Anoka Middle School for the Arts is an extremely fortune school to have such a magnificent theater program. Not only is it an award-winning organization, the AMSA theater department is one of the few school-based theater programs in the state that does not require participating students to pay a fee. The quality and accessibility of the AMSA theater department truly makes it a beacon for the arts in the North Metro and something the community is incredibly proud of.
Unfortunately, this wonderful program is now being threatened. A potentially huge financial and audience loss is on the horizon, not only for the Anoka Middle School for the Arts theater department, but for theater departments throughout the Anoka-Hennepin School District.
The Sunday matinee theater performances at Anoka Middle School for the Arts are at a very real risk of being shut down for good by the Anoka-Hennepin School Board, all because of one parent’s demand.
On Dec. 9 at the Anoka-Hennepin School Board meeting a parent in the Anoka-Hennepin School District went before the board to present a petition calling for the end of Sunday theater performances at Anoka Middle School for the Arts, as well as other schools in the district. The parent claims that Sunday school-centered activities such as matinee theater performances “interfere with family and worship.” The parent had gained 94 signatures on a petition from “parents, students and taxpayers” in the Anoka-Hennepin School District calling for an end to Sunday theater performances, and saying that the ban on Sunday school activities should reach over into athletics as well as other areas.
At first blush, this sort of thing seems like something the school board would politely listen to and move on. One would hope, anyway. But, with all things of this nature, the possibility of the school board seriously considering canceling Sunday shows because of one person trying to impose their will on the rest of the community is something we cannot ignore, especially when it threatens basic freedoms.
Anoka Middle School for the Arts’ Sunday matinee shows are invaluable to the program. Not only are ticket sales for those performances on average the highest in pre-orders and at-the-door sales, it also gives certain members of our community the opportunity to see our show who otherwise may not be able to.
Often thanked by seniors
Offering a show in the middle of a Sunday allows for many of the elderly members of our community to come see the show. In fact, we have been thanked on multiple occasions by senior citizens at our Sunday shows for having these 2 p.m. performances. Without them they may not have a chance to see their grandchild or family member perform or contribute to the shows.
Sunday shows are also the cornerstone of family activities for many people in the area. Family members gather to come to the school, see the show and perhaps go to an early dinner afterwards or gather at a family member’s house. How one chooses to spend their family time is completely up to the individual family, and luckily quite a few families choose to spend it at the theater.
Also, a Sunday matinee is a traditional show time in the theater world. From the Guthrie to Broadway performances to Lyric Arts and other community playhouses, Sunday shows are the norm and in high demand.
To deliver counterpetition Jan. 13
The Anoka Middle School for the Arts Theater Boosters are going before the Anoka-Hennepin School Board on Jan. 13 with our counterpetition, which has gathered 176 signatures, as well as bringing forth our chang.org petition to save our Sunday shows; it has gained 447 signatures.
The AMSA Theater Boosters are hopeful that our appeal to the school board will show what a necessary thing Sunday shows are to the theater department and to the community at large. We put our faith in the school board to see how important the arts are to our kids and our community and look forward to showing them how indispensable Sunday theater performances are to the Anoka-Hennepin School District.
Roxy Orcutt is a writer who lives in Anoka and runs the popular website The Halloween Honey.
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