Dwain Johnson

Dwain Johnson [1921 - 2011] was a Minnesota high school teacher and a pioneer of educational theater and media production. During a career that spanned the '40s through the '80s, he brought several theatrical and television "firsts" to southern and central Minnesota. He built what is believed to be the very first instructional television studio in the country and developed widespread recognition for his professional-level theatrical productions that set attendance records.

"Mr. J" began his formal career in Staples, MN in 1955 and then moved to Rochester in 1958 where he taught at John Marshall High School and Mayo High School until he retired in 1984. He was a deeply committed and effective teacher whose mantra was "Give them a taste of success."

This website is an overview of his career, accomplishments and philosophy. It began on the centenary observance of Dwain's birth and my hope is that it might be considered a steppingstone to further the discussion about what happens to live theater in the post-pandemic 21st Century.

Dwain Johnson, theater educator


The Repository @ St. Cloud State is a permanent open-access online archive for collecting, preserving, and making accessible the faculty, student, staff, alumni, and university-level creative, intellectual, scholarly, and administrative output. The Repository aggregates and permanently preserves the campus scholarly and cultural record to promote interdisciplinary research, maximize research impact, and support local, regional, and global development and interests.

Dwain L. Johnson's 1958 Master's thesis, "An Analysis of the Problems of Actor-Behavior in Educational Theater," has been added to the collection. This work was, in many ways, the bedrock of Johnson's effective approach to working with young adults. Visit the ACADEMIA page for that link and other academic papers written by Johnson.

Pioneering Instructional Television

"Why would anyone need more than four channels?"

Johnson saw television not as the educator's enemy but as a vital tool that could democratize learning and communication. In the late 1960s, he was pretty much alone in this quest. One of his favorite anecdotes concerned a meeting of administrators gathered to hear Dwain's proposal to build a school-district-wide cable TV network. (A dream that would come true.) After enumerating what cable TV could do, the sincere and unintentionally laughable response was, "Why would anyone need more than four channels?".

One can only hope that the unimaginative chap moved on before the internet came and blew his mind!

A Philosophy of Instructional Theater

"Give them ALL a taste of success"

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