St. Anthony Park native keeps the performance fires burning

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Every child likes to put on a show, whether it’s for mom and dad in the living room, the neighbors in the back yard or friends and family in the school auditorium. For most of us the exigencies of getting a job and making a living put an end to all that fun. But not for Julie Magnuson.

Magnuson, who grew up in St. Anthony Park and graduated from Central High School and Hamline University, loved her involvement in 4-H plays, church musicals and high school productions. Those productions weren’t at Central but at Youth Performance Company, an award-winning nonprofit theater company based in Minneapolis.

After graduating from Hamline with degrees in theater and education, Magnuson taught classes at YPC and eventually became director of education and outreach for the company. She coordinates on-site classes and workshops, develops curriculum, hires staff, processes registrations, writes class descriptions and directs one or two shows a year.

She’s also the director of two week-long summer camp classes at Bay Lake Camp on Sisabagama Island in Deerwood, Minnesota, where she directs the Ramsey County 4-H camp for two additional weeks of her summer. Campers take part in traditional activities like swimming, boating, campfires, water games, and arts and crafts, as well as theater classes.

Youth Performance Company has been in existence for over 20 years, offering classes in acting, singing, dancing, magic, puppetry and improvisation. Founder and artistic director Jacie Knight established it in a special arrangement with Minneapolis’ Theatre in the Round as a place to “empower young people and teach core values of creativity, responsibility and quality while simultaneously providing Twin Cities families with affordable theater for youth.” 

Because YPC works to develop confidence and leadership through performing arts, alumni of the company have gone on to become accomplished leaders in the arts, business, education and public service.

 The company puts on four or five plays or musicals each year, some original productions based on books or current events, and others like “Seussical” or “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat.” The plays and classes are geared to specific age levels.

This year’s productions have been “Bunnicula,” “The Elves and the Shoemaker,” and an original drama about protest, “But My Soul is Rested.” The area premiere of “Surviving the Applewhites,” which Magnuson is directing, opens Apr. 29.

The company is based at 3338 University Ave. in Minneapolis (above Cupcake, for you sweet-eaters), so it’s close to St. Anthony Park, Lauderdale, Falcon Heights and Como Park. The facility encompasses two floors with rooms for offices, classrooms, practice and small performances. The space is colorfully painted and inviting, with some of the walls decorated by the students. Plays are staged at the 200-seat Howard Conn Fine Arts Center at Franklin and Nicollet avenues in south Minneapolis.

Magnuson loves her job because she gets to work with happy, active young people, designing her own program.

“I’m my own boss,” she says. “I write the curriculum, hire the staff and advertise what I have planned. It’s creative and fulfilling.”

She also enjoys working with the four other staff members and the individual contractors who teach some of the classes.

YPC is funded by grants, in-kind donations, ticket sales and class fees. In the past, schools have paid to bring students to the site for field trips or for the company to put on workshops.

Classes and plays are advertised online (youthperformanceco.com), by e-mail promotions, fliers at schools, mailings, newspaper camp guides and word of mouth. For more information, contact Julie Magnuson, 612-623-9180 ext. 102.