Building an Amphitheatre
Tom Turner and Harold Aleshire, head of the MSC Humanities department at the time, wanted to set up a permanent venue specifically for Summer Theatre. They met for a casual coffee conversation one day and came up with the plans for a new theatre. A location on the northwest side of campus was selected because it provided a natural bowl, or Amphitheatre. The college had owned the land since 1913, so there would be no extra costs to purchase property.
Initially, Aleshire and Turner thought a theatre constructed at a cost of about $5000 was in Summer Theatre’s future. (In today’s money, this is about $34,000.) However, as blueprints were drawn and plans became more elaborate, the cost escalated. In the end, a $90,000 project proposal was approved (roughly $550,000 in today’s money).
The company wanted more amenities added, and the total cost for the new venue would have been around $110,000 in 1970 money. However, the North Dakota Legislature would not grant MSC this amount. The theatre company was told that they would either have to wait two years until the next legislative session to bring forth a new proposal, or go ahead immediately with the $90,000 proposal. They chose the latter, and in the meantime eliminated some features from the original designs to stay within budget.
Major contributions for the Amphitheatre came from student fees and the Alumni Association’s club, M-200. Minot State College was on an academic quarter system at the time, and each student was required to pay $2.00 per quarter as part of their student fees for two years. The M-200 club matched this number collected from students. The state legislature paid the rest. Also, during a rotation in Minot, the North Dakota National Guard helped build the parking lot during the summer time.
The Amphitheatre building was completed in the fall of 1970. However the venue was not yet fully operational. For example, the dimmer system, which helps direct the lights from one side of the stage to the next, was still unfinished. Water facilities were not turned on until 4:00 p.m. on the opening night of Fiddler on the Roof.
The original construction producedthe Amphitheatre building, the concrete steps where the audience sits, and the light booth/concessions stand. The box office, dressing rooms, trees, plants, and other features have been added throughout the years.