Theatre Trust donor. Even at my level of support, I get terrific seats and lots of invitations to backstage events. When I call or email for tickets, Helen, the Donor Relations Coordinator, treats me like I donate thousands of dollars a year. I get such a great feeling knowing that I am supporting the arts and making a difference in the quality of theatre here in Minneapolis.

As I saw Sam’s face light up during that first performance and heard him yell, “Bravo” just like a seasoned theatre-veteran, I felt this great rush of parental satisfaction. I knew I was bequeathing a great love to him. Something that will be with him forever!

If you want to be a part of inspiring lives through the arts right here in the Twin Cities, please visit our site  at or contact Helen to access the many benefits of being a donor at or 612.455.9513.

Denine Severino Taylor is a business development writer at a large health care photo-01 (2)company in Minneapolis. In her spare time, she shares her many random thoughts in her blog, She and Sam look forward to many more years of great theatre in Minneapolis as Hennepin Theatre Trust donors.