A Zephyr Theatre Newsletter for Those "In the Know"
Executive Director's Note
Celebrating our third anniversary
Three years ago, on May 2, 2018, at precisely 10:30 a.m., the Minnesota Zephyr Train Depot became The Zephyr Theatre. The purchase was preceded by an inordinate amount of passionate fundraising, hours-long phone calls, late nights with early mornings, tears of both joy and pain.
There will never be enough gratitude to accurately express my feelings toward those who came along with us in acquiring a building — a dream that seemed all but impossible, and yet was ever so possible by virtue of never giving up.
On that momentous morning, I needed a check to be cleared in order to obtain the cashier’s check needed for the closing. In an act of sheer determination, every single bank employee working that day dropped everything and got on the phone to make that happen. I remember very clearly the chills I had when I got the final check in hand and the bank erupted in a collective cheer. I ran out the door and 30 minutes later traded the check for a key.
Each year since then, we have wanted to recognize every donor, sponsor, sustaining member, and partner who believed in this dream right from the beginning and those who have jumped on the train.
We’ve made magnificent progress since the campaign began with the simple call to action: “All aboard!” Now, the journey continues. So glad you’ve joined us for it.
— Calyssa Hall, Zephyr Theatre executive director
What’s new at The Zephyr? Its website.
After the wild success of the Ice Palace Maze, Executive Director Calyssa Hall, was determined to “up our game” this year. A renovated website is part of that game plan.
To see the new look, visit stilwaterzephyrtheatre.org.
The dramatic black background makes photos and text pop. The judicious mix of color and black-and-white images pulls users through the pages. The crisp design invites them to linger and explore.
But more important, the new website is functional. “I’m all about making the website user-friendly,” said Bil MacLeslie, The Zephyr’s managing director, who developed the new site.
The renovated website, which launched April 12, works for all users, Bil said, those reading about upcoming productions on their laptops and those hunting for concert times or class schedules on their phones.
Bil created design protocols so images and text present well on both horizontal and vertical screens. He took an “event-centric” approach to listing information, streamlining categories, and relying heavily on calendars. He is a fan of fewer words, he said.
The new format should invite readers in and then hold their interest as they scroll for events. It is designed to help users encounter classes, concerts, productions, volunteer opportunities — Zephyr offerings they might not have been looking for but were happy to find.
For instance, check out the short history to learn how The Zephyr Theatre came to be. And then keep looking. The Zephyr is much more than you might have thought.
Making the Magic and Production Updates
A behind-the-scenes look at what’s happened and what’s coming up!
Staff Profile: Duncan MacLeslie
Duncan MacLeslie, carpenter
Before the Ice Palace Maze opened in January, Duncan MacLeslie manned a chainsaw and reshaped the attraction’s two huge ice seats into regal thrones. Now, the 22-year-old is creating things that are more permanent at The Zephyr.
Duncan was recently hired as the theatre’s carpenter, and he has been busy renovating the north stage and building props for an upcoming show.
Working with Franz Hall, The Zephyr’s operations director, Duncan helped remodel the catwalk and build two new staircases for the north stage. The two-month project, which also involved demolition and doors, gives actors more ways to enter and exit on cue and creates a functional backstage.
Shifting focus, Duncan designed and built deli-style tables for scenes in “Newsies.” The May staging of this musical will feature students connected to Faith Christian Home Educators and involved in one of the many school programs offered by the theatre.
While Duncan is a new employee at The Zephyr, he is no stranger to the theatre. He is the son of Bil MacLeslie, the theatre’s managing director, and has helped his dad with “random stuff,” he said, ever since the Zephyr bought the depot in 2018.
Duncan grew up on his folks’ farm in Marine, where his dad had a pole barn full of tools. Curiously, it wasn’t until Duncan moved away from home that he started to really appreciate easy access to a workshop.
The Stillwater High School grad enrolled at the University of Minnesota, majoring in computer science. But after two years, this self-described “maker” began to realize he needed to do more with his hands than just type on a keyboard.
The tipping point for him was a bed. Renting a house with a tiny bedroom — call it a closet — Duncan bought a loft bed to open up the space. But the bed was bad, he said. Working with his dad, they built a better one, and it dawned on Duncan, “I like to build.”
He is finishing the first year of a two-year program at Hennepin Technical College, where he is studying cabinetmaking and falling in love with wood.
“Right now, my favorite wood is maple,” he said. In class, he is making a long and narrow hallway table out of maple. The very hard wood, which is prone to chipping, is challenging to work with but so beautiful. “The grain looks like waves.”
While this behind-the-scenes guy has no burning desire to be on stage, he can imagine a life in theatre. With his carpentry skills he could set himself up nicely for a career on Broadway shows or in other theatre venues, he said.
But until then, The Zephyr will benefit from this builder’s handiwork.
What's Coming Up
We are doing virtual events where we can and hope to open the doors, or parking lot, to all of you as much as we can!
- Sunday, June 13, 2021 Welcome to the Neighborhood! Via Zoom, a thrilling interactive murder mystery, in partnership with StoryArk. This event was previously scheduled for April 18. Read more.
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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