Auditoriums for ZHS and RHS? Enthusiasm shown at meetings

by Bruce Strand
Arts editor

Will Zimmerman and Rogers high schools eventually have an auditorium for plays and concerts like Elk River has?

That proposal was under discussion in public meetings  in Rogers Sept. 19 attended by about 130 people and in Zimmerman Sept. 27 attended by almost 90.    Parents of students in arts, some students, and staff in charge of arts activities, attended.

“Annie,” featuring Reilly Hockert and Zack Rapf, was presented last November at Zimmerman in the cafeteria where all plays have been shown.

“The meetings had a positive flavor and were attended by a lot of very interested people,” said Charlie Blesener, director of community engagement for District 728. “We asked some questions for the groups to consider, and they broke into round tables for brainstorming.”

“The evening was very positive,” agreed Jon Palashewski, who directs plays for ZHS. “Great discussion and ideas came forth through this.”

Another meeting is planned for late October or early November for further discussion by about 20 people from Rogers and 10 from Zimmerman who volunteered to serve on  a committee. The School Board has an auditorium ad hoc committee headed by Jolene Jorgensen.

While Elk River has both Zabee Theater and Little Theater, no such facility  exists in the nine-year-old Rogers high school building or the Zimmerman middle/high school that was originally built as a junior high when students went on to ERHS.

Zimmerman has presented three plays per year for several years, along with choir and band concerts, in the cafeteria, with portable bleachers and no stage.

A choir concert was held in the Rogers High School commons last year.

Rogers has been entering one-act play competitions the past few years by rehearsing in a classroom and presenting a sneak preview at Zabee before the sub-section. RHS has also presented spring musicals the past two years with a makeshift stage at the middle school cafeteria/auditorium. They have no fall play. Concerts are presented in the gymnasium or the commons.

Jorgensen welcomed the attendees at each meeting. A representative of Wold Architects spoke to both groups about various ideas for auditoriums. Dr. Mark Bezek, district superintendent, spoke to the importance of levy items on this year’s ballot needed to ensure that the district had the needed operating budget for existing programs.  Rep. Joyce Peppin told the Rogers group she felt that Legacy Amendment funds would  be well spent on such a project.

Attendees at the meetings were asked to ponder these points when they broke into round-table groups.

(1) What are your hopes for music/drama opportunities for the school and community?

(2) What community partners, such as business, Legislature, and organizations, could step up for financial support?

(3) What can you and I do to help?

Individuals were asked to jot down brief answers to these questions, which were transcribed by Blesener’s office for the record. The Star News reviewed the responses from Rogers (Zimmerman’s were not available yet) and compiled the following list of examples.

Regarding what the people hoped for:

•A venue for spring and fall musicals, debate, speech, plays, school concerts, Knowledge Bowl, music contests, art work shows, lectures, performances by professional acts, church group activities, science fairs and dance recitals

•Boost for community identity, more student involvement, helping to retain students, and helping develop lifelong appreciation for arts

•Amenities such as dressing rooms for plays (instead of bathrooms), more soundproof practice rooms, and ample seating for audiences.

Regarding how to make this happen financially:

•Sponsorships from large companies, corporate grants, Minnesota legacy fund, local business networking, naming rights, name bricks, city bonding, booster club fundraising, community groups, civic organizations, endowments, selling stocks (like the Packers), casino and fundraisers like 5K’s and car washes.