New Theater Spawns New Connections

Ben and Amanda

Ben Thietje and Amanda White

The vision that Amanda White ’02 and Ben Thietje ’01 share for a professional theater in rural Minnesota is getting its first run this summer—and they’re eager to show it off to their fellow Minnesota State University, Mankato alumni.

The New Prague-based DalekoArts theater company planned its first Maverick Alumni Night with a performance of “Forever Plaid” on Saturday, July 13. A post-show discussion will follow, and patrons can expect a question or two about why two Twin Cities theater veterans wanted to start a professional company an hour’s drive from Minneapolis (hence the name: Daleko is Czech for “far away”).

The idea, they say, came from their experiences and observations as Minnesota State Mankato theater students and the role alumni played in their careers afterward.

The University has long enjoyed a thriving market for professional caliber theater outside of St. Paul and Minneapolis. The box office support they witnessed in Mankato made a lasting impression on White and Thietje, who met in a 1997 Highland Summer Theatre production of “Grease.”

After finishing college, the two married and worked in Twin Cities theater circles as actors, educators and administrators. White obtained a master’s degree in arts administration while Thietje continued acting. The two also founded a small Minneapolis-based theater group that still produces a show each year for the annual Fringe Festival.

Through it all, White and Thietje routinely worked with Minnesota State Mankato theater alumni, which played a role in their decision to start DalekoArts.

“We had such an awesome network of fellow artists and theater instructors from our past who we wanted to be involved with again,” White says from the couple’s home in St. Paul. “So for us it’s a way of showing our gratitude for what we took away from Minnesota State Mankato and what we learned from our professors and fellow alum.”

Cast members of "Forever Plaid" are (back row, left to right) Bobby Gardner (also a Minnesota State Mankato alum), Ben Thietje and Tom Karki. In front is Toby Thietje

Cast members of “Forever Plaid” are (back row, left to right) Bobby Gardner (also a Minnesota State Mankato alum), Ben Thietje and Tom Karki. In front is Toby Thietje

DalekoArts opened this summer with “The Odd Couple” (featuring Twin Cities actor and Minnesota State Mankato alum E.J. Subkoviak). Results were encouraging; patrons came not only from New Prague but surrounding towns as well—including Mankato.

Opening the doors to alumni with a night in their honor is both a tribute to the past and an invitation to future experiences in theater, Thietje says. He hopes attendees leave with a new connection to fellow alumni—and to DalekoArts.

White says DalekoArts patrons can expect to see Minnesota State Mankato alumni involved in future productions. While the theater wasn’t founded as a showcase for Minnesota State Mankato alumni, she says that it could become just that.

“As luck would have it, many of our friends who went through the Minnesota State Mankato program with us happen to be the best artists we know,” White says. “So it worked out really beautifully that way.”

Maverick Alumni Night is at 7:30 Saturday, July 13 at the New Prague Middle School theater, the temporary home for DalekoArts productions.