Johnson forged new relationship with local media
Reading through these articles, you see the evolution of local journalism though the years. Reviews began as largely praise-pieces probably designed to satisfy the participants and their families. The writers employed rather unsophisticated language, giving the impression that they may not have known how to offer up theatrical criticism. But around 1963, you'll notice that the writers started to delve into the plays with increased complexity. Fully-fledged examinations of the shows and the productions began to emerge. Medea and The Miracle Worker at John Marshall rated reviews not unlike professional analysis. Hansel and Gretel, (also at JM) spot-lit the innovative work Johnson spearheaded for the students interested in technical, backstage work.
I'd like to think (with good reason) that this change occurred in part due to Johnson's fierce engagement with the media and his desire to spread the word about what the theater department was doing. If that is true, the effect didn't last long. Sadly, at about the same time as Johnson's productions reached their zenith in quality, innovation and stagecraft, The Post Bulletin pulled back its willingness to dedicate multiple columns for the shows. Reviews gave way to "feature" stories. A case-in-point would be Johnson's masterpiece, Cyrano de Bergerac. Although there was a modest feature on stage manager Jay Toogood's remarkable return to theater following an amputation, the production itself only rated a one-paragraph description of the lead character's polyurethane nose.
NOTE | Partway through my work to digitize the press coverage of Dwain Johnson's work, a fire destroyed my home, including all of the news clippings and memorabilia my father saved and eventually left to me. Luckily, I had managed to scan and upload the Staples years prior to the disaster. That was fortunate as it was mostly school newspaper stories that I don't expect have ever been formally saved.
For the Rochester years, I turned to the Minnesota Historical Society and spent many happy hours in the Gale Family Library searching through thousands of miles of microfilm of the Rochester Post Bulletin to recapture what Dad had saved and to add reviews and stories that he hadn't.
Many thanks to above-mentioned institutions for their priceless contribution to this site.
Following WWII, Johnson obtained his teaching degree and licence and moved to the town of Staples, MN (pop. 2775.) He joined the faculty of the local high school and not only honed his skills as a teacher of theater, he married his tech. director, Noreen Robbins of the English department.
Johnson never considered himself to be a superior actor and yet he was consistently cast in leading and featured supporting roles. In addtion, he was nominated for Roscoe Awards for the two times he acted for RCT.
It is believed that Johnson brought the first musical to Rochester, at least at the high school level. In addition, he shattered attendance records, logging over 4,000 audience members over a two-night run. While busy with this, he also found time to serve on one of the first advisory boards to the not-yet-built Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis.
1966 - 1984: The Mayo High School Years
Johnson's career reached its zenith during the years he built the first student-run television studio in the U.S., brought dinner theater to Rochester for the first time and triumphed with a legendary production of Cyrano de Bergerac.
Many of the stories featured in the Rochester Post Bulletin were written by Pauline Walle, a passionate enthusiast of the arts and of Johnson's work in particular. Tragically, her opening-night telegram and the card she sent to him at his retirement were lost in the fire. But her steadfast dedication to the local arts scene must be honored on this site.
Pauline Walle, 1936 - 2021
Pauline Ann Walle, 84, died on January 16, 2021, at Arbor Terrace in Rochester, where she had lived for the last several years. Pauline was born in Duluth, MN, on January 23, 1936, to Michael and Josephine Walle. She was preceded in death by her parents and a brother and sister. Pauline grew up on Minnesota's Iron Range, and graduated from Duluth East High School. Two junior high years at a boarding school in Old Frontenac, MN, instilled in Pauline a love of the bluffs and valleys of the Mississippi, a love she would carry with her the rest of her life. Explorations of towns and haunts on both sides of the river often showed up in her writing, years later. After high school, Pauline went on to pursue a degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. Following graduation from college, Pauline worked as Women's Editor at the Hibbing Tribune, at the University of Minnesota/Duluth's news service, and started work at the Post-Bulletin in 1962 as Editor of the Society section. Her role evolved over the years, and she increasingly focused her writing on religion and the arts, along with stories on local residents and regional travel. She was a long-standing member of Christ United Methodist Church in Rochester, and was a loyal member of many local arts organizations. Her writing extended beyond the newspaper, and in 2010 she and friend Judith Smithson published a book of original poetry and illustrations titled Line Drawings: Poetry and Art on the Nature of Things.