Blue Water Theatre Company of Wayzata was founded in 2007 by local resident Charlie Leonard. It’s a non-profit community theatre for middle and high school students in the west metro, including those who live in Hopkins, Plymouth, Minnetonka and the Lake Minnetonka area.
The mission of Blue Water Theatre Company is to build and sustain a theatre community that will provide young actors with opportunities to perform, learn and experience theatre that is important, meaningful and life-changing.
Blue Water has produced over twenty shows to date. Until recently, the company didn’t have a permanent rehearsal space. Leonard said in their first four years they were given free space or charged very little for space.
The theatre company has now leased a permanent space in the Wayzata Home Center. They have begun transforming it into a new rehearsal space, and also hope to create a small performance area.
Blue Water Theatre Company is holding its first annual fundraising "A Grand Night For Singing" gala on Saturday, Oct. 8 at 6:30 p.m. at the Medina Golf and Country Club. Proceeds from the gala will go toward the expense of setting up the new space as a theatre.
“We’re taking a big step forward as an organization,” said Leonard. “We’re trying to establish a real sense of permanence and sustainability in this community. In order to do that, we really need a larger financial support network among the community than we have previously needed, or frankly previously asked for.”
Leonard said Blue Water’s current annual budget of $90,000 will need to increase to $120,000 in order to support this new endeavor.
Currently, Blue Water does five or six show each year, including a student-directed production. With the new performance space, Leonard hopes to double the number of shows each year.
“If you look back at the twenty some shows we have done, over half of them could have been done, and arguably could have been done more correctly, in a smaller space,” said Leonard.
The new space will allow the company to perform some shows onsite, but it will never replace using school auditoriums for larger shows.
“We are hoping to move at least half of our current programming into the space,” he said. “And then anything additional that we do we’ll be able to do onsite in the space.”
“It not only will save us a significant amount of money on space rental, but it also gives us a lot more flexibility,” said Leonard. “It gives us the ability to run a show for two or three weekends instead of one weekend. It gives us the opportunity to do some other more exploratory things that showcase kids that don’t necessarily require a 500-seat auditorium.”
Leonard, who serves as Blue Water’s executive/artistic director, started teaching eighth grade English at Wayzata West in 2003. When the school principal was looking for someone to direct the school play, he volunteered. After the first play, he said the kids asked if they could do more and the productions became more frequent and drew more kids.
“When I left Wayzata, the kids still wanted to do things so we founded a non-profit. It was kind of accidental,” he said of the company's founding.
There are eight members on the board of directors for Blue Water who serve two-year terms. One board member is a past student actor who performed in three Blue Water shows while he was in high school.
Now a sophomore at the University of Minnesota, Zach Sperry said he performed in musical theater in middle school and high school. In the spring of 2008, he auditioned for the Blue Water summer performance of Beauty and the Beast, and won the role of the talking clock.
“The feeling that I got at Blue Water was that it was so much more of a community thing,” said Sperry. “It was very supportive with everyone building up to the final goal.”
Sperry added that high school theater can be competitive, and roles can be hard to come by.
“Blue Water gives sophomores and freshmen at high school leadership opportunities,” he said.
Leonard said he’s excited about what the future holds for the Blue Water Theatre Company.
“Wayzata doesn’t have anything like this,” said Leonard. “We could be what Stages Theatre is to Hopkins. We could be that for the City of Wayzata, and that would be good for everyone.”
He envisions the theatre hosting open mic events, performances by bands and improvisational troops and more student-directed shows. Leonard, the owner of The Bookcase of Wayzata, also said some author events could potentially be held there.
“I’ve said to people that I hope a year from now, we’ll have stuff going on there every Friday and Saturday night,” he said. “It can be a real positive place for teenagers to express their artistic-ness.”
Blue Water’s next production is "The Wizard of Oz," which will be performed from Dec. 1-3 at the Eisenhower Community Center in Hopkins. Leonard said there are about 45 local kids in the show.
For more information about Blue Water Theatre Company, visit www.bluewatertheatre.com.