Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Playwright in the Windy City: Interview with Caity-Shea Violette

Ordway Education is taking the opportunity to feature professionals in the world of theater, as well as check in with Ordway Education alum. This month we chat with Chicago based playwright and actor Caity-Shae Violette.

Photo Credit: Tom Vin
In one sentence, what is your job description, and why do you love it?
I am a playwright, actor, and the manager of marketing and communications for a non-profit serving people living with mental illness; I love that these roles allow me to continuously learn how to share captivating stories that ignite compassion and inspire others to engage in larger social conversations.

How are you connected to the Ordway? 
In 2009, I was an education and community outreach intern to help organize and execute the Flint Hills International Children’s Festival for the spring semester of my senior year of high school at the Saint Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists (SPCPA).

My time as an intern at the Ordway allowed me to practice professional communication and collaboration while being able to seek guidance from a mentor and network with theatre professionals in the arts administrative field. This was absolutely invaluable to both my college experience and my post-grad career as it gave my relatively blank resume a variety of administrative, organizational, and collaborative skills, backed by the credibility of one of the leading artistic homes in Minnesota.

What is your favorite memory of your time at the Ordway?
I loved seeing the variety of performances that took place at the Flint Hills International Children’s Festival. My personal favorite festival performance was the Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia’s presentation of The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Other Eric Carle Favourites.

When did you decide to become a professional actor/playwright?
I discovered my love for playwriting in my junior year at SPCPA, when I was selected to participate in a new play intensive program created in partnership with the Playwrights’ Center to complete during our J-Term session. J-Term was a few week session where SPCPA students took a break from academic classes to only take artistic classes. Around the same time I was cast in my first regional theatre production at the Children’s Theatre Company in a show with a similar new work atmosphere called Fashion 47 co-written by Randy Weiner and Diane Paulus. I think being able to see the new play development process from both the writer and performer perspective is what solidified my decision to pursue storytelling as profession.
Photo Credit: Tony Adams

What is the most unexpected place your career has taken you?
The theatre department at the University of Minnesota, Duluth (where I earned my BFA in Theatre with an emphasis in acting) participated in the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festivala program that begins with nine regional festivals of thousands of undergraduate and graduate theatre students from around the country and culminating into a national festival based on the results of the previous regional festivals. Festival attendees are students who have been nominated for a particular artistic achievement and gather to network with professionals, take workshops, and celebrate each other’s work.

After attending both the regional and the national festival in Washington D.C. when my full-length play Target Behavior received the National Partners of the American Theatre Playwriting Excellence award in 2012, I was fortunate enough to return once again to both the regional and national festivals in 2013, this time as both a playwright and actor. That year, my ten-minute play Disconnect was selected as one of four national finalists for the Kennedy Center Ten-Minute Play Competition and received a staged reading. Later that week in the festival, I had the tremendous honor of performing a section of my ten-minute play, Save The Date, on the Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center as an Irene Ryan Acting Competition Region 5 winner and National Finalist. That was definitely a wonderfully unexpected surprise to say the least.

What is the most rewarding part of writing a new play?
My favorite part of writing a new play is being able to share that story with people outside of the artistic community. I’m fortunate enough to be active in mental health advocacy and some communities of survivors of sexual and physical abuse in Chicago. As the majority of my work centers around silenced stories of gender-based violence and oppression, I am able to learn from and share this work with the phenomenal individuals in these communities.

What is the best piece of career advice you have received? Worst piece of advice?
Best piece of advice: People want to work with people who love what they do. If you’re nervous for an audition or interview, anchor yourself in the joy of being able to share what you love to do most with someone willing to be an audience, even for 60 seconds.

Worst advice: You can be a playwright or an actor, but you need to choose which you want to be great at. (Almost all of my best work as an has come out of things I’ve written for myself, if for nothing else than audition material).

If you won the lottery, and never had to work another day in your life, what is the first thing you would do?
Pay off all bills for my mom, my best friends, and myself, then start finding organizations I want to support and travel around to be involved with them.

Who is your mentor, and how have they shaped you?
The biggest mentor in my career as a playwright was absolutely Tom Isbell at the University of Minnesota, Duluth. In addition to being an accomplished actor, playwright, and author, he was also my acting professor, academic advisor, the supervisor of four undergraduate research opportunity grants I received to write new plays, the director of plays in which I acted, as well as the director of my first full-length production. After reading the first play I had ever written, a quirky, messy one-act play, he offered to teach me, mentor me and encourage me to apply for various grants and Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival submissions. As my school didn’t have a playwriting program beyond an intro class taught every other spring semester, Tom spent countless hours reading over 20 drafts of my full-length and several drafts of multiple shorter plays, then meeting with me to discuss overall feedback and go page-by-page to discuss individual moments, dialogue, and stage directions.
Photo Credit: Tony Adams
While he insists on never taking credit for the accomplishments of his many fortunate students, I truly cannot imagine any part of my creative career without his unwavering support. I’ve learned to be confident in owning the work I’ve put into earning opportunities I’ve received because the ability to create is the only constant in an artistic career, recognition is most certainly not. This confidence, however, and everything I have achieved thus far in my career is the direct result of Tom’s guidance. My career as a writer truly began when he believed it was worth fostering.

Tom’s new book, “The Capture”, comes out January 19th, 2016! Support an educator, a mentor, a sensational writer, and read the sequel in this thrilling trilogy while you do it.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Day at the Opera with Minnesota Opera

Minnesota Opera's annual Day at the Opera is approaching and is extending the invitation to those of you who may have High School students interested in this event. Please see details below and feel free to contact them with any questions.

High School singers participate in an intensive day-long master class learning how to prepare for an audition. Perform in a mock audition, learn the inner game of auditions, gain tips on how to prepare for an audition, what to wear, and more. Throughout the day, students will observe an opera rehearsal, tour the scene and costume shops and see what is involved in creating professional opera. A question-and-answer session with the Opera's Resident Artists will provide an opportunity for students to ask about colleges, auditions and what the future might hold for young performers. 

When: Friday, January 15, 2016

What students need to prepare: An aria or art song that has been or will be performed for an audition or competition. Solo/ensemble contest, All-State auditions and college audition repertoire is ideal.

Who else may attend: Teachers, accompanists and parents are welcome to attend but are not required.

Registration: Contact Alisa Magallón at 612.342.1604 or to sign-up or for more information. Registration is first-come, first-served and space is extremely limited. 

Cost: $30/participant. Transportation is the responsibility of the student.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

National Conference Peformance Opportunity for K12 Dance

Join SHAPE AMERICA in Minneapolis, April 5-9, for the 2016 SHAPE American National Convention & Expo, which will be held in partnership with SHAPE America Central District and Minnesota SHAPE.

Cyndeee Johnson (CJ), Dance Vice-President of Minnesota SHAPE AMERICA, is looking for individuals or groups to perform on April 7, 2016 at the Dance Gala during the national convention SHAPE AMERICA here in Minneapolis. For more information, please visit SHAPE AMERICA.

If interested, please contact CJ at or 218.879.3361, extension 131. In addition to being Vice-President of Minnesota SHAPE AMERICA, CJ teaches dance, elementary and adaptive physical education in Esko, Minnesota.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Dengue Fever Preview at the U of M !

A Night with Chhom Nimol and Zaz Holtzman of Dengue Fever

Join lead signer Chhom Nimol and co-founder/lead guitarist Zac Holtzman as they perform a selection of psychedelic Cambodian surf rock, and share the history behind the formation of their band, Dengue Fever. 

Dengue Fever is a 6-member band from Los Angeles that pushes boundaries by combing various musical styles, including: '60s Cambodian pop, psychedelic rock, Khmer rap, Latin grooves, Afro percussion, and more.
When: Friday, November 20 from 5pm-7pm

Where: HUMPHREY FORUM located inside the Humphrey School of Public Affairs (West Bank)​, 301 19th Ave. S. Mpls​

Cost: FREE and open to the public! Refreshments will be served.

Presented by the Ordway in partnership with University of Minnesota's Asian American Studies Program and Asian American Pacific Islander student groups.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Lecture - Demonstration with The Pedrito Martínez Group

Monday, October 19
6:00pm – 7:30pm
Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, Music Theater
345 Washington Street, Saint Paul, MN
$7 per person
Open to the public
Call: 651.224.4222 or secure your spot by paying online >

Come and learn from master percussionist Pedrito Martínez and his band members in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!  Pedrito Martínez will conduct an on-stage lecture and demonstration on Afro-Cuban music, discussing the Yoruba traditions that he draws from, the batá rhythms, the chants, and the roots of who he is as a musician. He and band members will demonstrate, on batá drums and on congas, how they transpose and reinterpret these rhythms in the context of the music. 

The Pedrito Martínez Group will perform Sunday, October 18, 7:30pm at The Ordway Center for the Performing Arts.  For tickets, call the Ordway at 651.224.4222 or visit

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Now Hiring: Music Teachers at SPPS

Saint Paul Public Schools is currently accepting applications for licensed instrumental music teachers and non-licensed experienced instrumental music instructors to teach in its Extended Day Instrumental Music Program. Band is offered two days a week (M/W or T/TH) to all elementary schools (grades 4-5 in K-5 schools; and grades 4-8 in K-8 schools), and strings at a limited number of schools based on student interest and string inventory. Teachers/Instructors are assigned 1-2 schools based on availability. Technology skills are required and trainings will be provided for use of this system.

Interested individuals may go to the SPPS Human Resources Job Application Site and submit their application for either of the following job postings:
(Best browsers to access this site are currently Safari and Internet Explorer)

        •Tchr - ALC - Hrly - EDL Licensed Instrumental Music Teacher K-8, Posting 999112
        •Casual Employee - EDL Non-Licensed Instrumental Music Instructor K-8, Posting 999136

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Coming Soon: The Ordway on Minnesota Original!

On Friday, September 4th, Minnesota Original will premiere an hour long special on the Ordway, featuring the new concert hall, Arts Partners and more.  

The special will air at 8:00 and 8:30, on TPT 2.  And make sure to visit to view additional musical performances.   

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Interview with Actor Brandon O'Neill and special offer for The Pirates of Penzance at the Ordway!

How do video games and theatre intersect? Is there a connection between the Twin Cities and Spokane, WA? And what does it really take to be a professional stage actor?  Find out in selections from our interview with the Pirate King himself, actor Brandon O’Neill.  


 We have a deal! Teachers and Students may present their ID, along with the Code PIRATESEDU, to receive $10 off their ticket to select performances of The Pirates of Penzance. The offer applies to performances on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday evenings, in seating scales 1-5.  

Order online, call us at 651-224-4222, or come to the Box Office (open 10am -3pm) to purchase your tickets today.

Have any questions about life as an actor, director, producer or Theatre professional? We’re interested!  Please comment below, and we may incorporate them into future interviews

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Reaching All Learners (ReAL) workshop at the Ordway featuring Kairos Alive

Two female workshop participants work together in a mirroring exercise.
VSA Minnesota © Photo: Jenea Rewertz-Targui

Presented by VSA Minnesota
Hosted by Ordway Center for the Performing Arts
Wed, Aug 12
9:30 am - 4:00 pm

In collaboration with VSA Minnesota, the Ordway will host one of three professional development workshops for artists and teachers seeking to improve their skills in working with students across all abilities. Join us for interactive learning session with Kairos Alive followed by a facilitated discussion.

$20 per workshop includes refreshments and lunch
Call 612.332.3888 or 800.801.3883
Email Craig Dunn, VSA Minnesota
Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, 345 Washington St., St. Paul

The ReAL workshops are an effort of VSA Minnesota with funding from the VSA and Accessibility office of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

VSA logo

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Every Child Achieves Act Gains Momentum

Big news in the world of Education!  If you missed it, read up on the Every Child Achieves Act, and how it benefits arts classrooms  

For the first time since 2001, the Senate has approved new education legislation

Photo by Scrumshus,

Known as the Every Child Achieves Act (S.1177), this bill potentially provides states with a greater authority to enact and implement educational policies. The legislation also explicitly specifies 11 Arts Education provisions, such as naming the arts as an academic core subject.   

If these provisions continue to remain intact, state authorities will have a greater flexibility to support arts-specific programming, both within the school day and as a part of extracurricular programs.  

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Welcome Sarah Wiechmann, Education Intern

Sarah Wiechmann, Education Intern
A  Twin Cities native, Sarah is eager to explore the world of Educational programing with the Ordway! She is also looking forward to learning about the day to day workings of an arts organization, while sharing her passion for arts education with the Metro community.

Sarah recently graduated from Concordia College in Moorhead, MN, majoring in Vocal Music Education and minoring in French. As a student at Concordia, she participated in several choirs, including Tactus; a student organized nine voice chamber ensemble. With the Concordia French club, she attended the Festival du Voyageur, an annual winter celebration of French-Canadian fur trading culture in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Outside of life at the Ordway, Sarah enjoys singing in community choirs, and exploring the Twin Cities restaurant Scene. 

Friday, July 10, 2015

STEAM: A New Approach to Arts Instruction

"Arguing that the arts and science should and could remain totally separate misses the point. This is not about cultivating more artists or diluting STEM—it’s about creating STEM students who think creatively and remain engaged in their learning." 
   -Anna Feldman, Slate

advocates for the addition of arts instruction into the popular STEM acronym.

Supporters argue that STEAM adds a layer of interest to technical fields for students not otherwise inclined to explore science or math. Furthermore, students are asked to think holistically, a skill frequently required by individuals employed as engineers, designers and other advanced technical fields.   

Read the full article here

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Elements of Dance

Perpich Arts High School dance program- photo by Dan Markworth

Hey teachers- check out the revamped Elements of Dance website! The new site provides a concise educational resource for the BASTE (Body, Action, Space, Time Energy) elements of dance.  

In addition, the site features individual and group assignments specific to each dance element, and multimedia clips, featuring Minnesota dancers and choreographers.    

"Teachers- Consider using this website for flipped instruction and for students who want to pursue independent study as they watch the video clips, then download assignments and analysis tools for each element"

Friday, May 15, 2015

Ordway Concert Hall Votes Best New Artist Art Space

The Ordway's new Concert Hall has been named Best New Art Space in the Star Tribune's 2015 Best of Minnesota list! Check out the article here

                                                                                       Photo by Brian Peterson, Star Tribune

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Bleu!: Sensory Friendly Performances

The Flint Hills International Children's Festival will be featuring two Sensory-Friendly performances. The performance of Bleu! on Tuesday, May 26 at 11:15am and Wednesday, May 27 at 1:15pm will be designed to create a safe, nonjudgmental, and nurturing environment for individuals with autism spectrum disorder and other individuals with sensory, social, and learning disabilities. While this performance has a fluid atmosphere, it is open to the general public and can be a learning opportunity regarding the typical theater experience. Accommodations include:
  • Theater lights dimmed
  • Lower and consistent sound level, especially for startling or loud sounds
  • Patrons are free to talk and leave their seats during the performance
  • Space throughout the performance space for standing and movement
  • Limited capacity
  • Designated quiet area
  • Trained volunteers on hand to assist with patron needs and requests
  • Pre-visit materials: Social Story and Visual Schedule 
Audience members are welcome to bring their own manipulative, seat cushions, comfort objects, and extra support items to the performance. For questions, please call the Community Engagement hotline: 651.282.3017.

BLEU! from Compagnia TPO on Vimeo.