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Local director proposes Cottage Grove community theater

Tracy Caponigri wants to start a Cottage Grove community theater but wonders if it could fill a cast and draw an audience.

Caponigri, a Park High School theater director and Hastings resident, is seeking feedback from Cottage Grove-area residents to her plan of launching a volunteer, local theater program.

She has set up an online survey to get local residents' input on her idea and plans to reach out to prospective members of a board of directors. The survey is open to the public at:

Caponigri also plans a meeting next week for people interested in helping to launch a local theater program. She said she researched other local theaters and found that engaged residents are important to a program's success.

"I really have found that the ones that are most successful are the result of community members who come together and decide this is what they want for the community," Caponigri said.

Local residents already can participate in Arts Connection, a theater group serving south Washington County, but it has strong ties to Woodbury and some Cottage Grove theater enthusiasts want to be a part of something closer to home, Caponigri said.

"Some of the members say that they won't go to Woodbury ... they'd like to have something in the community," she said of Park students.

Caponigri envisions a low-budget, volunteer organization of children and adults who want to stage plays in city parks or other facilities that could be rented at little or no cost. The performances would be geared toward children. To keep costs down, the organization initially would stage lesser-known plays that do not require royalty payments, unlike popular musicals. However, there are lots of good stories available as "free scripts," she said.

"We're hoping that we wouldn't need a ton of funding for it," she said. "While these things can take a lot of money, they can also be done to start with cheap."

Caponigri said she does not want to be a rival to Arts Connection or the Black Dirt community theater group in Hastings.

Instead, she said, her plan is simply "for Cottage Grove to really have something they own, they feel is theirs."

The more local theater the better, said Michelle Witte, a leader of Arts Connection, which is working on its own theater construction project at East Ridge High School.

Witte said Arts Connection draws actors from Woodbury and Cottage Grove, as well as other area cities, but Woodbury residents make up a majority of some casts. Witte said her group welcomes anybody who wants to participate, but also is supportive of efforts such as Caponigri's.

"Our communities could certainly handle multiple community theaters," she said.

If you go:

Caponigri's information meeting for the Cottage Grove project will be at 7 p.m. Aug. 16 at Park High School. The meeting will cover basic information about the proposed theater group and allow people to ask questions and sign up to participate. Caponigri also plans to share the results of her online survey, which asks respondents about their level of interest in a new theater, how much they would be willing to pay to see performances and other questions.

For more information, contact Caponigri by email at:

Scott Wente

Scott Wente has been editor at the South Washington County Bulletin since 2011. He worked as a reporter at other Forum Communications newspapers from 2003 to 2011.

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