Professional Biography…..

Mark A. Paulson

Mark A. Paulson

Professional Biography:


For 29 years, I was the Fine Arts Coordinator and head of the Theatre Department at Hill-Murray School in Maplewood, MN.   When I began work at H-M, the entire Theatre program was the production of three co-curricular shows a year, and the staff was one part time individual.  I developed an academic department consisting of classes in Creative Dramatics (for middle schoolers), Introduction to Theatre Arts (for freshmen and up), Stagecraft (for all levels), and an advanced course in Theatre Studies that consisted of elements of Playwriting, Designing, Directing and Performing.  This class was for students who had completed one of our introductory level courses.  In all of these classes we developed our own curriculum.  Introduction to Theatre Arts was the only course in which we used a standardized textbook.
Our staff increased to include a full time technical director, an office secretary, a costumer, and several part time classroom teachers.  In addition, we hired choreographers, dialect coaches, orchestra directors, vocal directors, scenery painters and others as needed on a show by show basis.   We increased the performance opportunities for students by going to six shows a year, two of which were produced in a community theatre, which we started so that our alumni could continue performing with us after they graduated.  Our program philosophy was all-inclusive, so we usually worked with casts no smaller than 30, and on some occasions larger than 100.  The last few years before I retired, we dedicated one slot on our season each year to student written plays.  Some of the students who wrote for this production received statewide and national recognition for their writing.  We also developed a parents club that was much more than just a fund-raising group.  Our parents worked side by side with their students in all aspects of production, including some performing.  In a school with a student enrollment of around 1000 in grades 7 through 12, an average of 20% of the student body participated in theatre activities each year, and nearly 30% of graduates would have participated at some point in their school career.  We also took our students on yearly trips to see the world’s best professional productions in cities like London, New York and Toronto.

In the year since I retired from teaching, I have been working as a theatrical consultant, and thoroughly enjoying life.  I currently serve on the Hennepin Theatre Trust’s Spotlight Musical Theatre Program adjudicator’s panel, The Minnesota Opera Company’s Education Advisory Committee, The Lakeshore Players 10 Minute Play Festival Playreading Committee, and I am consulting and designing productions at a number of high schools and community theatres.  I have also been an instructor in technical theatre with Lakeshore Players Summer Youth Project, a six week summer workshop, for the past two summers.


I was engaged in free-lance directing and designing around the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.
In Minneapolis, I worked a season each as technical director at the Friar’s Downtown Dinner Theatre and Theatre in the Round.  I also directed and designed individual productions for community theatres in Hastings and Coon Rapids, MN.  Overall in my career, I have worked at all levels of theatre…..educational, community and professional.  In 1977 I was awarded both the Best Director and Best Designer awards by the Bloomington Civic Theatre for my production of “Oliver!”  The awards were presented by Gary Gisselman at the Chanhassen Dinner Theatre.


I was the Resident Artistic Director at the Lakeshore Players community theatre in White Bear Lake, MN.  The group was just moving into a new home in an old church on Stewart Avenue in 1971, and one of my first duties was to decide what type of staging we would use.  I selected a thrust arrangement for its intimacy, and for the additional revenue the added seats would provide.  At Lakeshore, we did seven shows a year, and I usually designed and directed five or six of them. I also served as the technical director and theatre manager. We did a number of original shows, including a critically acclaimed production of a musical based on Shakespeare’s character of “Falstaff”.  During the years I was at the helm, the theatre went from a little known community organization to one of the major players in the Twin-Cities amateur theatre scene.


I worked on my master’s degree in directing at the University of Minnesota.  I was fortunate to work with a number of illustrious professors including Dr. Frank Whiting (who in conjunction with Sir Tyrone Guthrie, brought the Guthrie Theatre to Minneapolis), Dr. Charles Nolte (well-known Broadway and film actor, and playwright), Dr. Wendell Josel (designer of the Rarig Center for the Performing Arts at the U of M), Dr. H. Wesley Balk (innovative director and publisher of several well-known books on acting and singing), Dr. Arthur Ballet (author of a text on Introduction to Theater Arts) and Dr. Kenneth Graham (of creative dramatics and childrens’ theatre renown).


I spent this time working at the Seven Springs Resort in Champion, PA.  In the summer of 1968 I was allowed to convert an old barn-like ski lodge into a theatre, and I formed a company of college students from all over the country who performed a summer season of four plays in repertory theatre for the resort guests.


I attended Wabash College, in Crawfordsville, Indiana, where I graduated with a B.A. degree in English and Fine Arts.  Here I studied theatre under Dr. Charles Scott (Yale School of Drama), and Dr. George Tuttle (also from the Yale School of Drama).  During the summers of 1963 and 1964, I worked at Glacier National Park in Montana.  The staff of the Many Glacier Hotel was especially selected for their theatre skills as we presented a musical production each summer for the guests.  The two summers I was there, we did “Brigadoon” and “Carousel”.  In the summer of 1965, I was employed by the Gateway Playhouse in Bellport, Long Island, New York, where college students and equity performers mixed in a professional summer stock company.  We produced 2 comedies and 5 major musicals (“The Desert Song”, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum”, “The King and I”, “High Button Shoes”, “110 In the Shade”) over the course of the 12-week season.


I spent my high school years at Peoria Central High School in Peoria, Illinois.  I didn’t actually do any formal theatre in high school, and I don’t remember it being a very high profile activity.  I was the manager of the basketball team for three years, and as a senior I was the President of the Committee of 40, a group I had served on for four years, which organized all the school’s social events, dances, carnivals, pep-rallies, etc.  Little did I realize that in writing and staging sketches for pep rallies, I was inching into an activity that would consume and illuminate the rest of my life.


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