Interview - Owen Schmidt

Interview: Owen Schmidt, Arts & Theatre Educator, Merely Players -
11th January 2004

Media Man Australia continues to explore the arts and theatrical world.

Greg: What is your background?

Owen: Well the background question depends on the qualifier. Under personal I would say I was a pre-WWII baby raised with all the values that entails. I had a less than enviable youth with being fat and a smartass. I did however manage to finish High School, second from the bottom of my class, and avoided education in the common sense until I was in my thirties.

Marriage and Parenthood came with my Military service. It was a view of my prospects, as a under employed father of two beautiful girls and the husband of an equally beautiful wife that sent me back to Academia and the choices it offered. I attended college year around, for three years and carrying a large load of classes got me a Bachelors degree in Theater Arts, and History with honors.

Theater and History were a passions of a sort, but I was never able to turn either into a career. I did however co-found a Community Theatre here in Mankato, Minnesota in 1981. My Partner in this venture, Gretchen Etzell, was an English Teacher in my children's High School and a most capable Director.

Gretchen was a teacher of English Literature, and suggested the Bards line "and all the men and women are Merely Players….etc."

Greg: What motivates you?

Owen: Well I would have to say it is my dislike of pop culture. There is a great deal to be said for MTV, but not a the cost art. I had the feeling that we should offer options to the "World according to Disney", and the top flicks. We started the Merely Players to offer a venue that would be affordable to everyone, and give them real value in content and performance.

Greg: What are the highlights of my career?

Owen: Maybe pride would be a better term!. I am proud of my ability to design sets for ever space I have been given. I started in a state of the art facility at my College. It had all the space and mechanicals one could dream of and a budget to match. I have had a corner in a Student Union at the same college.

I was the Technical advisor to a small Lutheran college taking them from a Field House Basketball court to a beautiful new performing arts center. I have literally taken the Merely Players from zero the a respected, though ragtag, venue in our region. Anyone who has been evolved in volunteer efforts knows its always the money, always.

Greg: What do you do on a day to day basis?

Owen: I am a retired State Employee. I spent the last 29 years of work life, until 1999 as an employment counselor for the State of Minnesota.

Greg: How does the web help you?

Owen: As much as anything on the Web, we get the attention of the Theatre going public. The Web by itself is useless unless we point people to it, and that we do with all of out publicity budget. We publish nothing without our Web and Email address on it. We make no commercial or PSA without it.

It is a lesson learned early that the Web is not a utility until you make it so. There is now an expectation on our part that a larger and larger percentage of out ticket sales will come from out Web site, because we tell people it's easy and fast.

Greg: What media coverage have you received and what was it for?

Owen: Well the silliest was because we moved our entire audience to the basement of the Community Center we are in due to a Tornado Alert. We moved them for protection from the storm, and entertained them there with song and dance and one very bad Magician. When the all clear was sounded, we went on with the show (Godspell) without losing any of the audience. I was picked up by the Associated Press.

Greg: Did you have any Mentors?

Owen: I did, and do, as I am probably considered a mentor by others whom I helped. My most reliable Mentor was my Theater arts Professor Jacque Reidelberger, though also retired, still my friend and advisor. I will always be a better man for knowing him, in many ways.

Greg: What Artists and Performers do you respect the most and why?

Owen: Due to my age (64) many of my favorites are dead or lost. I am a Classical music lover, a Jazz lover, a devotee of the Bauhaus and much of what the 20's and 30's had wrought, despite the fact I was born in the 40's.

More current favorites revolve around musical theater and science fiction. There is allot of reason to bemoan the output of the Television industry, and the POP music scene to me is vulgar and base. As a rule, there is much too much offered about celebrities lives than I want to know about them. (old fashion huh?)

Greg: What positive change have you to the world?

Owen: I don't own a gun.

Greg: What do you do to unwind?

Owen: I listen to music allot. I love Public Radio. I am a Amateur Radio Operator (HAM) which gives me much pleasure. Well I told you I live a rather unremarkable life. I hope you find my answers sufficient.


Editors note: Merely Players lives through dedicated and inspirational creative artists such as Owen. I urge our readers to continue to support local talent, so one day they might have a shot at making a full time career at the world of theatrical arts.


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