This Christmas play features actors of all abilities
Missing Mountain Mystery 2021 Makeover + Intentional Storytelling
Dakota Players is the touring company of the Black Hills Playhouse which takes theatre education opportunities to communities large and small across the region. Children rehearse a musical for a week and then play to family and friends at the end of the residency. The company's goals are to spark children's imaginations through theatre, employ artists from the Midwest, and take theatre to underserved communities. The company has toured since 2000 logging over 173,000 miles, serving almost 24,000 youth through 35,475 teaching hours, and playing to over 113,000 audience members. An impressive 21 years!
Intentional Storytelling: Oceti Sakowin + Dakota Players Theatre Experience
During COVID, the BHP took some time to consider how it could do more intentional storytelling since the company couldn't be in-person on the road. At the suggestion of Marlys Walkling, Ed.S., Rosebud Elementary Principal, BHP staff worked to create theatre curriculum based on the Oceti Sakowin Essential Understandings (OSEU). Oceti Sakowin (oh-CHEH-tee-shaw-KOH-we) means "Seven Council Fires" and refers collectively to the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota people. This curriculum was developed by Essential Understandings Work Groups between 2008 - 2016 and OSEU was adopted by the State Board of Education Standards in 2018. BHP staff consulted with a variety of organizations and Native people to learn about OSEU.
BHP Education Director, Deb Workman, and Assistant Director, Katryna Preston Lowery developed the virtual lessons. The artist and hoop dance extraordinaire, Starr Chief Eagle, came on board as a consultant and narrator with Satchel Workman for a series of online lessons and activities called the Oceti Sakowin + Dakota Players Theatre Experience. The program was piloted last spring with 450 kids in Chamberlain and Rosebud. Next steps will be working on the ground with Native people to enrich the curriculum and create an in-person version with Native artists. OSEU was developed to combat the rise of intolerance between peoples and conflict in society by promoting appreciation and understanding of differences between cultures.
Missing Mountain Mystery Makeover
The Missing Mountain Mystery was the first script developed for Dakota Players by the late Eric Johnson and Dan Workman (who was at the time a founding company member of Dakota Players). To this day, Dakota Players hires scriptwriters, composers, orchestrators, and costume and set designers from the Midwest to create original scripts for musicals with sound, lights, costumes, and sets. Each show tours for a year and then goes into storage for years so repeat customers get a different show every year. This is the third tour for this play. Each time a play is brought out, staff reviews it to update cultural references, review designs and conditions of set and costumes, and prepare it for touring.
The show is about the disappearance of Mt. Rushmore. A cast of characters, made up of state symbols (RN Pheasant, Patty Pasque, Wallace Walleye, etc.) tour the state looking for the mountain, but discovering that there is more to South Dakota than the famous granite sculpture. As staff reviewed The Missing Mountain Mystery, it seemed that there was an opportunity to be more inclusive and place-specific by including Native American references about Lakota culture in the state and Lakota language. With the help of consultant and BHP alum, Clementine Bordeaux, the script was updated and became a richer and more inclusive work of art that emphasizes the miraculous power of being connected to all.
The Black Hills Playhouse will continue to deepen its relationships with Native artists and has a future goal of working with Native scriptwriters and designers to create a new touring show. The Missing Mountain Mystery is on tour throughout South Dakota through next summer. Interested in working or supporting Dakota Players? Get in touch with Deb Workman, firstname.lastname@example.org 605 255-4910, extension 2.
The Sleeping Giant Awakes After A Longer Than Usual Sleep
While we are still experiencing the last storms of winter, behind the scenes things are definitely heating up at the BHP! The 2021 Company has been hired and plans are in full swing for the summer season. The sleeping giant awakes after being closed down since the fall of 2019.
Thanks to the generosity of many of you, we are making it through the long winter of COVID and we can't wait to see everyone in the Park this summer. While things will look a little different this season, the hard work of our Physical Plant Committee will result in a beautiful outdoor performing space that will be under construction as soon as the weather clears.
The New Frontier Theatre will have seating for just over 300 in an open-air venue. The BHP is partnering with the Central States Fair which has agreed to lend us an outdoor stage and seating risers and shade structures have been designed by BHP alum Chris Jones of CJD Creative Services. Black Hills Energy is lending a hand by donating and installing utility poles, and the Custer School District has come through with chairs--all designed to create a safe and comfortable space for audiences and artists this season at the most affordable price.
We are in the process of finalizing the seating chart which will include mask required and mask optional sections with masking and social distancing strongly encouraged as people make trips to the restroom or snack bar. While we are hopeful that the progress of vaccinations will help, it is important that we all unite to protect our young artists (many of whom may not be vaccinated by that time) and, also, the most vulnerable among us in our audiences (people with compromised immune systems or other health issues). Mark your calendars: Reservations for package holders will open Thursday, April 15 and individual ticket sales open on Monday, May 3 online and through the box office at 605 255-4141!
The silver lining to being outside this summer is that we will be able to begin the work of replacing the crumbling siding of the historic theater, as well as install (for the first time!) insulation with the goal of improving our air conditioning and acoustics of the theater for a grand re-opening in 2022.
How can you help us wake the sleeping giant? Check out our incredible line-up and purchase a Buffalo Pass for the season. Consider participating in our new fundraiser, the BHP Virtual 5K as a donor or runner/walker. We are raising $30,000 to help fund the season and anticipated additional expenses this year (such as PPE and testing). Or consider a gift to the On Our Side Campaign for the preservation of the historic theater.
Performing arts venues were some of the first businesses to close and will be the last to open. Your continued support through this time is essential to keeping the BHP strong. We are so incredibly thankful for all who have donated to date, to the folks who have sent cards, emails, and notes of encouragement, to our amazing board of directors and staff members who have worked hard this year to keep moving forward in challenging times. We can't wait to see everyone this summer! Thanks for being there for us.
Preston Named Assistant Director of Education of the Black Hills Playhouse
Katryna Preston has been promoted to Assistant Director of Education for the Black Hills Playhouse (BHP). She is employed at the BHP Sioux Falls office and recently worked as the Education Production Coordinator where she worked with a team of artists and administrators to produce high-quality theatre for rural communities and underserved populations across South Dakota.
Preston will continue to expand the scope of her work to create a strong foundation for the education programs of the BHP. Her role includes administration management, board committee work, grant-writing, curriculum development, training of teaching artists, and booking of Dakota Players. Dakota Players is a touring company of the Black Hills Playhouse which takes theatre learning experiences to children across South Dakota.
During college, Preston spent two seasons employed as a stitcher in the costume shop for the BHP summer stock program and is a Playhouse alum. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre-Design/Technology from the Jeanine Larson Dobbins Conservatory of Theatre and Dance at Southeast Missouri State University in December of 2019.
For more information on the Black Hills Playhouse and the theatre arts programs of the Playhouse, visit blackhillsplayhouse.com and check out our education programs: Dakota Players Tours, BHP Jr. Camps, and The Expanding Stage.
We're also happy to report that Katryna will be on hand this summer to design costumes for The Marvelous Wonderettes!
Preston says, “There’s so much magic about the Playhouse! Getting to do what I love in such a beautiful place only scratches the surface. I’m so grateful for the opportunities and the dedication to growth that The Black Hills Playhouse gives its artists. This will be my first-year designing costumes for the Playhouse, and I’m eager to give it all I’ve got, so I can continue designing with the company in the future."
When I started as a stitching intern in 2018, I never envisioned that my path would lead to Costume Designer and Assistant Director of Education in the same year, but I am incredibly thankful that it has. Getting to experience the technical and administrative sides of the company is immensely rewarding, and the work we do with The Expanding Stages and other educational programs fills my heart each and every day! Theatre feeds the soul, and after this past year, I think we could all use a theatre buffet!”