1969 FF grad engages theatre audiences [UPDATED]Published 4:42am Monday, April 8, 2013 Updated 6:46am Monday, April 8, 2013
Jon Seashore, a 1969 graduate of Fergus Falls High School and 1971 M State-Fergus Falls grad, directs fall musicals and spring plays with his wife, Karen, at Woodbury High School, east of St. Paul.
“We love directing a wide variety of plays, from Greek tragedy to contemporary drama to broad comedies,” said Seashore, son of the late Jim and Bev Seashore. “We believe that the primary goal of any production is to engage the audience, to take them on an emotional journey.”
Jon and Karen met in a speech class at Concordia College, Moorhead, in 1971, and also acted together while there. Karen, a Robbinsdale High School grad, is Art Department Chair at Woodbury High School.
Jon is a consultant who directs plays and co-coaches the school’s speech team with Karen. He also works as a freelance writer and director.
The couple has directed 75 stage productions at Woodbury High School the past 35 years.
Jon, the oldest of four children, said that many people had major influences on his life. His father, Jim, was a talented pianist who enjoyed playing duets with Jon. His mother, Bev, was an English teacher who loved theatre and brought Jon as a child to Moorhead to attend Concordia productions.
One of the Seashore family’s favorite activities was sharing a large bowl of popcorn while watching movie musicals together.
Other influences, while he was a student at M State-Fergus Falls, included theatre instructors Lee Krogh and John Donahue and music director Geneva Eschweiler.
The Seashore couple also currently operates and directs StarPlayers Musical Theatre Camp, a summer day camp for students in grades one through seven. They average over 200 elementary kids a summer.
They’re currently directing “Our Town,” the 76th theatre production at Woodbury High School.
Jon and Karen are known for their large-scale musicals which generally run for 10 or so performances and attract thousands of people.
“Our activities encourage and engender very strong and close relationships with entire families as well as students,” said Jon. “Often, we direct and coach every child in a family, sometimes over a 10-year span.”
Their philosophy for theatre has always been that acting and technical theatre are equally important. Actors are required to work on sets. The Seashores say the students learn to appreciate stagecraft such as scenic construction, painting, sound and lighting.
Many of their students have gone on to perform and work technically in professional theatre, TV, film and music. In the Twin Cities area, these include the Guthrie Theatre, the Children’s Theatre Company, Chanhassen Dinner Theatre, Park Square and Theatre in the Round.
Former students perform on Broadway, in TV commercials and shows, in newscasts, in movies and in opera. Some have careers in music, with one having recently signed a recording contract with Warner Brothers. Another is a finalist on TV’s “The Sing-Off.”
They’ve coached the speech team for the past 25 years. The team routinely consists of about 50 students. Woodbury competes in Minnesota State High School League section and state speech contests. They’ve coached 86 state speech medalists, nine state speech champions and four three-time state speech medalists.
“All these events are supported by a very active parent booster organization consisting of over 100 members,” said Jon. “Parents contribute money, time and services.”
For the Seashores, work, home and relaxation flow together.
“It’s been a real joy,” said Karen to writer Bob Shaw whose article appeared in the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
But it’s the successes that keep the Seashores going, notes Shaw.
“The exciting thing is watching the growth of students,” said Karen.
Jon and Karen have three daughters. Kristen is a biomedical engineer with GE Healthcare in Madison, Wis., Carolyn is tutor coordinator with AmeriCorps in Madison and Lauren is a senior and elementary education major at the University of Minnesota, Morris.
Tom Hintgen writes a weekly column for The Daily Journal.