A View of Current Events from Steve Jaeger:
I am an older, white, cis-gender male. I am tall, slim, relatively good looking and was raised in a comparatively well-to-do environment. Growing up in south Minneapolis neighborhoods geographically very close to the corner upon which George Floyd so horrifyingly had his life stolen from him, our family went through its’ periods of government cheese and powdered milk. But for the most part my life has been good. I am the poster child for white privilege. So, as millions of white Americans have been doing since Mr. Floyd’s murder I have been struggling with the question of “what can I do?” How can I, living in Grand Rapids contribute to solutions, and not simply sit back and do my best not to perpetuate the problems.
I was pondering this when I saw Kamau Bell, who was a guest on one of the late night talk shows last week. If you are not familiar with Bell, he has a show that I have enjoyed on CNN called United Shades of America, so I stopped to see what he had to say. Long story short, he said, with a tear in his eye and a catch in his voice, “White people, if you want to know what you can do? Be like my friend Tony Bourdaine,” and he held out the bottom of his t-shirt to display the photo on the front that featured a photo of Bell and Bourdaine, arms around each other with beaming smiles facing the camera. And I immediately knew exactly what he meant by that. Because, before his tragic death Tony Bourdaine approached every encounter that I ever saw with a person of color, or a culture he wasn’t familiar with in the same fashion. And that was, “Tell me about yourself. I want to know more about you. I want to know about your family, your neighborhood, your city, your food, your traditions, your faiths. And I would appreciate it so much if you would do me the favor of sharing them with me.”
And, as the Executive Director of the Grand Rapids Players, that is one thing that I can do. The fact that I see no people of color, be it black, Native American, Asian or any other minority population taking part in our theater community means that I have failed to reach out to you. I have failed to make sure that you hear, and more importantly believe that the Grand Rapids Players wants to provide a space for every individual with a desire to express themselves to come and do so safely, in a friendly, supportive environment.
It is so unfortunate that, right now, due to the Covid19 restrictions, the Players are very limited in the variety that we are able to offer the community for performing opportunities. But although they are limited, they are not non-existent. Nor are they permanent. And there are still digital projects that we are working on. If you are an individual or family of color living in the Grand Rapids area and you have any interest in the performing arts, please reach out and join us. If you are a writer, an actor, a singer, a dancer, a crafts-person or you can sew reach out to us. If you just want to help out on a performance back stage to find out what it’s all about, please reach out to us. I can assure you that it is a rare production that doesn’t have parts that can’t be recast with any color characters that the director wants. With your participation, life will be so much richer for us all.
Hiring of Steve Jaeger
Grand Rapids Players is proud to announce the hiring of Steve Jaeger to the newly-created position as its Executive Director, effective January 1, 2020.
Steve Jaeger graduated from Bemidji State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications. Area residents might recognize him as a popular radio and commercial personality throughout the 80’s and 90’s. Jaeger has held the position as President of the Grand Rapids Players, either acted or directed 18 Players’ productions (including “Death Trap” in the fall of 2019), and performed, along with wife Candy in many shows.
After radio, he became a Performance Manager at Northwest Airlines for 10 years before moving to Las Vegas, with his wife Candy. There, Jaeger served as an Account Executive for the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce, a Promotions and Special Events coordinator for Caesar’s Palace, and Activities Coordinator for Wyndham Grand Desert Resort. In Las Vegas, he was a member of two theater groups (New City Theater Company and Nickel City Players), and performed in numerous TV commercials, industrial videos and a number of small independent films.
Jaeger reflected back on his proudest moment with the Grand Rapids Players, “I wrote the grant to the Blandin Foundation requesting enough money to purchase the land and the existing building that became the Players’ first home. The Playhouse”, located on Soldiers’ Lane, just north of the Fairgrounds”, was home to costumes, props, office space, rehearsals and set construction.”
The Grand Rapids Players, which is 54 years old, has been planning for this development for some time. This announcement culminates a 3-year planning process beginning with Mary Jo Wimmer, leading to an in-depth board retreat led by Linda Holliday of Impact Minnesota LLC (with funding provided by the Blandin Foundation) followed by a dedicated Task Force Committee that included Board Members and key community leaders. According to Executive Director Task Force Committee Chair Sharon Marty, “Many hours were dedicated to making sure that our board was organized enough to make this dream come true and take us into the future.”
Director Jaeger values his relationship with the Players’ partnership, the Reif Arts council and their Executive Director Shantel Dow. “I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunities that are opening up over the next few years for the Grand Rapids Players. Our partnership with the Reif Arts Council, under the leadership of their Executive Director, Shantel Dow, is not only an enormous advantage for our theater company but a huge boon for theater patrons all over central Minnesota. I can remember when the Grand Rapids Players was the only game in town. And, while the Players predate the Reif Center by decades, I am looking forward to helping cement that relationship and with the help of our hundreds of volunteers and supporters, continue into a future filled with exciting projects for local theater fans of all ages.”
Working through Personnel Dynamics, Kari Hoerler facilitated the interview process and made the recommendation to the board. According to Kari, “Steve has a long-standing history with the Players. He presents impressive management experience along with background in budgeting and personnel training to compliment his love of the Arts. His energy, his plans for “first steps”, and his passion to help lead this organization is infectious!”
The Grand Rapids Players, as a partner with the Reif Arts Council, has their office located in the Reif Center. He can be reached in the office between the hours of noon and 4, in person, and at 218-327-5755.