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Hennepin Theatre Trust announces the 2020-2021 Spotlight Education honors recognizing the accomplishments of theater programs and students from Minnesota high schools

June 14, 2021

Minneapolis (June 14, 2021) — Hennepin Theatre Trust has announced the theater accomplishments of students and schools participating in the Trust’s Spotlight Education program for the 2020-2021 academic year. As the Trust’s premier education program, Spotlight Education supports and honors Minnesota high school students and programs focused on theater.

Eighty-three high schools throughout Minnesota currently participate in Spotlight Education programming, and schools that produced a musical or play this year had their production assessed by theater professionals and educators on behalf of the Trust. These critiques provided detailed educational feedback for the students and directors in categories ranging from overall production to individual performances. This year, 48 schools are being recognized for the extraordinary achievements and process of developing the young artists, onstage and offstage, in their high school theater program.

“For the arts to be recognized during this pandemic really helped the students understand the gravity of their work. We really missed an audience, but Spotlight provided that insight,” said Jodene Wartman, co-director at Eagan High School. “The students can never be given enough feedback, support or measurement for their growth. Our school finds the assessment invaluable. The positive and supportive critiques were geared toward student growth and future possibilities.”

This year’s Spotlight Education honorees include students and productions from the following Minnesota high schools:

  • Andover High School, Clue: On Stage High School Version, Schoolhouse Rock Live
  • Benilde-St. Margaret’s High School (St. Louis Park): Brighter Days
  • Blaine High School: The Wizard of Oz
  • Buffalo High School: A Tapestry of Hope: Our Gift to the Community
  • Columbia Heights High School: The Wizard of Oz
  • Concordia Academy (Roseville): Urinetown
  • Coon Rapids High School: Almost, Maine, Into The Woods
  • DeLaSalle High School (Minneapolis): The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
  • Eagan High School: Les Misérables: High School Edition
  • Fridley High School: All Shook Up
  • Hill-Murray School (Maplewood): Godspell
  • Hinckley-Finlayson High School: The Invisible Man
  • Hutchinson High School: Singin in the Rain
  • Irondale High School (New Brighton): Heaven Help the Po Taters, High School Musical
  • Kennedy High School (Bloomington): High School Musical
  • Lakes International Language Academy (Forest Lake): Matilda the Musical
  • Lakeville South High School: The Addams Family: Quarantined Concert Version
  • Little Falls Community High School: The Theory of Relativity
  • Mahtomedi High School: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Curtains, Mamma Mia!
  • Math and Science Academy (Woodbury): The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
  • Minnehaha Academy: Junie B. Jones the Musical, Museum
  • Minnetonka High School: Something Rotten!
  • Mound Westonka High School: All in the Timing
  • Mounds Park Academy (St. Paul): Almost, Maine, A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  • North Branch Area High School: Grease
  • North High School (North St. Paul): Chicago
  • Orono High School: You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown
  • Owatonna High School: One Man, Two Guvnors
  • Park High School (Cottage Grove): The Theory of Relativity
  • Pierz-Healy High School: Little Shop of Horrors (2003 Broadway Edition)
  • PiM Arts High School (Eden Prairie): The Addams Family
  • Prior Lake High School: The Birds, Honk
  • Rogers High School: Virtual Musical Mash-Up
  • Sartell High School: The Addams Family: Concert Version
  • Southwest Christian High School (Chaska): Annie
  • Spring Lake Park High School: Spamalot
  • Francis High School: Shrek, The Covid Cabaret: Writing and Singing through a Global Pandemic
  • Michael-Albertville High School: Legally Blonde
  • Paul Academy and Summit School (St. Paul): Under Milkwood
  • Stillwater Area High School: Illumination 2021
  • Thomas Edison High School (Minneapolis): Cyrano de Bergerac
  • Thomas Jefferson High School (Bloomington): Beauty and the Beast
  • Totino-Grace High School (Fridley): Little Women
  • Vista Productions/Theatre Department of Visitation School and Saint Thomas Academy (Mendota Heights): The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Sweet Land the Musical
  • Waconia High School: Spoon River, Little Women
  • Wayzata High School: The Drowsy Chaperone
  • Woodbury High School: You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown
  • Zimmerman High School: Clue The Musical

For a complete list of all individual student honors, please visit the Trust’s online Media Center at

On Tuesday, June 15 at 6:30 p.m., schools will be formally recognized during Spotlight Showcase 2021: Spotlight Belongs To Us. Winners will also be announced for the Triple Threat Broadway Experience and the Technical Theater Career Pathway awards. Spotlight Showcase 2021: Spotlight Belongs To Us is the Trust’s annual event that formally recognizes the extraordinary achievements, hard work and talents of the students and educators who make up the vibrant high school theater community across Minnesota. The professionally filmed event will be streamed online and feature both live and pre-recorded content. This year’s uplifting theme, Spotlight Belongs To Us, celebrates the spirit of unity among all participants in the Spotlight Education network.

The suggested donation to watch Spotlight Showcase 2021: Spotlight Belongs To Us is $15 which supports future Spotlight Education programming. Register at to make your donation and receive your viewing link.

Tuesday June 15 6:30 p.m. Online

The evening will begin at 6:30 p.m. with a live pre-show event with students, guests and a few surprises. At 7 p.m., Spotlight Showcase 2021: Spotlight Belongs To Us will feature a variety of performances, honors, and guest appearances filmed at host schools and venues around the state; including Hennepin Avenue in front of the State Theatre in the Hennepin Theatre District in downtown Minneapolis. The newly-announced Triple Threat winners will close out the evening with a special livestreaming performance.

Through Spotlight Education, the Trust is able to provide high-quality learning, performing and creative experiences for students with production assessments, masterclasses, and theater review writing increasing equitable access to quality theater education.

Spotlight Education is the only program of its kind in the state and provides valuable experiences for more than 8,000 high school students throughout Minnesota each year. These activities help foster essential life skills such as collaboration, critical thinking, problem-solving and self-expression, which students carry into their adult lives.

Due to COVID-19, Trust organizers have adapted its flagship educational program to fit varying needs of students and high schools according to their classroom models. “The pandemic has challenged us to think more innovatively which has actually enabled us to provide increased access to quality theater education,” said Mark Nerenhausen, Hennepin Theatre Trust president and CEO, Hennepin Theatre Trust.

This year, all engagement with schools and students has temporarily transferred to online platforms due to COVID-19. “We have been working with each of our schools providing guidance and encouragement as they navigate this situation,” said Ari Koehnen Sweeney, director of education for the Trust.  “We are grateful for the continued excitement and ongoing support of our participating schools, instructors and students and have experienced very little disruption of going to a virtual space.”

Spotlight Education students receive professional training and guidance to enhance their artistic, technical and performing skills. While traditionally conducted in person, this year all program activities are conducted online. This wide-ranging program has five key components:

Spotlight schools enhance their own theater curriculum through masterclasses and workshops. Students gain insights and inspiration from local and touring theater professionals covering topics such as audition techniques, theater resume building and technical skills.

Community Conversations
Spotlight teaching artists facilitate community conversations for directors and students on a variety of topics in a safe, inclusive space to discuss and share experiences leading to future programming, resources and conversations. The conversations also explore issues they face in their local communities.

Critical Review
This program gives high school students the opportunity to attend and review Broadway productions. A writing program, Critical Review enhances critical thinking and creative response skills. Students receive press kits for each show and attend workshops led by experts in the field on topics ranging from lighting design to choreography.

Production Assessments
Spotlight arranges for trained theater professionals and educators to assess participating schools’ theater productions. The production assessment is an educational tool to encourage, inspire and enhance Spotlight schools’ theater programs and strengthen the skills of student artists — onstage and offstage.

Spotlight Showcase event
Spotlight Showcase is a professionally produced  celebratory event highlighting the hard work and talent of students, educators, families, and supporters who are part of the vibrant high school theater community across Minnesota. In addition to the show-stopping performances, Spotlight Showcase features honors, nominations, awards, and guest appearances by alumni, donors, and sponsors. It’s the culmination of year-long evaluation, a rigorous rehearsal process, and collaboration with professional theater makers.  Spotlight Showcase 2021: Spotlight Belongs To Us will celebrate the spirit of unity among all who participate in the Spotlight Education network and provide an “on-set” theatrical experience for students.

For more information about Spotlight Education, please visit

Spotlight Education is made possible with support from PNC Bank, Sun Country Airlines, Hilton and United Properties.

Follow Spotlight Education at:
Twitter: @spotlightMN
Instagram: @spotlight_MN
Facebook: /SpotlightMN

Hennepin Theatre Trust drives cultural and economic vitality in Minnesota through leadership of the dynamic Hennepin Theatre District in downtown Minneapolis and educational programming that reaches every area of the state. Its historic theatres — Orpheum, State and Pantages — and event center at 900 Hennepin Avenue light up Hennepin Avenue with top-tier entertainment, including the best of Broadway and a wide variety of arts programming. Hennepin Theatre Trust is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization. Learn more at

This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Support grant, thanks to legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.