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‘Aladdin, Jr.,’ first offering of Public Theater of Minnesota, opens Friday

As the director of theater at Hopkins High School, Mark Hauck has sensed a need for the community as a whole: a community performing program that bridges youth and adults and amateur and professional.

As the director of theater at Hopkins High School, Mark Hauck has sensed a need for the community as a whole: a community performing program that bridges youth and adults and amateur and professional. The result is a new entity, the Public Theater of Minnesota, which will open its first offering this weekend with “Aladdin, Jr.,” an adaptation of the popular Disney animated film.

“I want to show people that we can make theater in Hopkins as well as we can downtown,” Hauck says about the new theater company. “I really want this to grow into something is about the idea that all of us are artists.”

As the founder and former executive producing director of the Great River Shakespeare Festival in Winona, Hauck had firsthand experience in bridging theater to the community. He sees that potential in the western suburbs. “Aladdin, Jr.” is only the first step.

Hauck hopes to announce a full season of shows in August that will include a mix of pieces. Beyond that, he hopes the theater can add educational programs next summer for young performers.

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“We hope to do a couple of shows during the school year and then our summer program,” Hauck says. “The idea is to have an ongoing presence in the community.” The play itself, which features the talents of dozens of performers, from youth making their first trip across the stage to up-and-coming professionals, should be perfect for a summer’s evening, Hauck says.

“In my ideal world, by the time we get to the end of the show, people will be singing along with us,” Hauck says.

And reaching out to the audience, in any form, is important to the theater.

“You should never make art an observatory sport,” he says. “It’s something that has to be at the forefront. Art is transformational. It us an opportunity to be our best selves and discover what that best self looks like.”

“Aladdin, Jr.” runs July 16 to 25 at the Performing Arts Center at Hopkins High School, 2400 Lindbergh Dr., Minnetonka. Performance times vary. Tickets are $12 to $14. For more information and tickets, call 952-988-4718 or visit online.