Shade Tree Players celebrate 50th season

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Shade Tree Players, a branch of Dakota Stage Limited, is celebrating its 50th season.

We stopped by one of their rehearsals to see what goes on behind the scenes.

The Shade Tree Players, a kids’ theater group, started all the way back in the 70s.

“There’s not a lot of things that have been going on for 50 years in our community that are really just based on kids and helping kids grow, kids learn. I think it’s so special that we have that here,” said Director Elizabeth Haugen.

While they no longer perform under shade trees and some other things that have changed, their mission stays the same.

“The kids come first and the show comes second,” said Haugen.

“We believe, essentially, that any kid who wants to participate should have the opportunity to participate. So we don’t turn people at auditions,” said Joshua Johnson, Executive Director of Dakota Stage Ltd.

Haugen, the director of the 7 to 13 age group, says teaching kids so young isn’t always easy.

“It’s challenging sometimes because the kids come into this program not knowing each other. So you have to get them familiar with each other and comfortable enough to open up and kind of let themselves act goofy and weird,” said Haugen.

“Kids at this age, obviously, have short attention spans. So we use a lot of games and a lot of sort of different physical activities to keep their attention,” said Johnson.

Johnson says teaching kids early on is important.

“Having that kind of creative outlet to explore the emotional spectrum in a safe way can be hugely beneficial to these kids,” said Johnson.

We spoke to one young actor who will be playing the Wicked Witch of the West in this Wizard of Oz parody.

She tells us this is one of her favorite lines.

Glenda! What are you doing here? You’re not supposed to return until the end of the story,” said Reagen.

Showings of The Wizard of Oz: The Deleted Scene start Thursday.

The season wraps up the first week of August.

The Shade Tree Players group hopes to soon add workshops year-round, instead of just the summer months. They also tell us they could be operating out of a new space in the coming years.

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