Almost every week night in October, a number of Southside residents, including Kaj Johnson, Carolyn Strauss, and brothers Noah and Tyler Quam of Nokomis, could be found singing and dancing with a dedicated group of over 40 performers while an elaborate theater set was being built all around them in preparation for the opening night of the beloved Disney musical “Beauty and the Beast” on Nov. 6.
The group is the Morris Park Players Community Theater-a venerable institution founded 57 years ago in South Minneapolis. Since then, the Morris Park Players have presented over 100 musical productions to enthusiastic audiences who have followed them loyally from stage to stage: Nokomis Junior High, Roosevelt Senior High, and for the past 12 years, Folwell Middle School, at 3611 20th Ave. S. Unfortunately, last month the Minneapolis School Board voted to close down the school programs housed in Folwell. It is still unclear whether or how the building, and its lovely two-story proscenium stage auditorium, will be used after the end of the school year. If the building becomes unavailable, the Morris Park Players stand to lose much more than a beautiful performance space and a spacious basement storage area for their impressive collection of props and costumes. Rooted for over half a century in a close-knit community of performers and musical theater lovers in South Minneapolis, the theater group would risk losing a large part of its audience base if it is forced to relocate to other parts of the Twin Cities.
Still, for the moment, the Morris Park Players continue on undaunted and look forward to a particularly special opening night. This year marks the 50th anniversary of longtime volunteer and company member Art Dubé’s association with the theater group. An opening night reception will be held during intermission to honor this amazing feat, and members of the Morris Park Player’s governing board will present the 81-year-old Dubé with a certificate from the Minneapolis City Council proclaiming Nov. 6 to be “Art Dubé Day.”
For more information on the Morris Park Players, its November production of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,” and other upcoming events and volunteer opportunities, visit www.MorrisPark-Players.org.