By Liz Collin

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — After COVID-19 kept them closed, the curtains are rising again at Minnesota theaters as live shows take the stage.

WCCO’s Liz Collin visited her hometown of Worthington, where a new season means the return to a love story that started 70 years ago.

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For 16 months, Memorial Auditorium’s stage and 600 seats sat empty, as the pandemic made live shows at the 90-year-old theater impossible to plan. Tammy Makram is the auditorium’s managing director.

(credit: CBS)

“The arts are like the heart and soul of what our lives are about,” Makram said. “We thought, well, it would be for a few weeks, so we postponed shows until May, and then we postponed shows until summer [laughs], and then we just decided, you know, we just needed to hold off.”

It gave Makram more time to choreograph a memorable season, one that first will spotlight Children’s Theater Company’s Dakota Players and the “Missing Mountain Mystery” Friday night. But it’s a production in March, Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Pirates of Penzance,” that holds special meaning.

(credit: CBS)

“When Jean came forward and said, ‘Oh by the way, 70 years ago I was in “The Pirates of Penzance” on this stage 70.’ It was just a story that I couldn’t resist,” Makram said.

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Jean Doeden was a sophomore in high school in 1951 when she eyed a certain senior on stage who played the lead — her late husband Sidney.

“I liked the idea of getting into the choir, of course, and so tried out. And the day I looked up to look at see who got on, I was on the list,” Doeden said. “I was a little sophomore and he was the senior, so he found me [laughs]!”

Jean Doeden (credit: CBS)

The Doedens went on to raise kids and grandkids who followed their footsteps to Memorial’s stage, where Jean now has her own seat in the back and barely misses a show. She’s looking forward to a better view for her full-circle moment come spring.

“I didn’t buy the back seat though [laughs]! I told Tammy to get me something closer to the front!” Doeden said.

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There are nine shows in total running from Friday night until April at the Memorial Auditorium. Click here for tickets.

Liz Collin