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West Fargo family passionate about Trollwood

Joan (Hatlestad) Degerness played Dorothy in the 1983 Mainstage musical, "The Wizard of Oz." The Trollwood Performing Arts School alumna has been active at Trollwood ever since. Submitted photo1 / 2
From left, Parker, Walker, Jordan, Joan and Dan Degerness are very active in Trollwood Performing Arts. David Samson/The Forum2 / 2

Joan Degerness has passed along her passion for Trollwood Performing Arts School to her family. Jordan, 15; Walker, 13; and Parker, 7; are all involved in Trollwood programs this summer, and Joan, herself, has been directly involved with Trollwood for over 30 years. Her kids think it's cool that their mom played Dorothy in the 1983 Mainstage musical production of "The Wizard of Oz" at Trollwood.

Joan first became involved with Trollwood in 1978 as a student. She played violin in the orchestra pit for "A Midsummer Night's Dream." She has been involved in programs through Trollwood ever since, in one way or another. She is currently serving as the assistant to Vicki Chepulis, Trollwood Performing Arts School's executive director. Joan also teaches ArtSpark, a Trollwood program offered to students in grades 1-6 at area elementary schools. She just finished teaching an ArtSpark session during June for grades 1-3 at Bennett Elementary in Fargo. During ArtSpark sessions, students participate in theatre games, singing, storytelling, dance, and yoga, to give them the opportunity to explore the realm of theatre arts in a casual setting with kids their own age.

It is easy to see Joan's enthusiasm about ArtSpark, both as an instructor for the program, and as a mother. Her eyes light up just at the mention of the program, and she is thrilled that her children are so fired up about being part of the programs at Trollwood. She, and her husband, Dan, who is also a performer and used to sing in a country band, are happy their kids have a passion for theatre and performing.

"We want the boys to be well-rounded," Joan said. All three of their sons have shown strong interests in music and the performing arts. Along with their involvement at Trollwood, Jordan and Walker are both in choir and music in school, and are currently performing in the orchestra pit for Trollwood's production of "The Wiz." Jordan is also active in Trollwood's leadership program, helping the orchestra director prepare for performances, and working with the orchestra students in the rhythm section.

Along with performing in the orchestra pit for the mainstage musical, Walker has been enrolled in Totally Trollwood for grades 6-8 this summer, learning acting, singing, and dancing techniques.

"There are so many choices at Trollwood for students at the eighth-grade level that Walker had a hard time choosing which programs he wanted to sign up for this summer. But when he learned that Adam Pankow was going to be teaching Totally Trollwood, he knew right away that was what he wanted to sign up for. The kids just love Adam. He works so well with the kids," Joan said.

Parker has been attending ArtSpark sessions at Cheney Middle School in West Fargo, taught by Kari Selisker. He can't wait for classes to begin each morning. He especially likes the theatre games he gets to play, which teach teamwork and listening skills. Some of Parker's favorite games are Ships and Sailors; Man Overboard; and Lighthouse. Each session concludes with a talent day presentation to show parents what the students have learned.

"I might want to do the piano part, or I might want to sing," Parker said, with a big grin, as he finishes demonstrating how to rescue a sailor who has fallen overboard in Man Overboard.

The Degerness home in West Fargo has been a busy place all summer, with everyone coming and going. Jordan and Walker have been spending three hours every morning and another three hours in the evenings at Trollwood practicing for The Wiz, fitting tennis practice in between. On performance nights, you'll usually see the whole family at Trollwood. Joan works in the ticket booth or helps wherever she is needed.

Besides her involvement with Trollwood, Joan is a music teacher at Hopkins Elementary School in Moorhead, and serves as a worship leader at Hope Lutheran Church for both their campuses.