The Magical Musical Theatre Program That Keeps Producing Broadway Talent
The passion for performance is clear here at Moorhead Senior High, and the tradition of excellence expected of the theater program is on full display with their new musical Matilda.
MOORHEAD, Minn. — Give it your all, commit to everything you do on and off the stage, and know who you are and never stray from it.
That’s the motto for the Moorhead Senior High School Theater program. With a small budget, an old theater, and audio equipment that was MacGyvered together by volunteers nearly twenty years ago, they’ve faced no shortage of obstacles. They’ve produced 11 Broadway actors, directors, and award winning animators, including Becky Gulsvig, Preston Boyd, and Nina Grollman. It’s star-studded alum have gone on to act in Broadway hits like To Kill A Mockingbird and Les Misérables.
“Seeing people make it on Broadway, make it out in California, places like that, who are just a year or two older, who you are friends with, who you are connected with, is both intimidating and inspiring.” said Colby.
It’s hard to pin down just one reason for the program’s success. You can start by looking at the program’s director, Rebecca Meyer-Larson, who over the last 29 years has helped shape the program into one of the best in the state of Minnesota.
“I’m a big believer that it takes three things to be successful, right, it takes time, talent, and tenacity. We put in the time, we have a lot of talent, and there is an amount of tenacity that’s at work when you’re working with our facilities and in our community.” said Rebecca Meyer-Larson, the programs director.
“We provide like a hump of clay with our acting ability, and she shaves off the edges to make it look nice.” said Jonah Hanson, a student actor at Moorhead Senior High who plays the older brother of Matilda Wormwood in Moorhead’s production of the musical Matilda.
“I don’t think I’d be anywhere near where I am today acting wise without her.” said Ethan Crampton, the actor playing Miss Trunchbull.
You can look at the outstanding support of the Moorhead community as another reason for the program’s success.
“I tell my students all the time, ‘Jump and we will catch you!’ and when I say we, I don’t just mean I will catch you or your cast will catch you, but I’m a big believer that community catches these kids.” said Rebecca.
It’s that same community of volunteers and Moorhead alumni that stay up 24 hours straight to weld together an incredible set. It’s the community that works day after day to create and alter fantastic costumes, and it’s the community that works tirelessly to make sure that on the day of the big show, every seat has somebody in it.
“It’s a continuous family, one of our big motto’s is that there’s power in circles. So every night before a show we’ll stand in a circle together, hold hands, get ready to go out for the show, and every year the circle gets bigger and bigger. People that were performing on the stage in the 1990’s are still part of the family now.” said Schwartzwalter.
“There’s a powerful thing that I think happens in the moorhead area. These artists are told from a young age, ‘Yes you can! You can do that, you can make that happen!’ and so they come to me with so much tenacity and so much belief that their voices matter, and that the arts matter, and that’s a beautiful thing.” said Meyer-Larson.
So if you’re looking for an answer to the mystery of how one small town on the edge of Minnesota produces so much talent year after year: Maybe it’s Rebecca Meyer-Larson, maybe it’s the community, or maybe it’s just the students themselves.
One thing is for certain: This little theater in Moorhead is giving it their all, committing to everything, and never straying from who they are.
Moorhead Senior High’s production of the musical Matilda is set to open November 15th at 7:00 PM. Tickets can be pre-purchased and start at $7.00