The Brave Community Theatre of Spring Valley, MN, will mark forty-nine years of theater in just a few weeks with its first production of 2021. A Night at the Theater is a play about two couples who make it a point to attend some form of live entertainment together each week, and this week’s selection, Shakespeare’s Hamlet, much to the chagrin of several group members. “This is a truly unique production,” explains Jeffrey Thauwald, cast member and long-time theater member. “We performed this play 20 years ago, and believe it or not, we have three of the original cast members, Rob Johnson, Sarah Kohn, and me reprising our original roles.”
Over 1000 participants have taken part in Brave Community Theatre (BCT) productions in various capacities in its nearly five-decade history. Founder and Spring Valley native Debi Neville first had the idea to start a theater group after getting married and returning to Spring Valley from Minneapolis. “I wanted to find something locally that I was passionate about,” says Neville, adding that she had studied theater in college. She was able to start BCT with a $250 donation, and the rest, she will tell you with a smile, is history.
Brave Community Theatre’s first production, A Roaring 20’s Scrapbook, was held on the vaudeville-style stage of the old theater in downtown Spring Valley. Neville mentions that many of the roles for men had to be played by women. “There were few men interested in being a part of the production, and in fact, one female cast member played three different roles in that first production.” Despite the challenges of casting its first production, Brave Community Theatre sold out its Friday and Saturday shows at $.50 per ticket and even performed a Sunday matinee. Since then, Brave Community Theatre has continued to surprise people, having performed dinner theater, traveled to other communities for performances, done theater in the round and even performed outside in the rain.
Throughout the years, classics such as Paint Your Wagon, Fiddler on the Roof, Camelot and others have been performed in downtown Spring Valley. When asked if she has a favorite, Neville leans back and smiles, fondly remembering countless productions over the years. “The Night of January 16th, by Ayn Rand, was unique,” she recalls. The play takes place in a courtroom during a murder trial. The members of the audience are chosen to play the jury. The ending of the play depends on the verdict of the audience member. As a result, the play actually has two endings. “Several cast members played roles that they lived in real life; the police officer was played by a local police officer, and a local judge played the judge. The third night we had a hung jury and had to perform both endings.
When asked if she ever thought that Brave Community Theatre would be successful for this long, Neville admits that there is no way she could have imagined it. She adds that it has been a major part of her life and that of her family. “It is very rewarding to learn that many past cast and crew are involved in theater and performance in some way in their present lives.”
Brave Community Theatre is proud to be the oldest self-supporting community theater in Minnesota. As a non-profit, 501c (3), its mission is to promote theatre and the arts and is organized exclusively for charitable purposes. Brave Community Theatre is always looking for adults and young people to be a part of the theater in any capacity that they would like to participate. “We have been fortunate to be able to involve our Kingsland School District students in many of our productions,” says Thauwald. “Not only do we need them to cast many of these productions, but they allow us to remain a true community theatre.”
Brave Community Theatre’s presentation of A Night at the Theater will be playing February 10-13 at the Spring Valley Community Center. Performances begin at 7:00 PM each night. Social Distancing and COVID-19 protocols will be in place. For more information, please visit the Brave Community Theatre website at BCT (google.com) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.