CORSON, S.D. (KELO) – The theater community in Sioux Falls lost a valuable asset on Monday after Corson theater’s Artistic Director Brian Schipper passed away in a sudden car accident on Interstate 90.
This was Schipper’s 10th season with the Mighty Corson Art Players (MCAP) and people close to him say he was instrumental in keeping the small, 100-seat theater thriving during its 41 years. Schipper died in a single-vehicle collision with a deer between the Brandon and Veterans Parkway exits on I-90.
KELOLAND News’ Gracie Terrall sat down with MCAP board members Macie Lupica and Sara Harrington to talk about how impactful Schipper was to the local theater scene.
“He loved what he did. He loved this theater. He was the heart and soul of it. He was so proud of it,” Lupica said. “He was so grateful for every person who decided to come out here and take a chance and have fun and do weird, cool stuff with him.”
Lupica started working with Schipper two years ago when she was cast in “Murder on the Orient Express.” Although Lupica has been acting for years, her experience with Schipper was so positive, she never left Corson. She said Schipper really understood her as an actor and helped her give meaningful performances.
“He was so good at seeing you, seeing your strengths and believing in you more than you could ever believe in yourself,” she said. “ If he saw something in you, he was going to help you. He was so open and so communicative and so encouraging.”
She said Schipper was motivating, inspiring and may have even been a little stubborn and headstrong, but that’s the exact reason he was able to pull off such outlandish sets and plays in such a small space.
Along with adding a third play to their season roster, Lupica said it was almost a game to Schipper to be as elaborate with the set design as possible. For MCAP’s run of “American Hero” last summer, Schipper glued subway tiles to the entire stage. Perhaps more ambitious though, is Schipper nailing scrap sheet metal to the walls of the stage to mimic an airplane hanger for the upcoming show, “They Promised Her The Moon.” Schipper was in the middle of his project when he passed.
“He created amazing art and he created amazing relationships and community,” Lupica said. “He understood what community theater could be– that was it could be quality, it could be thought provoking and community-centered.”
Harrington worked with Schipper as a director for three years with MCAP. She was the first person in seven years to direct a show at the theater who wasn’t Schipper. She said the opportunity never would have happened if Schipper hadn’t believed in her and pushed her to get back into directing.
“He walked with me through it and there was never any judgment,” Harrington said. “I was gonna have another experience with him. We had already talked about finding another time where we could do that.”
Harrington said that, in typical theater fashion, “the show must go on” and MCAP will continue with the upcoming season as scheduled. She said they’re making it a goal to sell out all the tickets for “They Promised Her The Moon,” which premiers October 13 at 7:30 p.m.
“We’re not letting him down, there’s no way in heck” Harrington said. “This place will not falter because he’s not here.”
“He’s like, ‘You guys have this, I’m not worried about that, but you better do it or I’ll haunt you forever,’” Lupica joked.
Schipper’s funeral service is Saturday, September 23 at 10 a.m. In lieu of flowers, Schipper’s family is asking people to make donations to the Mighty Corson Art Players.
“To lose someone that believed in you so much, is really hard,” Lupica said. “… That’s why this sucks so much, because nobody was done and he wasn’t either.