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Collaboration is key for The Zephyr


A Zephyr Theatre Newsletter for Those "In the Know"

Executive Director's Note

Here we are in September! Three quarters of the way through a year full of promise that has not kept its promises whatsoever. Through no fault of its own, it was cornered in a box like most of the rest of the world. Passion and creativity love boxes. The boundaries allow artists to play within the restrictions and gleefully color outside the lines. In our case, the colors that were inadvertently splashed across the page are opening up whole new worlds for us that will far outlast the pandemic. Our outdoor stage is lighting up the evening sky. Just this past weekend, I walked downstairs from our offices on the second floor and looking across the bar, the south door was open to the stage. Pale purple light, the soft smoke of the torches lining the path around the stage, and the perfect silhouette of a top-hatted soprano saxophone player filled the frame of that doorway. I was stunned by the perfect “perfectness” of it all. None of it planned or fathomed, and certainly never promised. And now, as we move into the winter months, our box must stretch even further and wider. Nothing is promised, and yet I am more hopeful than ever. This is only the beginning of all that’s been started.

— Calyssa Hall

Collaboration is key for The Zephyr

Despite the coronavirus crisis, Jessica Thienes, The Zephyr’s development director, was determined to stage a successful fundraising gala this year. Mindful of crowd limits and social distancing, she came up with a unique solution — make the gala a progressive event.

For the Sept. 25 gala, she has enlisted the Stillwater Trolley to move small groups of gala-goers from the theatre to the Lumberjack Bar, Matchstick Restaurant, the Andiamo River Boat, and back to the theatre. At each venue, a different type of food, drink, and entertainment will greet the guests.

“Theatre and the arts are collaborative by nature,” Jessica said. “That means not only collaborating internally but also externally — involving the community for mutual benefit.”

For the gala, the venues will provide safe places for theatre guests while being able to showcase their amenities — food, drink, and space. At the same time, The Zephyr will get a chance to host an exciting fundraising event while remaining compliant with coronavirus rules.

Collaboration with local businesses is not new for The Zephyr. Its downtown Stillwater location and growing reputation as a venue providing high-quality stage, music, and arts events make the theatre a valuable community asset. Part of Jessica’s job is helping local businesses understand that tapping into the theatre’s energetic marketing, creativity, diversity, and nonprofit status can boost their profile and profitability.

In the past, local businesses have sponsored main-stage productions and offered in-kind services. Those businesses have ranged from florists to landscapers, banks to bars, grocery stores to medical supply companies, restaurants to retailers.

“We’ve been lucky to get such a positive response from a wide variety of businesses in our community,” Jessica said. “Through more collaborations and partnerships with local businesses like these, The Zephyr will become an even more valuable — and profitable — community asset.”

Making the Magic and Production Updates

This month was all about moving Shakespeare from the Park to the Park… ing Lot!  From hanging props, to hanging lights, to running sound, it was good to be producing theatre again!  Our “First Grass Box Seats” made the day for front row patrons and ribbons were hung from scaffolding and the roof. Our outdoor stage has multiple levels and six sets of stairs! Even the trail side now features a bright “Zephyr blue” door and stairway leading inside for a quick entrance or getaway. Inside, we are currently moving booths from the north-end stage to the south-end stage area to make a cozy cocktail lounge.

A behind-the-scenes look at what’s happened and what’s coming up!

Staff Profile: Jessica Thienes

Jessica Thienes, Development Director

“I love people. I love the arts. I love this community,” says Jessica Thienes, the powerhouse development director at The Zephyr Theatre. This fast-talking, multitasking 31-year-old moves at warp speed through her duties of fundraising, networking and community outreach.

Jessica has been a paid staff member of The Zephyr Theatre for a little over one year. She has already spread the good word about the theatre to local businesses, schools, the Women’s Business Bridge, the Greater Stillwater Chamber of Commerce, and more.

If there is some person, some business, some nonprofit in the St. Croix Valley that does not know about The Zephyr Theatre yet, they probably will be hearing from Jessica in the near future. She is all about connections and collaboration.

“I love finding creative solutions that enable people to work together and be successful,” Jessica says.

For instance…

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For instance, it was her brainchild that launched a cabaret night, using theatre performers, at the Mad Capper Saloon & Eatery downtown Stillwater in August. And it was her creative thinking that concocted the unique progressive fundraising gala to be held in September.

Jessica holds a bachelor’s degree from St. Cloud State University and a master of fine arts degree from Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia. Since moving back to Minnesota six years ago and settling in Oakdale, she has worked as a fight director, dance choreographer, actor, and director for several Minneapolis-based theatres, including 20% Theatre Co. and Six Elements Theatre.

She says she is jazzed to be working now with a theatre that is new. The Zephyr Theatre bought the old depot in Stillwater in 2018, and its executive director is Calyssa Hall.

“I like the collaborative atmosphere that Calyssa encourages,” she says. “And I like being part of a young company that is growing, exploring, and finding its power.”

But what also excites this development director is making dreams come true.

“When I am able to solidify a relationship with a business and see how thrilled the owners are to be working with us, that’s exciting,” she says. “I might be talking to someone who has never considered a theatre connection but has a hidden theatre dream. I can bring a little dream fulfillment to them.”

Certainly, the coronavirus crisis has added an extra challenge for this development director. She has had to remain very sensitive to the financial hardship imposed on businesses — including The Zephyr — that have been or still are shuttered.

It’s hard to pitch collaboration during a crisis, but Jessica knows that hard times are when the community and the theatre need collaboration even more.

“I love theatre because it is the business of telling the human experience,” she says. “Theatre helps people relate better to others, hear stories they haven’t heard. Theatre is meant to release the spirit and encourage self-expression.”

Past Production Update

It has been incredibly busy this August through Labor Day weekend at The Zephyr!

We had ten concerts, seven performances of Shakespeare in the Park…ing Lot, a cabaret performance off-site at Mad Capper’s Saloon and Eatery, along with a staged reading performed by ArtReach St. Croix. That’s a total of 19 events, whew!

Here are some highlights!

What's Coming Up

Entertainment at The Zephyr will continue as late into the season as weather permits.  All concerts are outdoors with physically distant seating.

Stay tuned for more information.

What can YOU do to help?

One way that makes a BIG impact in how people find The Zephyr are positive review on various sites such as Google, Nextdoor, and TripAdvisor. 

Please take a short moment and share a memory of a great experience you’ve had at a performance, concert, or other event through The Zephyr Theatre. 

We appreciate your support!

Perks of Sustaining Members

There are numerous perks of being a Sustaining Member, here are a few of them!

  • Discounts on tickets
  • Sustaining Member lapel pin
  • Recognition in playbills (as your preferred name or anonymously)
  • Show your support for the arts community!

How to Support

If you are an individual or family who has the ability to support The Zephyr, please visit our webpage to see the options available.

They include one-time donations, becoming a Sustaining Member, in-kind gifts, purchasing a commemorative paver, and more.

Thank you so much for connecting with us through Backstage at the Z!

Stay tuned for more to come, stay connected with those you love,
and please please please stay safe.

You can find more information about The Zephyr
on our website, Facebook page,
or follow us on Instagram (@stillwaterzephyrtheatre).

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