ICYMI: Exploring Life & Business with Irene Green of O’Shaughnessy at St. Catherine University

Irene Green

March 27, 2024

Read full story at voyageminnesota.com >>

Today we’d like to introduce you to Irene Green.

Hi, Irene. We’re so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
I’ve been passionate about theater my whole life and decided at 14 that I wanted a life in the arts. This led me to pursue a career as an artist/administrator. 15 years ago, I was the Box Office Manager for the Commonweal Theatre Company in Lanesboro, Minnesota, and also an actor in the resident company. From there, I became the Director of Sales and Marketing for the Great River Shakespeare Festival in Winona, Minnesota, and then took a role with the same title at Northern Stage in White River Junction, VT. In 2018, I became the Associate Managing Director at Northern Stage. Later that same year, I took the Managing Director role, co-leading the organization with my artistic business partner, Carol Dunne, for four years. So many exciting things happened at Northern Stage during my time there. We doubled the size of the company and built a new theater facility. We survived COVID and were one of the first theaters to re-open after pandemic shutdowns. The depth and breadth of the work were constantly changing and growing, and the connection to the community was truly authentic. My family is based in the Midwest, so a few years after my daughter’s birth, my husband and I were interested in relocating back to Minnesota. I was fortunate to be offered the Executive Director role at The O’Shaughnessy at St. Catherine University, where I have worked since July 2022. I’ve had the awesome responsibility and honor — alongside my team — to re-establish O’Shaughnessy’s place in the Twin Cities arts ecosystem post-COVID. We have deeply considered how best to uphold the mission and values of St. Catherine University through our work, launched a new cohort program to support four local professional dance companies, continued our service to many local arts organizations who call O’Shaughnessy their performance home, and are beginning to consider how best to build authentic community engagement programs for our audience — including a new subscription program launched this year.

Alright, let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what challenges have you had to overcome?
The business model for nonprofit professional theater and artmaking is nearly impossible at the best of times, so the business of running small arts organizations is joyful, challenging, and rewarding, all at the same time. COVID was universally difficult, but we found resilience and meaning through the difficulties. We built and opened a new outdoor theater to safely assemble outdoors at Northern Stage; we felt the communal absence of live public assembly and the corresponding joy and meaning when we were able again to produce events and gather together to share experiences. My husband and I spent 10 years living and growing a deep community in Vermont through our work and personal lives, so it has been challenging to transition to life in the Twin Cities but also exciting to see so many opportunities and possibilities in our new surroundings and on the horizon. Opportunities and challenges so often seem inextricably linked.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about O’Shaughnessy at St. Catherine University?
Located on the scenic campus of St. Catherine University, The O’Shaughnessy is one of the Twin Cities’ premiere arts venues. Since opening in 1970, The O’Shaughnessy has presented various local and national performing arts companies. The O’Shaughnessy’s mission is to support St. Catherine University’s mission to educate women to lead and influence. It annually presents a world-class series of artistic offerings that center themes of social justice and women’s voices, produces University Events that invite the general public’s participation and broaden academic engagement, and hosts select community events. The venue is a meeting place between the campus community and the larger region and seeks opportunities to actively engage students in artmaking and broaden the campus dialogue through approachable art.

What’s special about the O’Shaughnessy is the same thing that makes St. Kate’s special: we program through a unique perspective centering and uplifting women’s voices, women’s leadership, women’s influence, and work to uphold our core value of social justice in all we do. I can give a couple of examples of how this manifested in programming this year:

  1. THE UNCERTAIN FOUR SEASONS, which we produced in September 2023, was a partnership between O’Shaughnessy, the Minnesota Opera Orchestra, Classical Uprising (a company from Maine), and our own St. Kate’s students. The Uncertain Four Seasons was an adaptation of the classic piece by Vivaldi, interpreted and re-made to express our changing climate. It featured a special algorithm specific to St. Paul and original poetry written and performed by our students. Several local nonprofits engaged in environmental justice work were involved in the performance, which was a positive call to action for our community.
  2. This spring, we will produce THE AUNTIES, a world premiere commissioned piece based on the stories of three indigenous Minnesota women who have been trailblazers and changemakers in our state. I can’t wait to hear their stories told on our stage.

How do you define success?
To me, success means measuring progress, not how far you go but how far you’ve come, and knowing that whatever is accomplished is done with integrity and purpose.

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