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Former teacher stages historical play premier

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She says she enjoys writing about women who are finding their voice and power through creativity.

And that would be a good way of describing Michelle Storm, an emerging playwright and mother-of-two, who will see her second production staged in a Minneapolis theater later this month.

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Storm, 37, lives in the Featherstone Ridge neighborhood of Woodbury, and is looking forward to seeing the fruits of a creative process spanning two years in the premier of her play, "For A Time Such As This."

The script is inspired by the Bible book of Esther, and Storm says it is heavily influenced by the Jewish celebration of Purim, a joyous holiday which commemorates the Jewish people being saved from extermination in Persia.

"There's a whole celebratory theater tradition to Purim," explained Storm. "I tried to have dance and music in the play, and we do have a marionette who plays one of the characters."

The show starts with the modern-day character of Estrella, an elderly Catholic church custodian, who falls asleep over the pages of an old Bible. In her dreams, she meets up with Esther and follows her through history.

Storm is a former elementary school teacher in the district, and taught at Bailey, Middleton and Pullman elementary schools for six years before giving up full-time teaching to free up her time to get back into the theater.

She still substitutes in the district, which allows her to keep in touch with former co-workers and students, as well as devoting more time to her fledgling theater company, Bridge Productions.

"I had studied theater at Hamline University, but decided I wanted more stability and went into teaching," Storm said.

"Then I was married and had two children, and all my theater dreams got pushed to the side, even though I had those yearnings still inside me."

After many long talks with husband Troy, who works in finance and has built the set for her production, she took up a play writing course, during which her first script, "The Scarlet Lady", was written. That was performed at the Bryant Lake Bowl Theater in Minneapolis in October 2006.

"For A Time Such As This" arose from her work with the drama ministry at her church, Resurrection Lutheran Church on Bailey Road in Woodbury.

The pastor and some of the women leaders approached Storm and asked her to write a play based on Esther for a three-day women's retreat in Wisconsin.

Storm duly obliged, and after a successful performance there and at a subsequent reading, the production gained momentum.

A grant from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council and additional funding from A Very Small Arts Fund has helped get the show on the stage.

Storm is already thinking ahead to the future, and is working on two projects. The first is a play about Sister Rosalind, the massage ministry nun who is a regular at the St. Paul Saints games.

The second is based on the Minnesota children's illustrator and author Wanda Gag, whose popular book, "Millions of Cats", was published in 1929.

"Theater is just a piece of me which is part of my fabric," said Storm. "I just thought, 'I'm getting older -- I'm almost 40, I should go for it.'"

"For A Time Such As This" will be performed at Intermedia Arts, 2822 Lyndale Ave. South, Minneapolis, on March 21, 22, 24, 27, 28 and 29 at 8 p.m. and at 2 p.m. on March 30.

Tickets cost $15 ($10 for students and senior citizens) and can be reserved on (651) 501-9273 or by e-mailing tickets@bridgeproductions.info.

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