by Bruce Strand, Arts editor
Phillip Bologna, the former opera singer who has directed Elk River High School plays for the past seven years, has resigned.
The Anoka resident says he’ll be concentrating on two other endeavors, the Ramsey Community Theatre which he helped found a year ago, and Polk Street Players, affiliated with an Anoka church of which is is an elder.
“One thing I promised was not to have the same kids dominating the big roles,” he said, “and I’ve had over one hundred kids with either major supporting roles or lead roles.”
Bologna added that many people have been taught skills to expand the ranks of ERHS theatre, and that one-act plays have done much better in competition than previously, with ERHS winning district three times and advancing to regionals five times in seven years.
“Phil had the unique ability to not only teach the craft of acting, but more importantly he increased student participation dramatically,” said John Barth, activities director, who hired Bologna. “His dedication and time commitment to the Elk River High School Drama Department was much appreciated and will be difficult to replace.”
Bologna was a professional opera singer in his 20’s and 30’s and frequently was heard by cast members breaking into one opera song or another. He quit that life “because I’m basically a homebody and didn’t want to be away from my family so much.”
ERHS was Bologna’s lone gig as a high school director but he had already worked with that age group extensively at Lyric Arts in Anoka in summer stock.
Reflecting on his years at ERHS, he felt that probably the most enjoyable plays were his first one, “Frankenstein’s Mother In Law” along with “HMS Pinafore” and one-act plays “Mike’s Case” and “Giannischuchi.”
“I have had some fine young talent to work with,” he said, citing in particular Sarah Sawyer, Russell Dugger, Emily Moulds, Colleen White, Sami Johnson, Meagan White, Kelly Hanson, Mike Anderson, Jordan Grzybowski and Moriah Babneau as standouts with regard to musical, dramatic ability and work ethic.
Bologna added it was a great pleasure to work with ERHS’s late principal Jim Voight, and with Barth.