In 2013, when longtime actor Reed Sigmund and his wife, Autumn, were looking for their forever home, they chose Stillwater.
The couple, living in Eagan, had often come to Stillwater to walk by the river, visit the apple orchard and stroll downtown.
“We loved everything about Stillwater,” Sigmund said.
They knew that committing to Stillwater would mean committing to a 40- to 60-minute commute to and from Minneapolis, where both Sigmund and his wife were full-time company members of the Children’s Theatre Company.
“But the quality of life was worth it,” Sigmund said.
They decided Stillwater would be a good place to live and raise their two sons.
Now, Stillwater has become a good place to work as well. Sigmund, 43, has been hired as The Zephyr Theatre’s new education programming director.
His first day on the job was May 10, and he was thrown into the last-minute prep work for “In the Spotlight: Hollywood Drive-in Musical!” Presented on the outdoor stage at The Zephyr.
The stars of the multi-night performances of songs from “Newsies,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Jungle Book” and “Mary Poppins” were elementary school students.
The audiences were parents and siblings, watching from cars in the parking lot with sound coming from a radio connection, just like a drive-in movie theatre.
The program was one of the extracurricular classes offered through Stillwater Community Education and taught by professionals from The Zephyr Theatre.
Sigmund’s new job will include coordinating with more community ed programs, developing curriculum for The Zephyr’s in-school programs, and collaborating and teaching with Cassidy Hall, director of The Zephyr’s Young Actors Theatre.
“I want to help create opportunities for students to take their first steps into theatre arts,” he said.
Sigmund was born and raised in Fargo, North Dakota, which he admits is not exactly a hot-bed of theatre activity beyond school plays. He values his exposure to theatre arts at Trollwood Performing Arts School in Moorhead, where he took a few classes.
As a student at the University of Minnesota in 1998, he was on track to become a child psychologist, but that plan got derailed. Missing the camaraderie — and fun— of being around actors, Sigmund auditioned for a role in at university theater department production. He got a part, and he got hooked again on theater.
In 2000, both he and Autumn, whom he’d met in the theatre department at the U, became apprentices at the Children’s Theatre Company. Two years later, both became full-time company members, joining an elite cast of only three other adult actors.
That started a 21-year career at the CTC that included his favorite role — the cold-hearted Grinch in Dr. Seuss’ “How the Grinch Who Stole Christmas.” He portrayed The Mean One four times during the decades.
Sigmund, a fun-loving and wildly physical actor, also had CTC roles in “Aladdin,” “Cinderella,” “The Ugly Duckling” and “A Year With Frog and Toad.” He has been a member of the Actors’ Equity Association since 2005.
“CTC has had an immeasurable effect on the Twin Cities theatre scene,” the proud company member said. “So many kids see shows there each year, and for many of them, it’s their first experience seeing professional theatre. CTC has helped create and inspire generations of theatre-goers.”
Sigmund remembers meeting Calyssa Hall, The Zephyr’s executive director, in 2017 or 2018. What struck him about their conversation was their shared vision for a professional theatre in Stillwater. Providing local, easily accessible theatre opportunities for children — high quality like that available at CTC — was part of her dream.
“I wanted to be part of that,” Sigmund said.
This busy actor added teaching to his resume in 2007. While in a touring production of “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” at CTC, he visited local elementary schools to teach storytelling and acting techniques.
In 2008, he taught weeklong acting workshops at CTC, and then annually taught summer courses and camps at CTC. In 2017, Sigmund and his wife became co-teachers for the year-one students in CTC’s Acting Institute program.
Sigmund will bring his acting experience and teaching credentials to his first big assignment at The Zephyr — an intensive three-week “boot camp” in June. During this community ed program, he will help teach kids entering grades three through nine to sing, dance, and act like wild animals in “Madagascar Jr.”
Among the theatre “campers” will be Sigmund’s boys — Sawyer, 11, and Sullivan Twain, 7 — who have already enrolled.
Still, this veteran actor is not giving up his work at the Children’s Theatre Company. He’s confident he can stay on the stage in Minneapolis while working full time at The Zephyr. Besides, he said, he’s already used to the commute.
Upcoming theatre camp
Marty the zebra, Melman the giraffe, Alex the lion, and Gloria the hippo will sing and dance their way into adventure in “Madagascar Jr.” in Stillwater this summer. And there is still time for eager actors entering grades three through nine to join the theatre fun.
The youth theatre program offered through Stillwater Community Education and taught by Zephyr Theatre professionals will be an intensive “boot camp.” The program will be held weekdays June 5-25 at Stillwater Area High School. Performances will be held June 25-27 at the high school.
Registration fee $179. For more information, go to commed.stillwaterschools.org/theatre.