Theatre community mourns sudden loss of Corson director

Published: Sep. 19, 2023 at 6:12 PM CDT
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CORSON, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Brian Schipper was the managing artistic director for the Mighty Corson Art Players, a community art theater dating back decades.

Schipper died in a single-vehicle crash on Interstate 90 near Sioux Falls Monday night.

Now, his friends and colleagues are hoping to honor his memory by gathering at the Corson theater and continuing his legacy.

We first introduced you to Brian Schipper as the COVID pandemic began to wane, and the first play was scheduled.

“Everybody is so excited to be back. We’re ready. This is long overdue,” Schipper said.

Friends and family speak of his infectious laughter.

Brian and his partner Rebecca shared years behind the scenes, allowing others to be in the spotlight.

“And then, ‘Okay, it’s time to get the lobby cleaned up, and we’ve got to get ready to open house tomorrow.’ You know, those were really fun times,” said Rebecca.

But the bond runs deeper than sharing rehearsals and performances.

“If you needed him for whatever it was, everything else got put on the back burner for that moment,” said friend and board member Ryan Howe.

In the first few hours of the tragic news of Schipper’s death, they knew the last thing he’d want was a canceled show.

“He’d be so angry. You know, it’s so cheesy, like the show must go on, but I mean, he was never one to let anything stop him from doing a show,” Howe said.

“He often said, ‘There’s not one person that’s bigger than the theater.’ He wouldn’t want him not being there to stop it from going forward,” said Rebecca.

Play practice and set building will start soon, and the performance dates starting Oct. 13 remain scheduled.

“The show is called ‘They Promised Her the Moon.’ It is about Jerrie Cobb, who was the first American woman to test for spaceflight with the Mercury 13 program,” said Howe.

The ongoing performances will honor a man who gave much to others.

“I would not be half the artist that I am today if not for him, taking chance after chance after chance on me,” Howe said.

“He was just that person that was always there for me. Just bit by bit. That’s just how our relationship flourished,” Rebecca said.

Keeping the play rehearsals and performances on track provides a way for all in the theatre community to grieve together.

“It is an honor and a privilege to continue to carry it forward,” Howe said.

The cast and crew have a goal to sell out every performance in honor of their beloved director and board president.

Tickets are on sale now for performances at the Corson theater through the Mighty Corson Art Players box office.