Category Archives: Community

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. 

For us, 2013 will be a year of new partnerships

Partnership: an arrangement where parties agree to cooperate to advance their mutual interests.

Simple, huh? Working together for the good of all involved.  Partnerships can be either personal or business in nature, but at their core, the best partnerships involve partners who complement each other’s strengths and strive to make both better off.

Stage Door Extra: Check out director Peter Rothstein’s vision for Aida in this video interview.

Hennepin Theatre Trust has a long history of entering into local partnerships with such prestigious organizations as The Jungle Theater, The Loft Literary Center, Theater Latté Da, Cantus, The History Theatre, Actors Theater of Minnesota, Chanhassen Dinner Theatres, The Guthrie Theater, National Geographic and others.  Let me introduce you to two of our newest partnerships: Broadway Re-Imagined with Theater Latté Da and Minneapolis Musical Theatre at the New Century.

 Broadway Re-Imagined is the highly anticipated new collaboration between Theater Latté Da and Hennepin Theatre Trust. Promising a fresh look at Broadway productions, it kicks off the new year  in January 2013 with Elton John and Tim Rice’s Aida at the Pantages Theatre, imaginatively directed by Theater Latté Da’s award-winning artistic director Peter Rothstein. Aida will feature an all Minnesota cast including Jared Oxborough as Ramades, Austene Van as Aida and Cat Brindisi as Amneris. We anticipate co-producing at least one show with Theater Latté Da at the Pantages annually so stay tuned!

The New Century Theatre has become the new showhouse for Minneapolis MN_ReeferMadness_CityCenterKioskMusical Theatre, whose inventive 2013 Season will include Reefer Madness (Feb 1-24) and Sunset Boulevard (May 31-June 23).  Acclaimed artistic director Steven Meerdink will continue to build on Minneapolis Musical Theatre’s well-established success in presenting new or rarely-seen musical works, a priority Hennepin Theatre Trust enthusiastically supports.

Both of these new partnerships fully live up to the definition.  Theater Latte’ Da and Minneapolis Musical Theatre will be able to tap into the Trust’s marketing and logistical support, enabling them to reach new and larger audiences, while Hennepin Theatre Trust will greatly benefit from TLD and MMT’s years of artistic success as highly respected local Twin Cities theatre organizations.  Sounds like a couple of “win-win” situations to me.

Join us and “buy local” in 2013 by attending one of these new productions!

6 Tips for Taking Children to the Theatre

In a time where toddlers are confusing hard copy magazines for non-responsive iPads, and where our five year olds can navigate a cell phone like any other adult, it’s probably fair to say that live theatre can offer an exciting and refreshing experience for today’s little ones.  It’s true! Their favorite stories literally come to life, and it happens on a much grander scale than a 5-inch screen. But the medium of entertainment is not the only changing variable—live theatre happens in public. With other people. Elbow to elbow. The thought of a less-than-desirable reaction from your child can make any good parent hesitant to hit the box office, but have faith, ye moms and dads! We have tips, and a fantastic “practice” event too!

Tip #1 Prepare Your Child for the Trip

Explain to him or her that this is a different type of activity, where they will see real people on a stage to tell a story. Lay out the expectations, like remembering to sit still and no talking during the performance. And most importantly, familiarize him or her with the characters and the plot. If there’s a book or soundtrack about the play, great!

Tip #2 Timing, Timing, Timing

Does your child nap regularly? If so, be mindful of matinee performance times. Be sure he or she is well rested and fed before attending the performance. A cranky, tired, hungry child can lead to audience disruption, and a sleeping child won’t get to enjoy the show! And don’t worry about finishing snacks in the lobby. You can bring them in the theatre. Quiet snacks are best, and can also be purchased at our theatre concessions.

Tip #3 Keep It Comfy

Kids can be easily distracted, and one of the easiest distractions to avoid is uncomfortable clothing. Cute outfits won’t matter once the house lights lower, so bring out the cotton wear! Also, don’t be afraid to inquire about booster seats. The Orpheum, State, and Pantages theatres have them available for our shorter patrons in limited numbers, but if you’re worried about your little one’s sight lines, feel free to bring a cushion.  And if anything, bring THE blankie.

Tip #4 The Early Bird Doesn’t ALWAYS Get the Worm

Arrival time is key. If you get there too early, you might have an antsy kid who has probably lost interest. If you arrive too late, your child may feel rushed, which might not allow for time to settle into the atmosphere. Use about ten minutes before the show starts to use the bathroom, and provide a quiet activity for them to do in their seat while they wait. To the coloring book aisle!

Tip #5 Keep It Going!

Live theatre can be exciting, even during intermission and after the show. Feel free to take your child up to see the orchestra pit during intermission, and certainly engage them in conversations about the show after you leave. It will help to cap what was hopefully a very positive and fun experience for you and your child!

Tip #6 Check with us (or your other favorite theatre)

Always check with the theatre you plan on attending to see if there are any age recommendations, amenities or policies for bringing children to the theatre. For an example you can refer to Hennepin Theatre Trust’s age recommendations for Broadway productions and kids’ shows. The theatre always welcomes any questions you have!

Interested in having your child participate in a Hennepin Theatre Trust event this fall? Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is coming to the Orpheum Theatre in October, and in celebration of this classic fairytale story, we are offering the event, Little Royalty Tea at the IDS Crystal Court on October 13 from 11AM-1PM. Enjoy a lovely afternoon with Hennepin Theatre Trust and your favorite Disney Princes and Princesses! There will be delicious treats, Disney music compliments of the Wayzata High School Orchestra, and a classical Viennese Waltz dance instruction. This is an event fit for a royal family! Learn more.

Summer in the City 2012 – A Huge Success!

Last night, Thursday, July 12, more than 300 Donors joined us for the eighth annual Summer in the City, an invitation-only event to thank our supporters held this year at the Orpheum Theatre. During the fun-filled evening, Trust patrons sampled tasty appetizers and complimentary beverages from our restaurant partners including Rosa Mexicano, Crave, Rock Bottom Brewery, Thom Pham’s Wondrous Azian Kitchen, The Capital Grille, Solera, Cosmos, Bradstreet Craftshouse, D’Amico Kitchen, Seven Sushi Ultralounge and Mission American Kitchen. Summit Beer was also on hand with refreshing beer samples and interesting tidbits from their Cicerone (a certified beer sever who works to ensure customers enjoy the flavors of the amber colored liquid to the greatest extent possible).

Guests also enjoyed behind-the-scenes tours of the historic Orpheum Theatre as well as exclusive demonstrations by top chefs and bartenders including how to make Fruit Explosions from Cosmos, Sake Floats from Thom Pham’s, Sushi from Seven, Caprese Salad Glasses from Crave and Fresh Guacamole from  Rosa. Bradstreet Craftshouse and The Capital Grille added to the party with their own delicious beverage demonstrations.

Thanks to everyone who joined us and supports our work throughout the year. It was a wonderful evening with food, fun and excitement. To learn how you can become a Hennepin Theatre Trust donor and receive invitations to exclusive events like this as well as many other benefits, please visit our website.

View photos from the event.

Free Movies! Free Tickets! Join Us All Summer at Solera

Three drag queens in the Australian outback. The famous and magical British nanny. A boyish con man. Leggings and headbands. See the “reel” version before you see the “real” version!

Join us this summer on Solera Restaurant’s serene rooftop patio for our Broadway series of films playing this summer as part of their popular Rooftop Movie Night. Running through the end of September, the film versions of musicals coming to the Orpheum Theatre as part of Hennepin Theatre Trust’s 2012/13 Broadway Season will start at dusk. You will also have the chance to enter to win a pair of tickets to see the live stage version at each event!

Mark your calendar now and join us throughout the summer:

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert: Sunday, June 24
Find yourself whisked away to the desert of the Australian Outback and entertained by three drag queens. Save the dates of January 8-13, 2013 to see Priscilla Queen of the Desert at the Orpheum Theatre.

Mary Poppins: Sunday, August 12
Join friends and family to bring back childhood memories of everyone’s favorite musical nanny. Prepare yourself to make this magical journey come alive on the Broadway stage April 23-28, 2013.

Catch Me If You Can: Sunday, August 19
Bring out the adventurous person that’s been hiding inside you with this true story of a young identity thief. Brush up on this twisted tale and prepare yourself to “catch” this one December 11-16, 2012.

Flashdance: Tuesday, September 4
Practice your dance moves and don the ‘80s attire for this high energy flick before you join us for the Minnesota debut of this new musical, April 2-7, 2013.

Come find out why Solera’s Rooftop Movie Night was voted a “Best of the Twin Cities” experience by City Pages! For a full list of upcoming movies, please visit Solera’s website.

Get on The Scene

For the past year, I have held the title of “Hennepin Theatre Trust Education and Community Engagement Associate,” (yes, it is the longest title I’ve ever been given), but prior to starting with the Trust, I was fully immersed in The Scene. What is The Scene, you may ask? Well, if you are in your 20s and 30s, you like the theatre, you like networking, you like engaging with your community in a meaningful way and you care about the future of the arts on Hennepin Avenue, then the answer is: You.

The Scene members with the cast of American Idiot

The Facts: The Scene is Hennepin Theatre Trust’s young professionals group for arts enthusiasts in their 20s & 30s. You sign up, pay a $20 annual membership fee and get access to a slew of benefits. But at the heart of it, The Scene is really about connecting you to your arts community. So I invite you to check out seven lucky reasons YOU should get on The Scene:

  1. Exclusive Ticket Offers: The Scene members are privy to exclusive ticket offers to Broadway shows, concerts and other events. For example, this month, Scene members have been offered reduced tickets to Shatner’s World: We Just Live in It and Million Dollar Quartet.
  2. Special Events: We the people, of our 20s and 30s, dig parties, right? We’ve got the party thing covered. The Scene members are often invited to opening night parties to grab a drink, nibble on some food and snap photos with the cast- like the one above with American Idiot. We also have smaller meet-and-greets or Q&A’s with cast members if that’s more your style- like this one with Million Dollar Quartet.
  3. Broadway Confidential: Members of The Scene receive complimentary access to all Broadway Confidential events. These happen Monday nights before each Broadway show and feature a speaker who is an expert on a topic relating to the show. Join us on Monday March 26th as the legendary drummer of the Million Dollar Quartet session, W.S. Holland, reflects on his life in the industry and working alongside Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins. Check it out- here.
  4. Drink Discounts: Back to that whole “deals” thing. You show ‘em your Scene card—you get $1 off drinks at the State, Orpheum, Pantatges and New Century Theatres.  Done and done.
  5. Networking: Members of The Scene include executives to teachers to entrepreneurs to artists. So come party…I mean network…with us. Connect to us and we’ll connect you to each other.
  6. It’s your Plan-It Hennepin: The future of Hennepin Avenue is in your hands. As Hennepin Theatre Trust works with Walker Art Center, Artspace and the City of Minneapolis to improve Hennepin Avenue, we want The Scene members to be a part of these discussions. Check out our page to learn more. Or just join The Scene and we’ll let you know all the ways you can be involved.
  7. Give in to your philanthropic self: Angelina and Brad made philanthropy cool—but we know better—they make it cool because they look great doing it together. By becoming a part of The Scene you are not only getting access to tickets, events and networking with like-minded people, you’re also getting connected with Minnesota’s seventh largest non-profit organization. And we hope the more time you spend with us, the more time you’ll want to spend with us. Our educational and community engagement programs such as Access, Critical View and our nationally recognized SpotLight Musical Theatre Program are doing some serious good. And I have a feeling you might look great doing some serious good with us.

To join The Scene, see a full list of benefits, check out photos from past events or learn about upcoming opportunities please visit us online or by contacting me- Whitney Rhodes- at

What’s happening on Hennepin Avenue? Plenty.

You can Plan-It Hennepin, Walk-It Hennepin and, this Thursday and Saturday, March 8 at 7 p.m. and March 10 at 9:30 a.m., you can Talk-It Hennepin. Just join us and our project partners at the Minneapolis Central Library for the launch of this FREE and free-wheeling series of public conversations and workshops focused on city planning and design, especially as it relates to downtown Minneapolis and the Plan-It initiative for the cultural revitalization of Hennepin Avenue.

Pantages Theatre 1920 on Hennepin Avenue, Photo Credit: Charles Hibbard

There’s a growing excitement, energy and momentum behind the project. For example, check out this hot-off-the-presses March 3 Star Tribune article “Filling in Hennepin Avenue’s Culture Cracks: A coalition of arts groups wants to make one long cultural corridor from the Sculpture Garden to the river on Hennepin Avenue—and they’re asking for your input.”

The Talk-It discussion/workshops, in short, will feature some of today’s foremost visionaries in city renewal and urban design to help spark lively public discussions to guide downtown planning. Panelists will include people like Candy Chang, known for combining street art and social activism with projects like her fill-in-the-blank “I Wish This Was” stickers for people to express what they want in vacant storefronts; and Charles Landry, renowned for his book The Creative City: A Toolkit for Urban Innovators, which has helped spur a global movement to rethink the planning, development and management of cities by connecting culture and creativity to urban transformation.

Candy Chang "Before I Die"- Photo by Civic Center

The talks are paired with follow-up, hands-on workshops conducted by Twin Cities’ artists to take the conversation into more active methods of defining values, vision and goals.

Working with Walker Art Center, Artspace and the City of Minneapolis, we’ve introduced Talk-It Hennepin to help collect creative ideas and feedback from the people who care the most about Hennepin Avenue—downtown residents, workers, employers and visitors alike. Funded through a National Endowment for the Arts “Our Town” grant, it is part of the larger Plan-It Hennepin initiative to creatively re-imagine this storied avenue as a revitalized cultural corridor running from the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden to the Mississippi River.

This first Talk-It panel discussion will delve into the history of the Avenue from its 17th century origins as a Dakota footpath and trade route between Lake Calhoun and the Mississippi River to its emergence as modern commercial thoroughfare encompassing theatre, restaurants, housing and business ventures complete with the usual urban challenges of safety, traffic and upkeep.

Candy Chang Career Path- Photo by Pete Koivunen

The Talk-It series continues on Thursday, April 26 at the Walker Art Center with Candy Chang as guest speaker for the conversation, followed by the Saturday, April 28 workshop led by local artists. Details will be announced soon on the final two Talk-It Hennepin discussion/workshops, including information on related May events involving Charles Landry. All of these events and workshops are free, but we do request RSVPs as space is limited.

As owner and steward of the historic the Orpheum, State and Pantages Theatres, we attract more than 515,000 people downtown each year who consider Hennepin Avenue an extension of the theatre experience. So we are deeply invested in the long term health and vitality of a downtown that serves a broad, diverse and active public.

This is why we’re asking you to talk the talk and walk the walk. If you can’t attend Talk-It in person, please visit our website to share your thoughts, view historical photos, read feature articles about the project and stop by the Plan-It Facebook page to take the Walk-It survey. We welcome your input!

Plan-It Hennepin: Creating Cultural Connections in Downtown Minneapolis

Imagine a re-energized and refreshed Hennepin Avenue as a walkable and unified cultural corridor stretching from the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden to the Mississippi Riverfront. We are working with our partners Walker Art CenterArtspace and the City of Minneapolis to gather input and ideas to plan the re-invention of Minneapolis’ oldest street.

Former Trust PR Intern Lucas Erickson shares his experience as a part of the re-visioning, re-imagining Plan-It process.

What do a policeman, a church pastor, a light rail rider and an Orpheum Theatre staff member have in common?  Hennepin Avenue.

Four months ago I started working at Hennepin Theatre Trust as a public relations intern. I grew up in the Twin Cities and have always had a strong connection to downtown, and more importantly, theatre.

I have since moved on to a different, more focused project headed by three local arts organizations — Hennepin Theatre Trust, Walker Art Center and Artspace– that all share the same vision of revitalizing Hennepin Avenue into an arts-inspired cultural corridor.

Imagine that. Hennepin Avenue, from the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden at the Walker, past Loring Park, threading through our amazing theatre district to the banks of the Mighty Mississippi. And all united by various forms of art venues and expression. This arts corridor would have the potential to be an approximately mile long neighborhood full of arts activities and attractions for visitors and residents alike that just might make us the envy of other urban areas our size.

To kick off this major city-arts collaborative effort, students at Intermedia Arts are on the streets collecting video profiles from those who live or work on Hennepin Avenue.

Questions being asked include “What is your relationship to the avenue?” “How would you describe the ‘vibe’ or character of Hennepin Avenue?” “What changes would you like to see made?”

Responses have highlighted many different ideas, memories and experiences. The videos will be part of the research behind the urban planning and are also available online.

Teens involved with the Walker Teen Arts Council (WACTAC) and young people working with Kulture Klub Collaborative, as well as students at FAIR School Downtown, have also been exploring the avenue, taking pictures, writing stories and creating spoken word tomes and original music about their experiences on Hennepin Avenue. Other youth groups and schools, including Hennepin Theatre Trust’s own Critical View Program, are also getting involved in thinking about both the past and the future of the Avenue.

Being a part of this very forward-thinking project makes me realize that I was right all along about my hometown– it’s a great place to live for those of us who love the creative arts and know how much they can add to our experience.

I invite you to follow along and contribute as we continue to roll this out! Like Plan-It Hennepin on Facebook, visit our website to share your thoughts on the future of Minneapolis’s oldest street, view historical photos and read feature articles about this project and more!

Oh, We Just Can’t Wait…To Tell You About Kids’ Night!

What do you get when you combine paper, scissors, glue and 200 kids? No, not a mess. In fact, quite far from it.

On January 31, approximately 200 kids ages 4-10 and their parents were treated to a special evening as we presented our annual Kids Night in the ballroom of the Marriott Hotel in downtown Minneapolis. This free event prior to Tuesday’s performance of Disney’s The Lion King, at the Orpheum Theatre through February 12, provided families an opportunity to participate in an African mask workshop whether or not they had tickets to that night’s show.

We partnered with In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre to present a 90-minute workshop on traditional African masks and mask making, followed by the chance for little hands to come up with their own colorful creations. Led by Community Engagement Manager Stacy Lee King and Associate Artist Laurie Witzkowski, the team from In the Heart of the Beast shared the connections between traditional African masks and the current touring production of The Lion King. For example, it is tradition for masks to be worn on top of the head (much how they are worn in the show), and when worn to cover the face the wearer is looked at as a medium for the spirit and loses his or her identity. If you are going to see The Lion King, take note of the moments that characters in the show have their masks fully covering their faces versus the times when we see more of the actor.

Trust Controller Kjirsten Johnson took off her work mask and put on her Mom mask to bring her kids to the event and said, “My kids LOVED the mask making workshop last night. They both wore their masks to school today and Liam even brought his Lion King CD to school.”

Previous Kids Nights have included events with Shrek the Musical, Annie, Disney’s High School Musical, Disney’s and Cameron Mackintosh’s Mary Poppins and the World Premiere of The 101 Dalmatians Musical. Thank you to our partners from the Marriott Hotel and In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre for their support of this popular event. Check out our photo album to get an inside look at what kids created or join our weekly email list to be notified of future Kids Night events.