Raise the Curtain

by | Sep 2021

Les Mis at the Blue Water Theatre

Photo: Sarah Kurtz

Blue Water Theatre sets the stage for upcoming productions.

It’s been a minute (OK, since 2015) that we last visited with Charlie Leonard, founder, executive director and artistic director of Blue Water Theatre Company (BWTC). We wanted to find out what’s been happening in recent years and how the theatre handled the pandemic.

What’s new? Our biggest and most notable change in the last six years was our purchase of the Unitarian Church building in downtown Wayzata and the conversion of that space into a 145-seat theater. Not only has this allowed us to nearly double the number of shows we produce each year [10-12], but it’s become the perfect “home” for our community of actors and has really defined who we are.

How did the pandemic impact the theatre? Luckily, we remain in strong financial shape due to the generosity of our supporters and the seriousness with which the board and staff take our fiscal responsibilities … But programming was affected in a big way. The entire essence of what we do involves getting as many kids as possible into a room together and putting on big shows, and we just haven’t been able to do that in any sort of “normal” way for over a year now … [Summer 2020 , BWTC held small-group theatre and dance classes. During the 2020-2021 school year, it produced a couple of small-cast plays, performed fully-masked to a very limited audience.] … At our core, we are a musical theatre organization, and to go a year without doing musicals has felt like a piece of our hearts has been missing.

What’s on deck? The plan is to do a big middle/elementary school musical in November and a big high school musical in December. Auditions for both shows will take place in early this month.

Has the theatre had “graduates” perform in any regional or national venues? [An alumnus] made his Broadway debut in the winter of 2019-2020 in A Christmas Carol, and then opened in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in March of 2020 right before the pandemic hit. We have other alumni, who have performed in regional/dinner theatres throughout the United States. But we are still a young enough organization that most of our alumni, who are planning to pursue theatre as a career, are still in college. Ask me this question again in about five years, and I’m pretty confident and excited that we are going to have a lot of kids to brag about!

What has theatre meant to you? It’s funny. I really accidentally fell into this career. I was a middle school English teacher, who volunteered to direct a school play because I had “seen a lot of shows.” Fast-forward 17 years, and this is where I am today. Creating BWTC and seeing how important it is to so many kids has been the most rewarding way I could possibly have thought to spend my life.

Did you know? The theatre’s moniker, Blue Water, is roughly the translation of the word Minnesota, based on the Dakota word Mnisota, which means sky-colored water, cloudy water or blue water, according to Leonard.


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