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Heartfelt Gratitude to Our Community

Article by Claudia Kittock, photos by Ryan Ojard

Thank you to everyone who helped make the Mill City Players program possible!

Almost three years ago, a group of friends decided to start a charity whose central mission was to build community. The Friends of the Mill District has grown quickly, and with every new program, another community has formed. None of this happens by accident, and, in fact, it happens with a lot of work by the board members who volunteer their time. It also happens because of the community, and we are so very grateful for the response and the support of our community.

The Mill City Players just wrapped up their third session, and are now firmly planted as a program, and will now run throughout the year in 4 sessions. If you were lucky enough to go to one of the performances, you know about community because you saw it in action.

We are so grateful to each and every one of you who volunteered to bring food for the actors. Camille Burke, Suzy Bross, Jan Mershon, the Open Book Café, Cindy Case, Adair and Ken New, Ken and Katie Searl, Darlene Richter, Sharon Fong and Anna, Clark Wold, Peggy Lucas, Jennifer Weber and Afro-Deli, Nancy Darcy, Betty Wass, Ginger Tollefson, Sue Johnson, and Julie O’Brien. Special mention to Chris Bray who volunteered to help recruit and organize volunteers. It is a big job, and her help was wonderful.

We are equally grateful for the way our community responded to our need for places to rehearse and place to perform. YouthLink and Augsburg College donated space for rehearsals and the Downtown Central Library and MacPhail Center for Music donated their spectacular stages for our actors. Every dollar we were able to save by having spaces donated went directly to the program, and we were able to provide even more experiences to the actors.

The Guthrie played an integral part in our first two sessions, and then volunteered to provide the actors with tickets to Guthrie plays. It is difficult to teach young people about the theater when they haven’t seen theater. Allen and Lou Burdick bought 5 tickets for 4 Minnesota Twins games and donated them to our actors. That was been great fun and another chance to be part of a larger community. ESPN heard about our program and donated 30 tickets to the X-Games when they were in our city. Our actors were thrilled to be able to experience a day of fun that none of them had seen before.

We are also so very grateful for each and every financial contributor. Everything we do requires money. We have been able to hire great artists to lead our groups. JD and Fred Steele are artists beyond description, and having them lead the Mill City Singers makes us the group we are. It does not happen without your faith in our mission, and because you believe in us, you invest in us, and we get to do this amazing work.

The artistic team we hired to lead the Mill City Players is another such example. James A. Williams is our rock and our center. Without his expertise, his calmness, his passion, and his heart, this program would not be what it is. Sister Patricia Brown brings her skills as a dancer and teacher and gives our actors a way to express themselves that most would not have found on their own. Ahanti Young, a skilled actor, musician, and percussionist, teaches the young people about discipline, about rhythm, about teamwork. I have had the honor to watch this team work at each and every rehearsal and know that hiring them to lead this group was a great decision. We pay them for their skills, but we can’t pay them for their love and their passion, and for all of that, we are so very grateful.  

Above: During his intro remarks before the August 25 perfomance, James A. Williams explained his approach to directing a group of young people: process over product. All the work, creativity and dicipline that goes into the production (the process) is much more valuable than the actual performance (the product). 

Lastly, and most importantly, we want to thank the actors. Showing up can be the most difficult part of life, and these young people decided to do just that. We thank Ahmed Abdi, Ahmed Abdijibar, Ahmed Mahad, Crystal Ray Lamm, David Conyers, Farton Jama, Iman Cabdit, Iqbal Maxamed, Jackie Stewart, Jalen Dyson, Mahamed Salad, Miske Salad, Abdullahi Salad, Hibo Abdi, Adone Ravaz, Anthony Anderson, Zedekiah Zbichorski, Sam Karpeh, Rudy Sutana, Osolo Mohamed, and Nadir Mahamud. 

This is why we do the work we do. This is why we exist. Doing this work changes not only the people who participate, but we hope, the community. We are stronger together, and for this, we are so thankful.

Mill City Players: Process Over Product

Mill City Players: Process Over Product

Larger than life drumming coach, Ahanti Young.

Patricia Brown got the audience engaged.

Mill City Players: Process Over Product         - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -   

About Claudia Kittock

Claudia is a resident of the Mill District. In addition to writing for Mill City Times, she is a founding Board Member of Friends of the Mill District. Claudia is the author of Health Through Chaos, mentors young adults at YouthLink, and has served on the Downtown Minneapolis Neighborhood Association (DMNA).


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