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John’s Journal: National Honor For Alexandria Theater Director

Jessica Chipman Receives Outstanding Theater Director Award

Posted: Wednesday, February 21, 2024 - 5:14 PM


Jessica Chipman was doing what she does every day, working with theater students at Alexandria Area High School. Now in her 13th year at Alexandria, she teaches several theater electives as well as a philosophy class.

A few weeks ago, she was involved in a One-Act Play rehearsal after school when an administrator walked in. Jessica wondered if some of the students were supposed to be in detention, but she was quite incorrect. The news had just broken that she had been named a recipient of the Outstanding Theater Educator Award by the National Federation of State High School Associations. Jessica is the honoree from Section 5, which is composed of Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri.

“I got to experience that with my students,” she said. “It was really special.”

The kids cheered, applauded and hugged Jessica.  

“There were some laughs, too,” she said. “That’s always been my favorite part of working with students; the relationships. And educators shouldn’t have a stand-alone award, so it was nice to share that moment with the kids.”

Jessica grew up in Forest City, Iowa, in a home where the arts were important. Her parents encouraged their kids to pursue their interests, and theater was a big part of Jessica’s life in high school, at Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa, and into her career as an educator.

Alexandria made nine consecutive appearances at the MSHSL One-Act Play state festival through 2023. Jessica said the process of putting a performance together is special to her.

“I get to enjoy teaching acting class, teaching advanced theater, hanging out with some amazing kids,” she said. “There’s so much fun that can be learned from trying to make a play together.”

A news release from the NFHS read …

As a visionary director and educator, Jessica Chipman’s brilliance shines through in every aspect of her work. Whether she's helming a newly devised work, reimagining a classic, staging a published script, or using improvisation to explore conceptual possibilities, colleagues claim that Chipman’s approach is nothing short of extraordinary.

Her tenure has been marked by transformative contributions as a Theatre Director, not only at Alexandria Area High School but also in previous roles at Mount Pleasant High School (IA) and Algona High School (IA). Beyond her teaching commitments, Chipman is the Artistic Director and Co-Founder of Dynamo Creative, a female-led theatre company dedicated to telling women's stories.

With an impressive repertoire of over 35 plays and musicals directed and more than twenty full-length and one-act plays written, Chipman’s impact extends far and wide. Notable productions include "Trousers," recognized with the Wells Fargo Award of Excellence and a "Star" rating at the MSHSL State One-Act Play Festival in 2022, and "The Lovely Bones," which received accolades and moved both audience and critics alike in 2023.

Chipman has received a plethora of achievements, such as the Minnesota Theatre Educator of the Year in 2021 and recognition as a National Finalist for the Heideman Award at Actors Theatre of Louisville in 2010. Her dedication to educating and the arts is further highlighted through various accolades, including her selection as a Minnesota State High School League One Act Play State Judge, recipient of the Lakes Region Arts Council Individual Legacy Arts and Cultural Grant, and her status as a finalist for the Educator of the Year at the Iowa Governor's Scholar Recognition Luncheon in 2007.

--MSHSL senior content creator John Millea has been the leading voice of Minnesota high school activities for decades. Follow him on Twitter @MSHSLjohn and listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts. Contact John at [email protected] 

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