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Mill City Players - Fall, 2018

Article by Claudia Kittock, photo by Rick Kittock

The Mill City Players ended the fall session on Thursday, December 13th with a performance at YouthLink. It was preceded by a performance at Sabathani Community Center on November 27th for 200 policymakers and people who work with the homeless for the county’s annual “Heading Home Hennepin” meeting.

This session was unique for the Players. Because of scheduling issues, the decision was made to concentrate on seven of the actors who are based in YouthLink. Our hope was to spend time with a smaller group of actors, and be able to work on leadership skills, artistic skills, and interpersonal skills. The Players have been rehearsing six hours a week for 10 weeks. Every rehearsal was split between work on acting, dancing, and drumming.

Mayor Jacob Frey with members of the Mill City Players after a November 27 performance at the Sabathani Community Center. 

Sam Karpeh, Zedekiah Zbichorski, Crystal Ray Lamm, Jalen Dyson, Jackie Santrelle and Anthony Anderson have all been part of the Players from the very first session. Charlie Ruffin joined us for this session. The benefits of having a stable core of artists is immeasurable. With each and every session, we have been able to watch this group of artists grow.

Why acting? Why the Mill City Players? The Friends of the Mill District began this program with the mission of offering artistic expression to young people who have not had that opportunity. Parents everywhere know the benefits of taking their children to music classes, dance classes, boxing classes, and acting groups. We have watched our children grow and change because of those classes. The Mill City Players offers that for the young people who decide to take this journey with us.

Our artistic staff, James A. Williams the Artistic Director, and Patricia Brown and Ahanti Young the Associate Directors, give our actors every bit of their artistic skill and their enormous hearts. We are so blessed by their work. Teaching young artists is filled with hard work, frustrations, and enormous blessings. We get to watch them struggle and grow and learn to express themselves in powerful ways. Twice a week we begin by eating together and then the hard work begins. We struggle together, but it is the best work because we do it together.

At the Heading Home event in November, our actors performed for a crowd that included Mayor Jacob Frey and were able to spend a few minutes talking with him about their journey. The audience was incredibly receptive to the artistry the Players displayed, and the Players were thrilled by the standing ovation they received.

The performance at YouthLink was a powerful ending to this session. Performing in front of your peers is always difficult, but our actors had a dynamic performance and celebrated afterward with dreams and plans for the next session beginning in February.

While the boxing class for the Players will continue during the hiatus, we are in the process of hiring our first writing teacher. Bill Breen, a poet and college writing professor, will join our group of artists working with the Players. We are excited to add Bill and his skills for our group of artists.

The future of the Players is unlimited. We are excited to continue this work, and are grateful for the support of the friends of the Friends. If you want to become more involved, we welcome contributions. Please consider becoming a sustaining contributor by signing up on Checks made out to Friends of the Mill District can be sent to: Claudia Kittock, 1240 S 2nd Street, Unit 1132, Minneapolis, MN 55415.

We are stronger together. This is good work and important work, and none of it is possible without you.

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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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