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Sherri Richards, Published December 08 2012

Wintersteen makes mark on the F-M arts community

FARGO - It’s a running joke among the Wintersteens that they can’t leave an event or restaurant without Carrie needing to talk to someone first.

“We can’t go any place without her knowing somebody. And a lot of times she knows half the people or more,” says her husband of 20 years, David Wintersteen. “The three of us are in the car, asking ‘Where’s Mom?’ It’s a funny characteristic, but one that’s really telling.”

It’s this gregarious personality and the wealth of connections that Carrie Wintersteen has honed through her years in Fargo-Moorhead that suit her well as executive director of Theatre B, the ensemble-driven theater in downtown Fargo, celebrating its 10th year.

Carrie admits she didn’t set out to be an arts administrator, but found it to be a good match for her skillset. She’s an organized person with a passion for the stage.

“It’s a good way to facilitate not only my own art making, but the art making of others,” she says.

Despite the rigors of leading a nonprofit organization, she still finds opportunities to act, whether in occasional Theatre B productions, commercial work or as part of the Dakota Airheads, a live radio show acting troupe.

Carrie will next take the stage during the Dakota Air Christmas show, 2 p.m. Dec. 16 at the Fargo Theatre. Coincidentally, a performance of Theatre B’s current show, “The 12 Dates of Christmas,” is slated for 2 p.m. Dec. 16 as well.

With David teaching and directing in Concordia College’s theater department, and two teenage children also keen on the stage, David says they are often a “four-show family.” For example, their son Cameron recently finished a run of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” and daughter Linka was just cast as The Widow Douglas in her middle school’s production of “Tom Sawyer.”

That can lead to crazy schedules, and a need for intentional family time.

“Balance is really important to me. I struggle with it all the time, but I also really value it,” Carrie says. “I think that’s a big reason I like Fargo-Moorhead,” noting its support of the arts and family-friendly nature.

But it took a while for the community to feel like home, Carrie says.

In many ways, her contributions to local arts helped create the environment she loves today.

They are contributions recognized and admired by others. Carrie was a 2012 YWCA Women of the Year nominee.

“I just have so much respect for what she has done,” says Kate Henne, a co-producer of Dakota Air. “For a place to grow and grow healthy, they need to have the arts … (Theatre B) just gives our art community another resource to enjoy. It gives actors another place to share their skills and talents. It gives people yet another great choice to go out and enjoy what Fargo-Moorhead’s got to offer.”

FINDING HER PLACE

David and Carrie Wintersteen moved to Fargo-Moorhead 14 years ago from Colorado, when David was hired by Concordia. They were both teaching at Western State College in Gunnison, Colo. Carrie grew up in St. Paul. David had ties to northern Minnesota.

“I don’t think we thought this was permanent, but here we are,” Carrie says. “The roots got really deep when we started Theatre B.”

At first, Carrie was teaching at Minnesota State Community and Technical College and then at North Dakota State University, but she realized teaching wasn’t a good fit for her.

She says she was trying to find her place and her people in a city that wasn’t as culturally refined as she was accustomed. In addition, her parents’ health was failing. She says she felt a deep sadness.

“Life is too short to simply work a day job without some purpose,” she realized.

She left NDSU for jobs at Prairie Public Broadcasting and later Trollwood Performing Arts School, during which a vision for Theatre B began to crystallize.

Carrie, David and friends Scott and Lori Horvik wanted to create theater they felt was missing in Fargo-Moorhead: edgy, thought-provoking plays in an intimate setting.

“Starting Theatre B was really the beginning of establishing my identity here in Fargo-Moorhead, and also finding my community,” Carrie says.

The strictly volunteer group quickly evolved, becoming a 501c3, establishing a board, and finding a permanent home. Carrie says the group really blossomed after securing a three-year ArtsLab grant. It now has a $100,000-plus annual budget and is looking to hire a third person.

“The organization itself, it’s like a foster child that needs attention and work and is something that Carrie is rightfully very proud of,” David says.

Theatre B wouldn’t be around today if it weren’t Carrie, co-founder Scott Horvik says.

“She’s the face of Theatre B. She has a great way of communicating the mission, vision and values to the community,” he says. “She’s passionate about what she does and she brings that passion and excitement and energy to what she does.”

The goal now is to become a regional professional theater company, Carrie says, a level of quality that requires increased resources.

She says every generation needs to be reminded of the importance of investing in the arts.

“I don’t think (art) is a luxury. I think art is essential,” she says.

FEARLESS PERFORMER

Carrie describes her executive director job as “cat herding” sometimes. There’s bookkeeping, box office sales, grant writing and donor visits. Theatre B does five productions a year, including three main stage shows, community collaborations and a summer arts program for teens.

But Carrie is an actress at heart. She has a master’s degree in acting from the University of Pittsburgh. People ask her regularly when they’ll see her on stage again.

Theatre B’s shows aren’t pre-cast, Carrie says. She needs to audition like everyone else. But she says the committee that schedules shows knows if she would be a good fit for a particular show, it can’t be staged in February (grant-writing time). In the fall, she’s an active parent with Moorhead High School’s theater program, for example, coordinating meals for the cast and crew.

David describes Carrie as a fearless performer. He’s worked with her as both a co-star and her director. (“God bless her, she’s very patient with me,” he adds.)

“I think that she’s hardworking and committed and very sensitive, and gets a feel of a character,” David says.

The first time Steve Stark, director and head writer for Dakota Air, saw Carrie on stage along with David and the Horviks, he says he was blown away. “It was like a little acting lesson to watch,” he says.

“Carrie, because she’s trained so well, brings a real good actor’s insight into all the roles that she’s given, that I’ve written,” Stark says.

For Dakota Air, she’s played historical characters like Mary Lincoln and Sakakawea, bit parts in radio dramas, and loaned her voice to comedic public service announcements. Stark comments on how her versatile voice and expressive movements creates wonderful characters.

And, he notes, Carrie herself is a wonderful character.

“She is one of the great personalities and advocates for the arts here,” Stark says. “She’s just a real asset to the community.”

If you go

What: Dakota Air the Radio Show

When: 2 p.m. Dec. 16

Where: Fargo Theatre, 314 N. Broadway

Info: Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 at the door. (866) 300-8300. www.dakotaairtheradioshow.com


What: “The 12 Dates of Christmas”

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays through Dec. 29 and 2 p.m. Dec. 16

Where: Theatre B, 716 Main Ave., Fargo

Info: Tickets are $10 students, $20 adults. (701) 729-888. www.theatreb.org


Readers can reach Forum reporter Sherri Richards at (701) 241-5556