Owen Schmidt, Arts & Theatre Educator, Merely
11th January 2004
Man Australia continues to explore the arts and theatrical
What is your background?
Well the background question depends on the qualifier.
Under personal I would say I was a pre-WWII baby raised
with all the values that entails. I had a less than
enviable youth with being fat and a smartass. I did
however manage to finish High School, second from
the bottom of my class, and avoided education in the
common sense until I was in my thirties.
and Parenthood came with my Military service. It was
a view of my prospects, as a under employed father
of two beautiful girls and the husband of an equally
beautiful wife that sent me back to Academia and the
choices it offered. I attended college year around,
for three years and carrying a large load of classes
got me a Bachelors degree in Theater Arts, and History
and History were a passions of a sort, but I was never
able to turn either into a career. I did however co-found
a Community Theatre here in Mankato, Minnesota in
1981. My Partner in this venture, Gretchen Etzell,
was an English Teacher in my children's High School
and a most capable Director.
was a teacher of English Literature, and suggested
the Bards line "and all the men and women are
What motivates you?
Well I would have to say it is my dislike of pop culture.
There is a great deal to be said for MTV, but not
a the cost art. I had the feeling that we should offer
options to the "World according to Disney",
and the top flicks. We started the Merely Players
to offer a venue that would be affordable to everyone,
and give them real value in content and performance.
What are the highlights of my career?
Maybe pride would be a better term!. I am proud of
my ability to design sets for ever space I have been
given. I started in a state of the art facility at
my College. It had all the space and mechanicals one
could dream of and a budget to match. I have had a
corner in a Student Union at the same college.
was the Technical advisor to a small Lutheran college
taking them from a Field House Basketball court to
a beautiful new performing arts center. I have literally
taken the Merely Players from zero the a respected,
though ragtag, venue in our region. Anyone who has
been evolved in volunteer efforts knows its always
the money, always.
What do you do on a day to day basis?
I am a retired State Employee. I spent the last 29
years of work life, until 1999 as an employment counselor
for the State of Minnesota.
How does the web help you?
As much as anything on the Web, we get the attention
of the Theatre going public. The Web by itself is
useless unless we point people to it, and that we
do with all of out publicity budget. We publish nothing
without our Web and Email address on it. We make no
commercial or PSA without it.
is a lesson learned early that the Web is not a utility
until you make it so. There is now an expectation
on our part that a larger and larger percentage of
out ticket sales will come from out Web site, because
we tell people it's easy and fast.
What media coverage have you received and what was
Well the silliest was because we moved our entire
audience to the basement of the Community Center we
are in due to a Tornado Alert. We moved them for protection
from the storm, and entertained them there with song
and dance and one very bad Magician. When the all
clear was sounded, we went on with the show (Godspell)
without losing any of the audience. I was picked up
by the Associated Press.
Did you have any Mentors?
I did, and do, as I am probably considered a mentor
by others whom I helped. My most reliable Mentor was
my Theater arts Professor Jacque Reidelberger, though
also retired, still my friend and advisor. I will
always be a better man for knowing him, in many ways.
What Artists and Performers do you respect the most
Due to my age (64) many of my favorites are dead or
lost. I am a Classical music lover, a Jazz lover,
a devotee of the Bauhaus and much of what the 20's
and 30's had wrought, despite the fact I was born
in the 40's.
current favorites revolve around musical theater and
science fiction. There is allot of reason to bemoan
the output of the Television industry, and the POP
music scene to me is vulgar and base. As a rule, there
is much too much offered about celebrities lives than
I want to know about them. (old fashion huh?)
What positive change have you to the world?
I don't own a gun.
What do you do to unwind?
I listen to music allot. I love Public Radio. I am
a Amateur Radio Operator (HAM) which gives me much
pleasure. Well I told you I live a rather unremarkable
life. I hope you find my answers sufficient.
note: Merely Players lives through dedicated and inspirational
creative artists such as Owen. I urge our readers
to continue to support local talent, so one day they
might have a shot at making a full time career at
the world of theatrical arts.
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