The Honor of a Lifetime
October 19, 2021
Founder and Executive Director of GREAT Theatre, Dennis Wachtler-Whipple, will be stepping down from his leadership role at the organization and pursuing new opportunities. Dennis has been the extraordinary leader of GREAT Theatre for 24 years.
“It is with joy and gratitude in my heart that I announce that I am stepping down from my role at GREAT Theatre to start a new chapter by relocating to New York with my husband of twenty years, Scott. It has been the honor of a lifetime to be able to work with every board member, staff member, artist, camp family, volunteer, community partner and our amazing audiences over the last 24 years.
GREAT has a highly engaged Board of Directors, a creative and experienced full-time staff of fourteen, and over twenty contract artists making this the right time to transition to new leadership. This brilliant team will continue to work and count on community support to build back from the pandemic and ensure that everyone has access to transformative arts experiences. Now, at a time when the organization is as impactful as ever, is the right time for GREAT to transition to new leadership. I’m ready to take on new challenges personally, and to see GREAT thrive in new ways.” – Dennis Whipple-Wachtler
“Dennis’ ingenuity and incredible drive are unmatchable. His unwavering belief in the power of the arts has given our community a gift bigger than I think even he dreamed possible. For that, there are no words of thanks that can capture the appreciation he deserves.” – Cassie Miles, Board Chair
GREAT Theatre’s Board is forming a search committee to identify a successor. Dennis will remain in his role as the search is being conducted and will assist with the transition through July of 2022.
During Dennis’ Leadership: GREAT Theatre Highlights-
- GREAT has grown from an all volunteer organization founded by youth with an annual budget of $30,000 to that of a $2.1 million budget and a team with a combined 137 years of experience in theatre arts, nonprofit management, and arts education serving 68,000 each year.
- GREAT has built strong relationships and collaborates with 17 Community Education partners to deliver annual summer theatre camps for over 1,800 students at twenty locations throughout central Minnesota.
- GREAT completed a successful capital campaign raising $1.78 Million to purchase and renovate a production facility to house our scene shop, costume shop, administration offices, rehearsal space, and the Helgeson Learning Lab Theatre to create, produce and share the stories of our community.
- GREAT was humbled to be the first community organization to receive the Community Builder Award from the Central Minnesota Community Foundation because “GREAT Theatre connects people from all walks of life to appreciate and celebrate the beauty of art and the theatre…They believe in accessibility and inclusion of all. GREAT Theatre’s constant drive to connect and embrace everyone through the power of the arts is truly inspirational and touches so many lives in our community.”
- GREAT has produced 190 shows, including five world premieres and numerous Minnesota premieres of titles like “Les Miserables,””White Christmas” and “Seussical The Musical”.
- ….and the show will go on!
Making sure GREAT Theatre is doing our part to keep our artists, our staff and volunteers and our community safe has been, and will continue to be, our highest priority. We are committed to doing everything we can to safely perform in-person so our community can experience the joy and connection live theater creates.
The Paramount Center for the Arts will be instituting a required Covid Vaccination/Testing Policy (Proof of Vaccination or Negative Covid Test taken within 72 hours) for everyone age 12+ (artists, volunteers, staff and audiences). This new policy will be effective starting November 1st affecting GREAT’s production of The Sound of Music. Safety policies for the Paramount Center for the Arts can be found HERE.
GREAT Theatre partners with many organizations in our community and adheres to the safety policies and guidelines of other venues while we are in their space, including those most recently announced for the Paramount Center for the Arts. We understand these restrictions, set forth by the venue, may prevent some from attending our performances there. For this reason we ask that guests who don’t feel comfortable attending to please contact us to transfer their ticket to another performance, donate their tickets back to GREAT, or to request a refund or credit on their account. GREAT is also working to find at-home testing kits that we can provide and will share if we are able to secure this resource.
The arts were one of the first industries to be significantly disrupted by the pandemic and that remains a primary challenge. We are grateful to the volunteers, staff, donors, campers and community members who have helped us survive. Thank you for doing your part to help ensure a thriving arts community for generations to come. We will continue to do everything possible to keep our community safe as we rebuild GREAT and ensure everyone in Central Minnesota has access to the transformative power of the arts.
GREAT’s Helgeson Learning Lab Theatre
GREAT remains committed to monitoring the current recommendations, guidelines and restrictions and will continue to follow CDC guidelines and executive orders.