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Oles in the workforce: Children’s Theatre Company

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Located next to the Minneapolis Institute of the Arts, Children’s Theatre Company is home to many Oles who have found careers within the theater industry. Children’s Theatre Company Chief Operating Officer Ryan French ’94 and Children’s Theatre Company Music Director Denise Prosek ’90 told The Olaf Messenger in a phone interview about their career journeys thus far and their experience working on “A Year With Frog and Toad.”

 

Prosek’s career started immediately via a professor at St. Olaf.

 

“I met Anita Ruth through a vocal auditioning course, and was able to connect with her right out of school,” Prosek said. 

 

Ruth has been the musical director at the Chanhassen Dinner Theaters for over 80 productions and has been very involved in the Twin Cities’ performance scene for over 35 years. Needless to say, she was the connection that Prosek was looking for. 

 

“Anita Ruth gave me a couple jobs and handed my name around, and pretty soon I was assistant music directing and working under a couple different composers, and they said ‘you need to direct music,’ and then a friend from Grand Rapids, Peter Rothstein, came to town and we went on from there,” Prosek continued. 

 

Prosek founded Theater Latté Da — ­a musical theater company — with Peter Rothstein and has earned awards from the Star Tribune, Lavender, and elsewhere.

 

In comparison to Prosek, French had a slightly different road to his career.

 

“It wasn’t a straight line to my career, but the resources on campus were different when I graduated,” French said. 

 

During his time on the Hill, the Piper Center had not yet been established. However, the network he started on campus was extremely valuable. 

“To say I’m an Ole that can think critically and creatively and I have all of these skills is huge,” French said. 

 

Furthermore, French said that he is glad there is such a strong sense of community at St. Olaf and that being able to “reach out Ole to Ole makes the door open a lot more often, and open a lot easier.”

 

When asked if Prosek appreciated when recent graduates reach out, she said, “Yes, absolutely. For anything, anything at all.” Both Prosek and French were in agreement that alumni relations are an important part of post-school career building. 

 

rozell1@stolaf.edu

 

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Denise Prosek was previously a professor at St. Olaf College. Additionally, Children’s Theatre Company is located next to the Minneapolis Institute of the Arts, not in it.