Thursday, July 31, 2008

Saint Mary’s University receives ‘Best in Midwest’ honors from Princeton Review

WINONA, Minn. — Saint Mary’s University is one of 159 schools receiving the “Best in the Midwest” designation for 2009 from the Princeton Review, a national college guide and ranking program. Results were announced in July.

Each year, the Princeton Review profiles colleges and universities that “uphold the standards of the Best Midwestern College distinction and provide students with a wide breadth of excellent schools to consider.” The Princeton Review survey asks students to rate their own schools on several issues — from the accessibility of their professors to quality of the campus food — and answer questions about themselves, their fellow students, and their campus life. The Princeton Review is a New York City-based company known for test-preparation courses, education services and books; it is not affiliated with Princeton University.

Other Minnesota schools included on Princeton Review's 2009 “Best in the Midwest” list are: Augsburg, Carleton, Crown College, Gustavus Adolphus, Hamline, Macalester, North Central University, St. Catherine, St. Olaf, St. Scholastica, St. Thomas, University of Minnesota (Twin Cities and Crookston campuses) and Winona State University.

The 630 colleges named regional bests (212 in the Northeast, 139 in the Southeast, 159 in the Midwest, and 120 in the West) represent only about 25 percent of the nation's 2,500 four-year colleges.

For more information, go to The website gives a profile of Saint Mary's, along with useful college selection features.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Ticket reduction deadline nears for 2008-09 Page Series

WINONA, Minn. — Friday, Aug. 1, is the last day to save up to 25 percent on season tickets for the Saint Mary’s University 2008-09 Page Series. Returning subscribers can save up to 25 percent when they order tickets from three or more shows in the series. New subscribers can save 10 percent.

This year’s lineup promises to entertain, educate or enlighten every member of the household. From the Song & Dance Ensemble of West Africa on Oct. 28 to the Acrobats of China Feb. 3, the Page Series programming is filled with international flare. Dance fans will enjoy the fiery footwork of Compañia Flamenco José Porcel, Oct. 8, and the graceful classic “Sleeping Beauty,” performed by the Russian National Ballet Jan. 27. For music lovers, pianist George Winston takes the stage Dec. 19, and the Dave Munnelly Band will bring their Irish music to SMU March 5, just in time for Saint Patrick’s Day.

All of the shows are suitable for families, but a full lineup of children’s shows is planned including: Omaha Theatre Company’s Horribly Harry, Nov. 5; Grammy nominated performer Red Grammer, Jan. 13; TheatreworksUSA’s If you Give a Pig a Pancake Feb. 6; and Einstein Alive! March 12. Since there’s no age limit on fun; adults are always welcome!

Order your tickets now and save; reserve the best seats in town all season long. Order online at or through the Box Office, Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., at (507) 457-1715.

Individual tickets go on sale Aug. 18.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Top three advance in FOX 47 ‘Idol’ competition

WINONA, Minn. — Three finalists have been named from the FOX 47 Idol auditions, held July 21 at Saint Mary’s University. These three will compete with finalists from the Mason City, Iowa, and Rochester auditions. The grand-prize winner of the FOX 47 Idol competition will win a guaranteed American Idol audition in East Rutherford, N.J., on Tuesday, Aug. 19. For more information, go to Finalists include:

• Bryn Edholm, 24, from Winona, who is studying cosmetology at Minnesota State College-Southeast Technical;
• Jennifer Modderman, 26, of Clarks Grove, Minn., who is a married and proud mother; and
• Sarah Frey, 20, of Rochester, Minn., who is studying pre-physical therapy at Saint Mary’s University.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Gilmore Creek actors multi-talented in multiple roles this summer

WINONA, Minn. — This year’s Gilmore Creek Summer Theatre professional cast members are doing double, sometimes triple, duty during this summer’s three heartwarming offerings.

The actors — some local and others from as far away as Indiana, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Ohio — have come together to provide Winona theatergoers some light and lively entertainment this summer.

Local gals Mariah Ciangiola, playing four parts this summer, and Sarah Jane Marek as the “Little Shop of Horrors” female lead Audrey, prove that you don’t always have to go far to find great talent. Another local, Mike Speck displays his vocal flexibility as both “the voice” of the evil plant from the “Little Shop,” and Froggy Le Sueur in “The Foreigner.”

Whether it is playing the nerdy floral assistant in “Little Shop of Horrors,” the less-than-brightest bulb on the tree Ellard in “The Foreigner,” or the delightful birthday boy Henry in “The Mouse Expedition,” Tyler Bellmon brings a bright exuberance to the GCST stage at Saint Mary’s University.

Back again for his second year at Gilmore Creek is Stephen DiBlasi whose Charlie in “The Foreigner” has everyone in stitches and whose rendition of Mushnik adds new meaning to the phrase “money-hungry” in “Little Shop.”

The man behind the plant, Eric Zuber, joins DeBlasi in adding a new dimension to the lives of feral, if not too bright, cats in “The Mouse Expedition.”
“Little Shop’s” Doo Wop Girls, Libby Synder, Karin McNamara, and Ciangiola reach high notes higher than their ever-increasing hairdos.

And Kentucky newcomer Peyton Conley changes characters and costumes in lightening speed — six in “Little Shop” alone.

Multiple roles and magical moments are the life of a repertory theater actor at Gilmore Creek Summer Theater this summer. Catch this talented professional troupe while you still can. Tickets are still available for all remaining shows.

Free pre-show entertainment will be provided by local favorites Chris Kendall and Adam Stasica; desserts and beverages are available from Blooming Grounds Coffee House.

Special family and group rates are available. Call the Box Office, Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., or online anytime at Tickets are $8 for “The Mouse Expedition;” Tickets for “Little Shop” or “The Foreigner” are $20 for adults, $18 for seniors or $12 for youth.

Remaining Show Dates and Times:

July 22 “The Mouse Expedition” at Valéncia Academy Theatre, 6 p.m.
July 24 “The Foreigner” at SMU’s Page Theatre, 7:30 p.m.
July 25 “Little Shop of Horrors” at SMU’s Page Theatre, 7:30 p.m.
July 26 “Mouse Expedition” at Valéncia Academy Theatre,1 p.m.
July 26 “The Foreigner” at SMU’s Page Theatre, 7:30 p.m.
July 27 “Little Shop of Horrors” at SMU’s Page Theatre, 3 p.m.
July 29 “The Mouse Expedition” at Valéncia Academy Theatre, 6 p.m.
July 31 “Little Shop of Horrors” at SMU’s Page Theatre, 7:30 p.m.

August 1 “The Foreigner” at SMU’s Page Theatre, 7:30 p.m.
August 2 “The Mouse Expedition” at Valéncia Academy Theatre, 10 a.m.
August 2 “Little Shop of Horrors” at SMU’s Page Theatre, 7:30 p.m.
August 3 “The Foreigner” at SMU’s Page Theatre, 3 p.m.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Youth theatre immersion program still has openings

WINONA, Minn. — There’s still time to register for some theatre-related fun this summer. The Minnesota Conservatory for the Arts Theatre Camp III: Theatre Immersion will be held 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, July 28, through Friday, Aug. 1.

The weeklong theatre experience — to be held at the Valéncia Arts Center, 1164 W. 10th St. — is geared for youth entering grades seven through 12. Students will spend the week with the Gilmore Creek Summer Theatre company members and learn about acting, musical theatre, stage combat, puppetry, behind-the-scenes activities and makeup.

The public is welcome to attend a final showcase 4 p.m. Friday, Aug. 1, at the Valéncia Arts Center, during which students will demonstrate some of the skills they learned throughout the week.

Tuition is $150 and includes a camp T-shirt and admission to one Gilmore Creek Summer Theatre performance at Saint Mary’s University’s Page Theatre. Call (507) 453-5501 or e-mail for more information.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Saint Mary’s University to co-host Fox 47 ‘Idol’ competition July 21

WINONA, Minn. — Auditions for the Fox 47 Idol will be held 4 to 7 p.m. Monday, July 21, at Saint Mary’s University’s Winona campus.

SMU and Fox 47 KXLT-TV in Rochester are looking for the next singing sensation.

Auditions July 21 will be held in the SMU Performance Center. Singers will perform in front of a panel of area judges. Walk-up registration will begin at 3 p.m., and contestants will receive an audition number upon arrival. They should be prepared to sing a song of their choice for 30 seconds without music. Contestants must be between the ages of 16 and 28 and must provide proof of age and photo identification. Parents must accompany minors.

Finalists from this competition — as well as auditions in Mason City, Iowa; and Rochester, Minn., — will perform for the public at the regional finale at a time and date to be determined.

The winner at regionals will receive a guaranteed “American Idol” audition Aug. 19 in New Jersey. Hotel accommodations will be provided by Rochester Holiday Inn South. Travel will be provided by Saint Mary's University.

For more information on “American Idol” auditions, go to; for more information on local auditions, go to

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Desserts, good company, live music serve as prelude to Gilmore Creek shows

WINONA, Minn. — In addition to catching light-hearted comedies with the Gilmore Creek Summer Theatre, attendees can now also enjoy live pre-show entertainment, delicious desserts and good company — all in a picturesque setting.

Audiences attending “Little Shop of Horrors” or “The Foreigner” are invited to come onto the Saint Mary’s University campus an hour before the 7:30 p.m. performances on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, or before the 3 p.m. performances on Sundays. A full lineup of local music will be available, beginning on opening night Thursday, July 10, with Nate Gill, a rootsy folk/blues musician hailing from Australia, who specializes in finger-style guitar playing and warm, baritone vocals.

Whether strumming along to cover tunes, or on-the-spot improvisation, Adam Stasica aims to please with his original approach to the guitar. Local favorite Chris Kendall — performing tunes from his soon-to-be-released CD — is a prolific singer and songwriter whose clever lyrics tell insightful stories of life. And brothers Michael and Timothy Johnson will play both originals and covers influenced by artists like Coldplay and Radiohead.

Make sure to save room for dessert! Amy Marks from Blooming Grounds Coffee House promises to provide delicious delicacies destined to be devoured by devoted fans, including their best-selling lemon bars. Soft beverages will make the music and the munchies go down with ease. If you didn’t get your fill early, you’ll have a second chance at intermission.

Thursday, July 10, Nate Gill
Friday, July 11, Chris Kendall
Saturday, July 12, Michael and Timothy Johnson
Sunday, July 13, Michael and Timothy Johnson
Thursday, July 17, Nate Gill
Friday, July 18, Chris Kendall
Saturday, July 19, Chris Kendall
Sunday, July 20, Nate Gill
Thursday, July 24, Chris Kendall and Adam Stasica
Friday, July 25, Adam Stasica
Saturday, July 26, Chris Kendall and Adam Stasica
Sunday, July 27, Adam Stasica
Thursday, July 31, Chris Kendall
Friday, Aug. 1, Chris Kendall and Adam Stasica
Saturday, Aug. 2, Adam Stasica
Sunday, Aug. 3, Chris Kendall and Adam Stasica

The professional actors of Gilmore Creek will present “The Foreigner” and “Little Shop of Horrors” in repertory with the children’s story “The Mouse Expedition” July 10 through Aug. 3. “The Foreigner” and “Little Shop of Horrors” will be staged at Saint Mary’s Page Theatre, and audiences can catch “The Mouse Expedition” at the Valéncia Academy Theatre, located at 1164 W. 10th St.

Tickets are available for any of the Gilmore Creek shows from the SMU Box Office or online at Tickets to “The Foreigner” and “Little Shop of Horrors” are $20; $18 for seniors or $12 for youth ages 12-18. Family and group packages are available. Tickets to “The Mouse Expedition” are $8.

* Music will relocate inside the Performance Center in case of rain.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Five finalists named in SMU’s Fox 25/48 ‘Idol’ competition

The five finalists from Saint Mary’s University’s “Fox Fest Idol” competition Saturday, June 28, are, from left: J.R. Larke from Winona; Vanessa Blackwell from La Crosse, Wis.; T.J. Burbach from Winona; Tim Olstad from Winona; and Kassandra Kujak from Winona.

WINONA, Minn. — Five finalists were selected June 28 at the “Fox Fest Idol” competition, held at Saint Mary’s University and sponsored by Fox 25/48. These five competitors — including J.R. Larke from Winona; Vanessa Blackwell from La Crosse, Wis.; T.J. Burbach from Winona; Tim Olstad from Winona and Kassandra Kujak from Winona — will advance to the “Fox Fest Idol” finals on Sunday, Aug. 3, at Skipper Liner Marine in La Crosse.

Finalists from the Saint Mary’s Competition — as well as competitions in Eau Claire, Wis., and La Crosse, Wis. — will perform at this regional finale.

The winner Aug. 3 will receive an “American Idol” audition at a city and date yet to be announced.

If you missed this round, SMU will host another “Idol” audition this summer through the Rochester Fox 47 station.