The theater’s Executive Artistic Director Calyssa Hall, of Afton, Minnesota, was trained in theater at the University of Wisconsin at River Falls. She has been a working theater director and educator for several years and in 2013 she founded what is now called Only a Dim Image Productions. Her company has produced plays at venues including the Southern, Ritz and Music Box theaters in Minneapolis, including the classics “Gigi,” “Lady be Good!” and “The Philadelphia Story,” and premieres of “A Season for Vivaldi” and “Jacob’s Ladder.”
She started the search for her company’s own theater house in the St. Croix Valley in 2016 and, by the end of that year, like a savvy casting director she had assembled a nine-member board of trustees, a large advisory board of artists, and secured a purchase agreement to buy the Zephyr Depot. Thus the company began doing business as The Zephyr Theatre. Since then Hall has gathered more than 100 fund raising “stage hands” and other volunteers.
The dream of a Stillwater theater started with the efforts of well-known and beloved Stillwater community member Norman Steere, who recruited arts lovers that campaigned for a theater for at least two decades. Steere died in 2016 at age 89; the community then embraced Hall and her team as its new torch bearers.
Since 2016, The Zephyr Theatre has produced numerous performances in Stillwater including “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in local parks in the summer of 2017, and children’s plays including “The Lion King Jr.” and “Mulan” at Stillwater Area High School’s auditorium, all attracting large audiences. The theater company also has hosted and produced many concerts, films, literary readings, dance performances and community events in its building.
Quote from a board member
“As a member of the board of trustees for The Zephyr Theatre who has been watching its development from the start, I see this performing arts center providing the greater community a place where both friends and strangers become connected, and leveled as witnesses to the artistic interpretation of life’s stories,” said Elissa Cottle. “This is possible in a space The Zephyr Theatre renders intimate, surprising, funny and tragic, through speech, song, fabric, and moving parts human and created by human hands.”
Quotes from Zephyr Theatre donors
“From learning about this theater project, our family anticipates something spectacular in the old Zephyr Depot. The theater really makes sense to support,” said Brock Ehnert of Stillwater, a Zephyr Theatre donor, who serves on the city’s River Market Community Co-op board of directors. “It fits the space well and correlates with downtown Stillwater’s vision, and people in this area who love art, history and entertainment. The Zephyr Theatre’s creativity and talent will likely gain regional and national attention, bound to become a must-stop destination while visiting the St. Croix Valley.”
“The Zephyr Theatre holds a lot of history, and as a theater it will bring both history and modern times alive through theater, music, dance and the building itself,” said Louise Watson of Stillwater, an arts enthusiast and environmental champion, leading the nonprofit Sustainable Stillwater. She and her husband Bob Floyd are among Zephyr donors.
“The Zephyr Theatre is a great addition to downtown Stillwater. I love our community and I love live theater!” said Erica Oesterreich, who, with her husband Pete, are also on the Zephyr’s long donor roster.