Prairie Repertory Theatre celebrates 40 years

Jamie Anderson

Jamie Anderson

SDSU students get a chance to partake in theatre throughout the whole year by participating in Prairie Repertory Theatre. With locations in Brookings and Brandon, PRT will perform this summer during the anniversary of its 40th year.

The four shows include Jesus Christ Superstar, Leaving Iowa, Plaza Suite and Thoroughly Modern Millie. A special PRT Alumni Showcase benefit performance and a children’s theatre workshop are also scheduled.

“(PRT) gives students a professional experience, so that is why the program was put together,” said Chris Guyotte, communication studies and theatre professor. “The two original locations were Brookings and Prairie Village in Madison.”

In 2006, the show moved from Madison to Brandon.

“PRT started in 1970 and people had to sit on wood planks and cement blocks. (PRT) was really organized in 1971 and that summer was my first year,” said Ray Peterson, director of theatre. “They moved the old opera house from Oldham to Prairie Village.”

The old opera house at Prairie Village was used until 1988, when the show outgrew the deteriorating opera house, said Peterson.

“In 1989, the performances were at Madison High School auditorium,” said Peterson. “1990 was called the Doner year, since all shows were performed in Brookings.”

One of the directors has been on both ends of the shows.

“I have been involved in Prairie Rep for 28 years and that includes as an undergraduate,” said J.D. Ackman, PRT managing director. “I performed in it and this is my fourth year as head of it.”

All four plays will begin evenings at 7:30 p.m. with matinees scheduled for 2 p.m. In Brookings, performances will be held in Doner Auditorium on the SDSU campus. In Brandon, the venue is the Brandon Valley Performing Arts Center.

“In 1991, the Dakota Prairie Playhouse was built in Madison. It was a tough decision to leave Madison and move to Brandon,” said Peterson. “There is a greater opportunity for the show to grow with the BVPAC. We are limited at SDSU until the Phase II of (Performing Arts Center) is done.”

Jesus Christ Superstar, the first-ever rock opera written by Andrew Lloyd Webber, dramatizes Christ’s final days with emotional intensity, thought-provoking edge and explosive theatricality. It will be performed June 9 through June 12 in Brookings with a June 13 matinee. In Brandon, the dates are July 14 and 15, and July 31, with an Aug. 1 matinee.

“It was a good opportunity when Brandon got ahold oProxy-Connection: keep-aliveCache-Control: max-age=0

us. We couldn’t pass it up,” said Ackman, who is directing Jesus Christ Superstar.

The comedy Leaving Iowa is the story of a middle-aged writer’s adventures traveling across Iowa searching for the proper place for his father’s ashes.

Brookings dates run from June 16 through June 19, with a June 20 matinee. Brandon dates are July 17 and July 21, with July 17 and 18 matinees. It is directed by Bob Sylskar from Mayville State University in North Dakota.

The main difference between PRT and State University Theatre is the content of the plays.

“SUT is edgier, has more adult themes and more artistic. PRT is more family-friendly,” said Jake Windish, a senior communication studies and theatre major. “I like the more artistic part of SUT, but I like PRT more since you can focus just on that during the summer.”

Plaza Suite, one of Neil Simon’s most popular plays, is a comedy detailing the misadventures of three very different couples as they face crucial moments in their lives in the Plaza Hotel. Brookings dates run June 23 through June 26, with a June 27 matinee. Brandon dates are July 28 through July 30.

“Prairie Rep is meant to appeal to a wider audience. Since it has a family theme, there is no swearing,” said Guyotte, who is directing Plaza Suite. “All the company involved in it has to be taking credit from SDSU.”

Thoroughly Modern Millie, a high-spirited musical that tells the story of a young woman who has just moved to the city in search of a new life. Brookings dates are July 7 through July 10 with a July 11 matinee. Brandon dates are July 22 to July 24 with a July 25 matinee.

“I have been involved in theatre for 39 years. By having the family-friendly shows, it does help ticket sales,” said Peterson, who is directing Thoroughly Modern Millie.

“It used to be the only entertainment opportunity in the summer. I would like to see more students attend. It is free to all SDSU students at both locations.”

Since 1970, Prairie Repertory Theatre has played 1,246 performances of 167 productions to 420,325 patrons and 1,308 students have participated.

“I have two roles this summer. One is Jesus Christ Superstar and one in Thoroughly Modern Millie.” said Windish. “I started in theatre second semester of my freshman year and this is my fourth summer in PRT.”

Season tickets cost $45 for adults, $39 for senior citizens, $27 for SDSU employees and $24 for children. Individual tickets cost $16 for adults, $14 for seniors, $10 for SDSU employees and $9 for children. SDSU students attend free with identification. General ticket sales begin June 2. For Brookings, call 605-688-6045. For Brandon, call 605-582-8039.

The PRT Alumni Showcase Benefit Performance will be held at the PAC in Brookings July 16. Social hour with hors d’oeuvres will begin at 6 p.m. with the performance set for 7:30 p.m. Tickets cost $50.

“The major difference (between SUT and PRT) is that both students and faculty can focus on it as opposed to during the academic year,” said Ackman. “It is intensive training for students and we provide the best entertainment.”