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Act Up Theatre members speak up about acting up

The social justice-driven stage is back with "Dogfight," a musical set in the Vietnam War era. The Arts Partnership sat down with Act Up board member Jackie Shaw to catch up on the upcoming number and what’s ahead for the troupe.

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Katie Hanson, seen here during a cast read, will portray Rose Fenny in Act Up Theatre's "Dogfight."
Contributed / Act Up Theatre
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MOORHEAD — The Arts Partnership partner organization Act Up Theatre is back with a summer musical, and there’s no use putting up a fight about it.

The team opens curtains June 28 at Minnesota State University Moorhead with a production of “Dogfight,” a musical adaptation of the book by Peter Duchan, and with music and lyrics by Pasek & Paul (creators of “Dear Evan Hansen” and “The Greatest Showman”).

“The musical focuses on the power of kindness and the fact that each person can have a profound impact on the world around them," said Act Up Theatre board member Jackie Shaw and resident communications liaison for the organization. “Set in the 1960s Vietnam era, ‘Dogfight’ is a surprising, heartfelt musical, telling the story of a romance between a waitress and a young Marine shipping off to war.”

The show touches on many issues relevant to today: War and its effect on soldiers, the objectification of women and the need for more compassion and empathy.

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Act Up Theatre cast members during a recent cast read as the troupe prepares to perform "Dogfight."
Contributed / Special to The Forum

The Arts Partnership recently caught up with Shaw to chat about the upcoming performance, as well as about the organization's unique focus on social justice, diversity, equity and inclusion. Here’s what Shaw had to say.

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Q: What is your organization’s origin story?

A: Act Up was started in 2010 in Fargo-Moorhead as an alternative summer theater program for young adults who want to participate in summer musicals but are too old for Trollwood productions (past high school).

There was also a need in a community of our size for a theater company focused on productions with themes of health and social issues. Act Up has grown and evolved from a “parent-run” program to a 501(c)(3) organization with bylaws, an official board of directors and an outreach to actors across the region. We want to continue this evolution and grow this impactful musical theater program in our community.

Q: What are your mission, vision and values? How do you support them?

A: Our mission is to create musical theater productions tied to social issues, which not only entertain audiences but spur a discussion. Another focus of our mission is on the participants of Act Up productions: To encourage and empower cast/crew members to use their talents for social good — not only in our show but going forward in their lives. Many of our Act Up alumni of over 100 people have become strong advocates for social conversation and advocacy, and many have pursued paths to illuminate discussion in their schools and communities.

Q: Who are the biggest players in your success?

A: Actors, crew members and technicians are crucial to the success of every Act Up show. Leaders who guide the actors, crew members and technicians towards a unified creative vision are key roles that are crucial to the success of every Act Up show. For this summer’s show “Dogfight” the three key leaders are:

Craig A. Ellingson, director and choreographer: Craig Ellingson brings tremendous experience and a connection with area actors. Craig has been a professor at Minnesota State University Moorhead since 2006.

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Mara Campbell, vocal musical director: Mara Campbell is a veteran performer and educator. Mara holds bachelor's and master's degrees in voice performance.

Lindsay Galbraith, stage manager: Lindsay Galbraith is a freelance stage manager and the current stage manager and prop designer.

Q: How can the community better support you?

A: We would love to have more board members — people who are enthusiastic about musical theater, social justice, social health issues and want to spread the enthusiasm of Act Up Theatre throughout the community.

I’d also encourage people to come to see “Dogfight,” our first summer musical since before the pandemic started.

Q: What’s next for you in the arts community?

A: After “Dogfight,” the next event for Act Up is our annual Cabaret for a Cause, which is held in December to benefit a local organization in need and provide local talent an opportunity to perform during the holiday season. Cabaret for a Cause events have raised funds and awareness for a number of area organizations, including the new Americans refugee program of Lutheran Social Services/Immigration and Refugee Service, Kaleidoscope LGBTQ youth program, YWCA Car Seats for Kids and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

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Act Up Theatre will perform "Dogfight" June 28-30.
Contributed / Act Up Theatre

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'Dogfight' Cast (Role — Played by)

Rose Fenny — Katie Hanson
Marcy — Becca Koerner
Eddie Birdlace — Sam Wisenden
Boland — Zach Lutz
Bernstein — J.J. Daniels
Fector — Lucas Burr
Gibbs — Kimberly McLagan
Lounge Singer — Ryan Scoble
Ensemble — Bailey Medler, Olivia Landsverk, Harrison Timm, Beth Gerner and Adri Kelly

If you go

What: “Dogfight”
When: 7:30 p.m. June 28-30
Where: Roland Dille Center for the Arts, Minnesota State University Moorhead
Tickets: $25 for adults and $20 for students in advance, or $30 and $25 at the door; www.mnstate.edu/tickets or 218-477-2271
Info: https://actuptheatre.org

This article is part of a content partnership with The Arts Partnership, a nonprofit organization cultivating the arts in Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo. For more information, visit http://theartspartnership.net.

This article is part of a content partnership with The Arts Partnership, a nonprofit organization cultivating the arts in Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo. For more information, visit the artspartnership.net.
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