St. Olaf College | News

Theater faculty, recent graduates earn rave reviews for their work

Photo from Jungle Theater's "You Can't Take It With You"
St. Olaf College graduate Julia Valen ’14 (far right) performs a scene from the Jungle Theater’s “You Can’t Take It With You” alongside (from left) Twin Cities theater veterans Angela Timberman, Cathleen Fuller, Hugh Kennedy, and Nathaniel Fuller.

“Julia Valen maybe doesn’t fully understand it now, but there will be in a time in her life when she will look back on the summer of 2015 and be awestruck,” begins a St. Paul Pioneer Press story that highlights the young St. Olaf College alumna’s new acting role.

“Valen, a recent St. Olaf College grad, plays Essie Carmichael in the Jungle Theater’s current production of You Can’t Take it With You. She and a couple of other young performers have the great good fortune to be surrounded by a veritable Who’s Who of Twin Cities theater. The company comprises one of the warmest and strongest ensemble casts in recent memory in the service of a chestnut from the canon that retains the power to provoke laughter and thought.”

And Valen isn’t the show’s only connection. The production is directed by St. Olaf Artist in Residence Gary Gisselman, who the paper praises for his “wise-eyed handling” of a large and talented cast.

In addition, the Jungle Theater itself will soon be led by another St. Olaf theater alumna, Sarah Rasmussen ’01, who takes on the role of artistic director on July 1. Rasmussen, who has worked in theater venues around the country, tells Minnesota Public Radio that the Twin Cities is “an incredibly dynamic place with such a great ecosystem of theaters.”

That ecosystem provides ample opportunities for St. Olaf theater and dance alumni to demonstrate their talent on stage. Earlier this summer, the Star Tribune took note of the performance Grace Wehrspann ’15 gave in a Stuart Pimsler Dance & Theater production just weeks after graduating from St. Olaf.

“Wehrspann’s acting skills demonstrate an understated melancholy and vulnerability,” notes the paper, calling her performance “compelling.”