Like many theatre arts practitioners, Scott Brusven can’t help but dabble in all sorts of acts.
Brusven is the new managing artistic director of the Gooseberry Park Players. He’s also Oak Grove Lutheran School’s artistic director of theatre and founding artistic director/producer at Ignite Theatre.
The chief operating officer of Gathered. Boutique Rentals, he’s also a dad, both positions that help guide his inclusive, learning-focused leadership style on the stage. For him, feeling included creates a learning environment unlike any other.
“I’ve worked in theatre since 2005 and have directed, choreographed and produced more than 100 productions,” Brusven said. “And what it comes down to is, whether it’s onstage or backstage, if you are going to find something new inside yourself, you’re going to find it in theatre.”
Brunsvold is confident community theatre is the place for children in particular to “find their people” and voices they wouldn’t have otherwise had the confidence to grow, particularly at Gooseberry Park Players where they put an emphasis on helping individuals feel included and learn.
“I think the theater home is where you’ve got that opportunity to find yourself and find your people, and you get the opportunity to be yourself,” he said.
Brusven said he often sees children’s and teens’ skills and abilities to learn completely transformed.
“Theatre is so much more than acting. Your ability to just stand in front of a room and be a public speaker,” he said, “goes through the roof.”
Cast and crew perform in Gooseberry Park Players’ rendition of “Beauty and the Beast.”
Brusven also joined Gooseberry because of its longstanding reputation as a stage set for teaching and helping connect performers. One of his main focuses for the near future is building up education classes, from voice coaching to set building to sound engineering.
All programming at Gooseberry is fee-free. Spring sessions begin in June and coincide with the summer production of “The Descendants.”
“I believe enriching their education enriches their performance,” he said. “And so those students are going to be connecting to the principles and techniques of how to be a good performer. And then we’re going to be mixing and acting classes throughout that process as well.”
Gooseberry participants get a dose of the technical side of theatre, as well, as part of Brusven’s education philosophy is for everyone to know the ins and outs of a production no matter what their role might be.
“Every hour of every day will be some sort of education program,” he said. “Students who are more inclined in being part of the technical side of the theatre will learn how to set lights and help make sound design come to life. Others will paint sets and even learn how to sew costumes.”
“I really think that the community that we’ve built at Gooseberry is where people want to come in and be and hang out and be part of that. No matter the show title. And I think that goes to me that speaks volumes to what the organization has done over the last 40 years is they have cultivated this place where people get to come and be themselves without any judgment,” Brusven said.
It’s something Gooseberry Board President DeAnn Hallaway has seen firsthand when she and her family first got involved with Gooseberry Park Players when her two children signed up for programming. Their first production: “Beauty and the Beast” in 2019.
Hallaway, who is a Bell Bank credit officer team lead by day, credits the stage for igniting a passion in her kids they might otherwise have experienced. Likewise, she’s finding friends of her own, too.
“Our focus is we want to be inclusive, no matter your ability, or whatever the case may be. We do a lot of these team bonding events, and by the end of the program, I mean, they’re best friends and they can’t wait to go to each other’s shows and help support each other in their community,” Hallaway said.
Members of the Gooseberry Park Players summer group spend intense hours studying, practicing and performing on stage and off. It’s a process Scott Brusven said helps students find their voices.
‘The Descendants’ musical coming this summer
Growth and learning are Brusven’s main tools as he takes the helm at Gooseberry, beginning with a summer performance of “The Descendants,” an ambitious Disney-themed musical that requires dozens of actors aged 11-18.
“It’ll be the first company in the community to do the full-length version of the Disney musical,” Brusven said. “It’s an explosion of young energy and more of that contemporary-driven musical much more like a high school musical derived dance idea.”
Auditions for the July performances are scheduled March 26, 27 and 30 at Oak Grove Lutheran School, and everyone is welcome to try out. Interested families are encouraged to check out the company’s website at https://www.gooseberryparkplayers.org/ for more information.
“I hope everybody who shows up is going to be in the show. That would be my goal is for us to then figure out how we’re going to do that. You know if we have 100 kids in the show, we have 100 kids on this show, and we’ll make the ensembles work ,” Brusven said. “I think that anybody who wants to give this a go should come out and try it.”
About the author
Lonna Whiting is a freelance writer and owner of lonna.co, a content marketing and communications agency located in Fargo, North Dakota. She is a frequent contributor to The Arts Partnership’s content library and also provides strategic communications consultation to the organization.