By Alexandra Harder
Some of you may recognize me because I spoke at last year’s fundraising gala. Last year, I spoke about being a Park Square Theatre Ambassador. This year, I can not only speak about being an ambassador, but also about being an intern, an employee, and a member of the Park Square family. But first, for those of you who don’t recognize me, I started here at Park Square as a Theatre Ambassador. What this means is that one Saturday a month, I come here and spend an entire day and night with 19 other young theatre lovers. We learn from master classes, speak with a diverse variety of theatre professionals, see a Park Square show and discuss it afterwards with our peers. My favorite part of the program has always been speaking to Twin Cities artists about what they do. In the past year, I’ve had the opportunity to pick the brains of Regina Williams, Ricardo Vazquez, Joel Sass, James Williams, Ann Michels, and more.
So that’s how I started here at Park Square. Shortly after the gala last year, I started In the Ambassador2 program as a second year ambassador. Our summer training involved meeting with Richard Cook, Mary Finnerty, Michael-jon Pease and other staff members, and learning about how Park Square works day-to-day and what their mission and goals are. During these meetings, not only did we get valuable information on how and why Park Square exists, we were also asked for our opinions and thoughts. Think about that. Several successful adults genuinely wanted to know what we, a group of teenagers, thought about their company and how it could be more accessible for people like us. If that doesn’t show how inclusive Park Square is as a company, I don’t know what does.
In the fall, I started as an intern in the Education Department. During six hours each week, I learned to do things like book matinee tickets for schools, send out emails and invoices and even make phone calls to teachers. This may sound very mundane to a lot of you, but I’m a Virgo, so these things are very exciting to me. My long term goal has always been to own my own theatre company, so interning has given me invaluable skills I couldn’t have gained anywhere else, especially at such a young age. Megan Losure and Mary Finnerty (the two women the education program could not run without) go out of their way to make sure I’m learning not only how to do the things they ask me to do, but also why they are done, and how I would go about doing them if I had my own company in the future. This opportunity has given me the confidence to go out and actually take a big first step towards my dream.
This winter, I decided to start my own independent theatre. A friend and I, both seniors in high school started GIRL Theatre, a company dedicated to the empowerment and liberation of young women in our community. We produced a short devised piece titled Into the Red at Bryant Lake Bowl this February, entirely on our own. Thanks to Park Square, I had both the artistic skills to create a bold and imaginative piece and the practical skills to build an audience, sell out our shows, and actually make a bit of a profit.
Now, as if Park Square hadn’t already given me enough, I was recently offered a job as an Education Assistant. I will work part time through May, June and July, and I will be paid. As a young person who plans on going to college in the fall to get a degree in Theatre who is constantly being lectured on how wanting to be an artist will lead to a life of poverty, unemployment and tragedy, nothing gives me more hope for my future than being given a paid job at a theatre company at the age of 18.
For two years Park Square has tirelessly pushed me to grow as an artist and as a person, given me unparalleled opportunities and invested enormously in my future. If they had done all of this for me, just one young person, they would have done enough. But I am not unique. Park Square treats young people the way they have treated me. Thousands of kids have been touched by Park Square this year alone, and I guarantee you, I’m not the only one with glowing reviews!
Alexandra Harder is a senior at St. Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists, director, and founder of GIRL Theatre. Her upcoming project will be co-directing American Idiot with TASU Theatre Co. opening this month.