On the evening of May 23, Art & Science Academy officially received recognition that only one other middle school in the entire state of Minnesota shares: An official performing arts troupe recognized by the Educational Theatre Association (EdTA), an international association recognizing achievements in theatre arts.
The ceremony, led by troupe director and ASA theatre teacher Ben Mulhern, inducted its first 13 members, comprised of three, eighth-grade students; one, seventh-grade student; and nine, sixth-grade students. As certificates and International Thespian Association membership cards were handed to each individual member, they became the first students in the school to sign the membership roll.
“Every year, we’re going to take this membership roll off the wall and add new people, but you guys get to be the first,” Mulhern said to his troupe. “Even if it’s displayed for the next 30 or 40 years, you guys get to be the founding members. How cool is that?”
Over the course of the hour-long presentation, Mulhern outlined the group’s accomplishments since beginning activities in January, including performing original skits at the annual Minnesota Thespians conference in February, attending classes and taking a backstage tour at Minneapolis’ renowned Guthrie Theatre, and creating an original presentation for April’s Earth Friendly Fair at the Anoka-Hennepin College in Cambridge.
He also touched on goals for the upcoming year: expanding membership, continuing to perform in the community, partnering up with the state’s lone other middle school troupe (Anoka Middle School for the Arts) on activities, and establishing fundraisers for the Arts and Science Academy’s arts programs.
“Ultimately, this has been a bonding experience for all 14 of us. Working together toward something bigger than us is about as rewarding as it gets,” Mulhern said, whose original work ‘Casey Comet-Chaser & the Intergalactic Zoo’ was performed two weeks before. Not surprisingly, all 13 members of the troupe had roles in the 50-plus person cast.
Before the close of the ceremony, Mulhern shared quotes about acting from famous actors such as Denzel Washington and Meryl Streep before the actors and actresses shared their reasons for wanting to act and participate in the troupe.
“It lets me be who I’m not. I love acting because I get to escape reality and lose myself in my character,” said eighth-grader Delenn Breeding.
“It gives me an opportunity to learn, try new things, and become closer with my friends,” said seventh-grader Abby Bettendorf.
“I love being on stage in front of everyone and feeling that adrenaline rush. It’s really fun pretending to be someone or something else that you aren’t. It’s my dream to be an actress when I grow up,” said sixth-grader Noelle Nelson.
“When I act in a show it makes memories that last for a long time, and I hope to pursue my dream of becoming an actress because I want to live my dream of making people laugh and be happy,” said sixth-grader Gracelyn Szynal.