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Grand Forks-based Summer Performing Arts Company continues to 'give community a show'

This summer, SPA will present ‘The Addams Family’ and ‘High School Musical.’ But members say the program's merits go further than just stage presentations.

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Blake Storbakken and Bella Costa rehearse for their roles of Gomez and Morticia in this summer's SPA production of "The Addams Family."
Courtesy / Summer Performing Arts Company
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GRAND FORKS — For Hannah Holte, the Grand Forks-based Summer Performing Arts Company provides more than just a place to perform each summer.

“It gives me a home,” said Holte, a rising senior who has been a participant in SPA for six summers. “I really enjoy being a part of it. It definitely brings the community together. They are very inclusive as well.”

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<br/>Caslista Keller and Alex Prichard, members of the Summer Performing Arts tech team, are shown during a summer of 2022 rehearsal.
Courtesy / Summer Performance Arts Company

It's a sentiment shared by Richard McFarlane, who has been the coordinator for Middle School SPA for 18 years as well as directing one of the High School SPA performances for two years. He says that the program reinforces values that can help “young people become stewards of the community.”

The Summer Performing Arts Company, a program of Grand Forks Public Schools, offers activities for students who have completed kindergarten through 11th grade. According to past Herald reporting, its mission is to educate students of all ages and abilities, foster their creativity, and develop their character in a safe, supportive and respectful learning environment.

Typically, as many as 70 teachers and volunteers are involved, directing students in an arts education program that emphasizes instrumental and vocal music, dance, drama and the visual arts.

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Another focus is confidence. Holte says good directors, such as McFarlane, and other students helped her grow more confident throughout her years in SPA.

“It provides Grand Forks a gift. It provides students with a safe space, parents with an opportunity for their kids to grow, and it gives the community a show,” McFarlane said.

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Brooke Noffsinger and Addison Foley rehearse for the 2022 SPA production "High School Musical."
Courtesy / Summer Performing Arts Company

This year there are a total of 941 students from all different schools enrolled across the five SPA programs. These programs are designed for a multitude of different ages and abilities.

MySPA, for example, is targeted to students of all ages who experience special needs or different challenges. For younger students, there is Pre-K (ages 3-6) and Elementary SPA (grades K-5). Middle School SPA (Grades 6-7), much like Pre-K and Elementary SPA, is about the process, meaning the closing performance is a demonstration of the skills they learned, rather than a full-scale production.

High School SPA is when students focus on crafting a full-scale production. The students are split between rising juniors and seniors, and rising freshmen and sophomores. Both groups work for about two months to put on a musical production at the end of the summer.

This year, the older group will perform "The Addams Family," while the younger group will put on a performance of "High School Musical."

"High School Musical" will be held at 7 p.m. July 14, July 15, and July 16 and 4 p.m. on July 17 at the Red River High School Performance Hall.

"The Addams Family" will run at 7 p.m. on July 23, July 25 and July 26 and at 4 p.m. on July 24, also at the Red River Performance Hall. Tickets are reserved, and cost $15 for adults, $12 for seniors and $10 for children/students. Reservations are recommended and can be made by calling 701-746-2411 or by going online to www.spacompany.org/tickets.

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Anika Suriano, who grew up loving "The Addams Family" TV show as well as the movies, is starring as Grandma Addams this summer.

“She is a super-fun character. She adds comic relief to every scene she is in,” she said.

Suriano is a rising senior and this is her second year being a part of the SPA program. Suriano enjoys getting to work with people from different schools.

“It’s a nice opportunity to make new friends,” she said, adding that SPA is important to her because she “gets to do what she loves with her favorite people” as well as creating an “amazing show for the community.”

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Cast members of the 2022 SPA production "The Addams Family" rehearse.
Courtesy / Summer Performing Arts Company

A common theme across all participants and administrators of SPA is friendship. Holte said that “spending practically the entire summer with people led to forming close bonds.”

Even McFarlane took the time to note that “fun with friends comes first.” It is evident that Grand Forks does benefit from the Summer Performing Arts Company in two distinct ways. One, the friendships made and skills learned, and two, the quality pieces of theater the community gets to enjoy.

Mary Flynn is a Grand Forks high school student who was hired by the Herald as a freelance reporter for this piece.

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