Trollwood Performing Arts SchoolTrollwood Performing Arts School
© Photo Courtesy of Trollwood Performing Arts School
© Janelle Berge
© Michael Benedict

Trollwood Performing Arts School, Bluestem Center for the Arts

Moorhead, Minnesota

Established in 1978, Trollwood Performing Arts School, a program of Fargo Public Schools, provides performing arts training to young people. Using a temporary amphitheatre sited in Fargo North Dakota’s Trollwood Park on an oxbow of the Red River, the school’s annual Mainstage Musical had become a significant arts event, drawing guest staff and designers from Chicago and New York to work with a cast and crew of local high school students. The limited site and regular flooding restricted the School’s growth and ability to deliver the full range of instructional and performance programs that it had developed over the past 30 years.

With the acquisition of a new 70 acre campus several miles down river in Moorhead, Trollwood was given the room to expand, with siting for a permanent amphitheatre on higher ground, some 20’ above flood level.

In March 2005 Auerbach Pollock Friedlander, Cuningham Group and MBA Architects began a public process of planning the new amphitheatre in a series of needs assessments workshops with staff, students and patrons. Fundamental requirements for the new theatre, including in-front blanket seating and picnic berms, were incorporated in the preliminary design concepts. These discussions brought forward critical technical criteria, as well as the importance of traditional elements of the old Trollwood amphitheatre, all of which are now prominent in the new venue’s aesthetic.

The 2,500-seat amphitheatre features 1,076 fixed seats centered within the space and flanked by two grassy berms which can accommodate blankets and lawn seating. Directly behind the lawn and fixed seats is terraced bench seating accommodating another 900 patrons. The stage measures 90’ wide and 54’ deep and is protected from the elements by a series of 4 large glu-lam beams which arch 36’ above the stage, supporting a roof structure and catwalks used for theatrical lighting and rigging over the stage.

Audience accommodations are provided at both the right and left entrances to the theatre. Concessions, restrooms and point of sale areas are positioned below the lawn seating’s earthen berm, helping to shield the view of these elements from patrons seated within the amphitheatre.

The amphitheatre, a commons building and first phase support facilities opened in summer 2009.

Architect: Cuningham Group with executive architect MBA Architects
Size: 70 acres (entire campus)
Cost: $16,250,000
Completion: 2009