Swept Away: Merrill Community Arts Center Groundbreaking

A new black box theater will be built on the campus of East Ridge High School.

As theater options expand in Woodbury, “creativity and imagination expands with it.”

That’s from student actor Ryan Richardson, who played a part, literally, in for the second phase of the .

“I think it’s going to be a lot of fun,” said Ryan, a 16-year-old who will be a junior next year. He said he’s pleased that he’s been able to participate in performing arts at the school.

“I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” he said.

Plans call for a 112-seat black box theater attached to the high school, said Michelle Witte with the Arts Connection, which “is really becoming the Merrill Community Arts Center.”

Dozens of people came out to East Ridge for Tuesday’s event, which began the second phase of the arts center .

Construction on the 3,600-square-foot black box theater is expected to be complete this fall.

“It’s exciting,” said Michael Hamerlind, president of the board of , the primary patron of the space. “It really connects us into the community—not just Woodbury Community Theatre, but the whole arts offering of Woodbury.”

He went on to laud the different groups that came together—along with —to make the new theater a reality.

“When they succeed, we succeed,” Hamerlind said.

The black box theater will be a versatile space that opens the door for dancing and musical performances, in addition to theater, he said.

District 833 School Board member Ron Kath was among those with a shovel in his hand Tuesday. He called it a win-win for the district and the area’s arts scene.

“This really is for the benefit of the community,” he said.

Kath said he often takes in performances at South Washington County Schools.

“The kids just amaze me,” he said. “You would think that that they’re all professionals.”

‘City Ordinance’ Performance

In perhaps a nod to the arts center’s namesake, Dorothy K. Merrill, Witte told the crowd that there was one final ordinance issue with the city of Woodbury.

At that point, Ryan and another student came chanting out of the school dressed as minions of the Wicked Witch of the West from the Wizard of Oz and handed Witte a broom.

The ordinance issue had been settled, she said.

A little theatricality on a day marking a new theater in Woodbury.


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