Since Brosius arrived in 1997, CTC has become such a part of the Twin Cities arts culture that it might be difficult to find someone it hasn’t affected. CTC garnered a prestigious regional Tony Award in 2003 for the theater, launched (along with Jack Zipes) the Neighborhood Bridges program, cast a vision for wider access to theater for disadvantaged youth, and in 2005 completed a campaign to expand CTC’s facilities. These are just some of the many ways Brosius has been instrumental in building the world’s leading theater for young people.
Brosius grew up in Riverside, Calif., one of a widowed mother’s four children. His mother worked as a secretary by day and brought her children with her to the community theater at night. From age 7 to 14, Brosius acted in plays with adults who treated him as an equal and gave the young boy a sense of community. “We felt a little like oddballs,” he says of his childhood, “I didn’t know anyone like me, without a father, and it bred a certain compassion in me.”
As artistic director, he has taken the theater in new directions and has expanded its literal and figurative footprint in Minnesota and beyond. But it was a certain sense of awareness that he developed during his youth that seems to undergird his wide-ranging vision for the theater and the arts as a whole today.
In his later teens, he became more politically aware, like many young people during the Vietnam War. What he experienced during that time also echoes in the vision for his present life’s work.
“I was at an anti-war demonstration in Berkeley,” he recounts. “We were on a side street and I looked around and was disheartened by what seemed like a small turnout. We marched up the street anyway and when we turned the corner I saw people hanging out of every building, also concerned about what was happening with this war.” That experience gave him a sense of the power of community.
It’s no wonder that Brosius’ commitment to CTC is also based on tapping into the idea that childhood is an important time for the development of lifelong skills.
“Today we are in competition with Call of Duty or Netflix, with increasing demands of how people spend their time,” he says; in response he pours energy and resources into CTC to create a place where art can be a powerful tool to develop “communal experience that asks people to be present, to be in this moment.”
For Brosius, the mission is a significant one. He says, “Young people will re-imagine the future. It is our job to not just impact the kids, but recognize that we impact everyone they touch, including families, teachers and schools.” He calls the critical time of childhood a “crucible,” and says, “We give them an opportunity to see that they can be agents of change and the deep moral sense of what it is to be human.”
It takes a talented team to create an environment that has both the audience and participants in mind, and essentially, CTC has accomplished some of its best work by throwing open its doors to as many people as possible to participate in workshops and view stage productions. It has even given birth to new plays by seeking out new voices and talents to create theater.
Sonja Parks, an actress who has worked with Brosius many times over the years, reflects on her own experience developing Seedfolk with Brosius and Elissa Adams. “When we developed the show together, it was very collaborative,” Parks says. Out of that collaboration grew the one-woman show that went on national and international tour, most recently returning from South Africa.
“Peter is kind of special,” says Parks, “He is willing to put himself out there and take the company in new directions.”
Dean Holt, an actor who has been with CTC since 1994, says, “Peter has always wanted to know how to access family and kids while asking, ‘How well do we tell the story?’ He wants to open new doors for everyone.”
Kimberly Motes, the managing director at CTC, also notes, “Peter is committed to asking how can the work we do have a life beyond our stage. He is an incredibly open leader who is great about batting around ideas.”
Collaboration, actually, is a recurring theme when talking with actors and co-workers about Brosius’ leadership style. Even 12-year-old Natalie Tran, an actress who has worked with him in many shows, mentions this quality. “He encourages the actors to share their ideas, which is good. He knows exactly what he wants.”
Brosius thinks of CTC as a laboratory where actors and attendees all have a say, and their opinions and reactions matter. He says, “For me, personally, my most exciting in the pocket moments is when a 14-year-old says, ‘What about this?’ And it’s a killer idea.”
Holt sums up Brosius’ mentality well, “Peter is not a know-it-all and he is always willing to listen.”
Behind his selfless guidance is always the bigger goal, “We can impact someone for life,” he says. “We must keep going after this aim. The arts ask us to be lifelong learners.” Working with and for young people to inspire this endeavor is what makes the work significant. “If we do our work right,” says Brosius, “we are like the pebble in a pond,” creating ripples of deep thought and responding to one another in an empathetic and conscientious way.
Teresa Eyring, who worked with Brosius for 7½ years as the managing director of CTC, says, “Peter has always put his money where his mouth is. He always made sure that the artistry was as inclusive as possible and has worked intentionally to achieve that goal.”
Eyring has a national vantage point from which to view Brosius’ influence. She is now the executive director of the Theatre Communications Group, a national arts organization that publishes plays, maintains an industry magazine and awards grants and advocates on behalf of the theatre arts.
“The community is lucky to have had him for two decades,” she says of Brosius’ work. “He is really quite exceptional and has brought work to the stage from some of the best in the field today.”
And where has Brosius lived during his time in Minnesota? Why, Edina, of course. What brought him here? “Well,” he says, “I was touring schools and visited Highlands. I was walking down the hall with a visitor badge on. A teacher came crashing out of the classroom and said to me, ‘You’ve got to see what is going on in here!’ ” Brosius went into the continuous progress classroom at Highlands and saw “a place that encouraged project-based learning, critical thinking, collaborative learning.”
He knew he had found the school for his two children and a new home for his own vision at CTC. Now, 20 years in, he is still just as passionate about his work with young people, and while he says, “I’m quieter now, more reflective,” he also adds, “We still get to influence the conversation and the field. This is a field that will touch a lot of families. We are serious about it. We can impact someone for life.”
Well done, Mr. Brosius. On with the show!
- Tony Award for Regional Theatre Excellence
- Three Tony Nominations for A Year with Frog and Toad
- Named the No. 1 children’s theatre in the nation by Time Magazine
- 2013 Ivey Award for Best Director
- 2013 and 2016 Ivey Awards for Best Production
- Launched preschool programming for the theatre beginning in 2005
Children’s Theatre Company
How The Grinch Stole Christmas
Nov. 7, 2017 - Jan. 7, 2018
Buy tickets online, in-person or call 612.874.0400.