Sleepy Hollow Theatre & Arts Park, or simply SHTAP, is a nonprofit outdoor production theatre that aims to educate young community members, highlight local talent, and enrich the Bismarck-Mandan community. I connected with Susan Lundberg, Executive Director and Co-Founder of SHTAP, to discuss the organization’s unique origins and history, how the organization can be supported, upcoming events, and much more!
The Brainstorming Family
- Robert H. “Bud” Lundberg (Father)
Attorney, Farmer Rancher, Community Activist
- Evelyn Olson Lundberg (Mother)
Artist and Musician
- Stephanie Lundberg Delmore & Susan Lundberg (Daughters)
Artists and Arts Administrators
- Stephanie’s son, Shane
- Susan’s daughter, Melissa
The idea for SHTAP was first birthed in the late 1980s on a Lundberg family road trip. In the car, the question was asked “If you had unlimited time and money, what would you do in Bismarck?” The result that stemmed from the car ride was “a theatre for young people,” as Lundberg put it, that would bring the community together and give students in the Bismarck-Mandan community an outlet for their creative energies and talents.
Susan knew that she and Stephanie would have leaped at such an opportunity when growing up in Bismarck, and that led them to realize that such a need still existed within the community’s youth. Formally founded in 1990, Susan sees the official launch happening in part due to the stars aligning, with SHTAP being the “right project at the right time.”
“Bismarck’s 1989 Civic Center expansion had recently cut a proposed theatre, so that was eliminated as a possibility. Family members also realized students were rightly busy with school activities during the school year,” Susan said.
“Desiring a new arts experience, the focus became a theatre in the summer when students had more time and quickly moved to an outdoor musical theatre experience, which simply did not exist in central North Dakota.”
Did You Know?
- The first production in 1990 was a rendition of ‘Annie Get Your Gun,’ featuring a live horse and pre-show by Governor Arthur Link and a trio of musicians. Subsequent shows featured a Wells Fargo Wagon, Gov. Ed Schafer’s 1950s convertible, and former North Dakota Governor Hanna’s vintage buggy
- Professional-level lights, sound, and sets complement the theatre presentations, all of which SHTAP constantly upgrades.
- SHTAP is completely accessible with not only restrooms but also wheelchair use, sidewalks, parking, and the staging of benches to allow periodic rest.
- Sleepy Hollow Productions costumes show and stage/ decorate events regionally as well as throughout the state.
- Eagle and Girl Scout projects have positively enhanced the Sleepy Hollow physical site, including the entrance bridge, east stage, boardwalk bridge, backstage deck, stairs, Gazebo Annex building, pergolas, portable shelving units, and Sleepy Hollow benches.
“Our summer musical theatre productions are featured in an attractive outdoor prairie setting, complete with strutting vocal pheasants and other wildlife. It’s their home and we are the visitors!”
– Susan Lundberg
“To play a significant role in the welfare and educational growth of our citizens while nurturing youth by providing quality pre-professional educational opportunities in the arts that result in the cultural enrichment of our communities and state.”
– Susan Lundberg
When returning to Bismarck from their road trip, the Lundberg family networked and connected with city and park administrators and other friends, leading to public meetings for community input. After attendees shared their excitement in agreement, the small idea quickly became a dream come true with a 32-acre park on the eastern outskirts of Bismarck.
“Walking across the prairie and over a seasonal creek, the core theatre and arts friends envisioned what would become Sleepy Hollow Theatre & Arts Park. This included the location of a stage in order to avoid looking directly into what would be the summer setting sun,” Susan said.
These art friends initially included First Lady Jane Sinner, theatre director Jane Stewart, actress Sheila Schafer, playwright/teachers Ev Miller and Richard Barbie, and the Lundbergs, the latter of whom remain involved today.
“Developing Sleepy Hollow has been a labor of love, growth, and commitment. With great enthusiasm and ambition, SHTAP engaged creative board people who worked together as a focused team. From the very first show in 1990, people lined up more than a block long to Divide Avenue. Outdoor theatre was appealing,” Susan said.
SHTAP’s theatre productions evolved from one show annually to two, and as many as four shows in some years. Furthermore, various classes and camps of the arts take place annually in June, as well as a variety of concerts and festivals. SHTAP’s attractive gazebos and stage sites also host weddings and special events in the summer months.
Attendees are invited to a world that enables them to temporarily “forget” the troubles/challenges that everyone knows by being immersed in an appealing musical theatre production that almost “suspends” time, according to Susan.
“Walking across the entrance bridge, being visually greeted by attractive surroundings, and settling in for a lovely evening “under the stars” on the North Dakota prairie—it’s exactly what people need as they revel in our long summer nights,” Susan said.
While SHTAP may already have a rich and extensive history, the organization and its leaders have their sights set on goals and ambitions greater than ever before. One of these goals is “The Pavilion at Sleepy Hollow,” a brand new pavilion that aims to save the stage from the damages brought forth by wind, rain, hail, snow, and sun damage, among other natural wear-and-tear.
According to Susan, “The Pavilion will also enable the expansion of the production season, provide needed security, and attract increased community and tourism numbers to take in an unusual and positive outdoor cultural experience.”
Sleepy Hollow Theatre & Arts Park looks to bring the community together and inspire North Dakotans far and wide of all ages, one season at a time. As they host record-breaking crowds in recent years, there are no signs of SHTAP’s popularity and attraction fading anytime soon. “Sleepy Hollow Theatre & Arts Park is the epitome of grassroots people brainstorming what communities needed, attracting others to share the journey of enhancing the lives of students, attracting audiences of all ages, and staying the course with determination, vision, and enthusiasm. Sleepy Hollow acknowledges and enjoys a positive working relationship with the Bismarck Parks and Recreation District,” Susan said.
“The need for our mission continues. Through Sleepy Hollow involvement, students learn more than performance skills—they live the work ethic and learn teamwork, cooperation, and consideration plus critical thinking. Our students exemplify the ultimate goal of education, which is to become contributing members of society. Sleepy Hollow is planting trees, both physically and metaphorically, under which all of us may not stand. However, our young people will… and our communities will benefit and grow as a result.”
Head to their website or social media to check out the schedule for upcoming productions to attend, book the location for a wedding or special event, and more!
A Worldwide Impact
“During Governor Sinner’s tenure, an envoy of Japanese businessmen visited our production of ‘Oklahoma’ and presented Sleepy Hollow with a series of $100 bills, which initiated the establishment of The Sleepy Hollow Foundation. They loved the outdoor American experience and enjoyed singing the production songs—a clear result of bringing strangers together!”
– Susan Lundberg
SHTAP’s Awards and Achievements Include
- The North Dakota Governor’s Award on the Arts
- The J.C. Penney’s Golden Rule Award
- The CSTAND (Communication Speech and Theater Association of North Dakota) Organizational Award
- Impacted 82 North Dakota communities
A Q&A with Susan Lundberg of SHTAP
What sets SHTAP apart from other organizations in the Bismarck-Mandan community?
Sleepy Hollow is the only organization of its kind in the state of North Dakota, as it involves and educates young people in outdoor summer theatrical experiences attracting and benefiting large numbers of members of our community and state.
Our Sleepy Hollow “graduates” include accomplished people from all walks of life including professional opera, vocal artists/actors/teachers, and directors.
Sleepy Hollow produces educational camps, classes, and large-scale musical theatre productions entirely involving and benefiting young people. The events are presented with professional-level lights, sound, sets, and purposely designed ambiance for the enjoyment of thousands of people of all ages.
Do you have any upcoming events or ways to get involved in person?
Willing, working hands are always needed for all kinds of summer projects, both small and large. Each year, we clean, trim and enhance the production site, which will be especially needed this year after 101.2 inches of snow!
In what ways can readers support SHTAP?
“Donors may contribute to programming, student scholarships, and physical improvement projects including The Pavilion covering the stage. Your support will make a significant positive difference!”
Attending and enjoying Sleepy Hollow events is the best support!
- Volunteers may donate their time and abilities to help build and strike sets, set up/take down chairs, hand out programs, and sell concessions/novelties. Costume seamstresses are often needed as well.
- Helping to staff the productions is needed, as well as donations of vintage clothing to our Costume Shop.
- Financial donations of all sizes directly support programming and our mission. Please consider including Sleepy Hollow in your will or estate planning.
- • Additional income from weddings and costumes/space rentals both further and directly support Sleepy Hollow’s mission.
Get ready for 2023’s theatre productions, which include both ‘Willy Wonka Jr.’ and ‘Matilda, The Musical’ coming to SHTAP this season!