CHANHASSEN, Minn. — The latest show to take the main stage at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres is giving back to the community in a very fitting way.
"The Prom" — a musical that celebrates the love and joy of high schoolers who push through barriers to attend their dance — is partnering with a nonprofit to ensure local students can attend their own proms looking and feeling as best as possible.
Here's how it works: March 12-19, community members can donate gently used prom dresses, accessories and other prom attire by dropping them off at Galleria Edina during their posted hours. The prom dresses will be collected and sorted by the nonprofit Project Fairy Godmothers, and dry cleaned by their partner, St. Croix Cleaners. Then, on April 1, Project Fairy Godmothers will host a giveaway for teens in the Twin Cities and surrounding areas to "shop" for their perfect outfit, free of charge.
Each person who donates prom attire to Galleria Edina during the week of March 12 will receive a voucher to redeem for a show-only ticket to see "The Prom."
Stars of the show Monty Hays and Maya Richardson say they're excited to connect with audience members who choose to part ways with their memory-filled prom attire in order to create a positive experience for others who may not otherwise feel comfortable attending.
"When you look at what a prom is, or a dance is, it’s truly a night to be yourself and dress up in a way that makes you feel free and makes you feel beautiful and exciting," Richardson said. "That should be something that everybody has to."
Richardson and costar Hays play characters that can certainly relate to barriers that keep them from attending prom. Hays plays the character of Emma Nolan, a young teen who asks her girlfriend Alyssa Greene (Richardson) to prom. But when the PTA in the small town learns that a lesbian couple wants to attend the dance, they shut it down altogether. Eventually, the message of love prevails, and the dance is brought back, in a more inclusive way than before.
"My biggest takeaway from this show is just love and acceptance," Hays said. "And that even with everything going on in this world that is so scary and that is real and threatening to LGBTQ youth, elders, everyone in between…you are safe somewhere. You are loved and protected somewhere. And I hope that’s here!"
Hays, who uses he/they pronouns, said their own prom was "all these silly art school kids. A full goth prom."
Richardson recalls wearing a red dress and doing her nails for the first time...feeling special in a way many associate with their own high school dance.
Mary Thielen, who sits on the board of Project Fairy Godmothers, says it's these sort of memories that make their mission so rewarding.
"Prom is kind of a milestone in life," Thielen said. "We all remember our prom, right?"
Thielen says when Project Fairy Godmothers started in 2014, they gave away eight dresses. Last year, they gave away 500. She says their growth is in large part to meaningful community partnerships, like this one.
"It’s the perfect partnership...Prom musical, going to prom," Thielen said.
In many ways, the alliance between the theatre and the nonprofit sum up the show's message, as Richardson sees it.
"I think [the show] is about community and love," she said. "Really staying true and grounding and trusting yourself. You are who you are and there’s a place for that, and it will be celebrated."