Ashland Productions strives for stars, empowers youth


Photo by Dylan Stormoen

St. Croix Prep student actors take the stage for the production “Press Start”. This program is made possible by Ashland Productions’s ACT.

With the performance of James and the Giant Peach Jr. approaching soon, students involved in Ashland Productions are hard at work perfecting the show. May 10 will consist of a stage full of nearly 100 local, blooming student actors and an even larger audience to match. Behind each one of the stars that will take the stage is a story filled with growth, encouragement, empowerment and so much more, all stemming from Ashland Production’s influence.

Ashland Productions is a local non-profit arts organization that dedicates their work towards creating high quality, family friendly theatre performances. Also, they have an in-depth arts education program which serves as a great opportunity for arts enthusiasts of all ages. Ashland has a home office in Maplewood, Minn. However, the organizations travels to local schools to bring their education directly to students.

The organization strives to make mentoring a priority within its production work. Their mission statement divulges into the concept of intergenerational mentoring in which students are inspired to find their own voice.

“Ashland strives to empower each youth to be the best version of themselves through theater. Students that participate in Ashland gain confidence, friends and memories that will last a life time,” board member Sara Meslow said.

Ashland hopes to turn each local student into a star with their productions and camps. The counselors and mentors of the organization create strong bonds with their students to help further fuel them. The organization believes thoroughly that the bond between mentor or students is important.

Senior Ashland Productions counselor, Cate Strub said working with the younger students is “something I feel truly proud of.”

One parent of a student said that Ashland “provides the tools and watches the kids soar.” The organization serves as a guiding hand for students that are interested in the arts. This reflects how individual growth as an artist serves as another prominent aspect of the program.

“Ashland gave me a space to grow both artistically and characteristically from a very young age. Being in a place that promotes kindness as much as they promote working hard is needed for young artists,” Strub said.

Ashland’s motto is “Everyone is weird, but everybody is awesome!” The organization uses this to promote individualism throughout their program as well as make each student feel welcome and safe when they take on a role. Ashland works hard to encourage a family like atmosphere within each camp and production to ensure students comfortability as they grow.

“I have become part of the Ashland family, therefore it will forever have a special place in my heart,” freshman Paige Klemenhagen said. “I hope someday I can give back and be a mentor like those who mentored me.”

Ashland Production has grown to be much more than just community theater. Their values reflect the passion and genuineness found in each employee and actor. Not only is hard work seen on an Ashland stage, but their members portray it on a daily basis.

“Ashland Productions has impacted my life by giving me confidence to make hard decisions, to stay strong in my beliefs as well as just to be confident in my self,” Klemenhagen said.