ST. JOSEPH-- Laughter, inspiration, and connections were among the emotions felt in the room as the Minnesota Theater Alliance held it's first annual statewide conference.

The alliance which has been around for six years was started by a board of artistic directors who had a vision to create an organization that would advocate to bring theaters and individuals together.

Together Ashley Hanson and Joanna Schnedler along with others worked to create a three day conference experience with opportunities for theater individuals and organizations to network, be creative and build professional development.

Despite just coming together for a good time the alliance was focused on issues affecting the industry. Among one of the many issues touched on by Ben Cameron was building demand.

With that Cameron was able to leave the audience talking and thinking of ways to come together to tackle the issue.  An issue program Director Ashley Hanson says is becoming a problem in the industry. 

"Theater overall is loosing audiences on a national scale. Less people are seeing live theater so what is our charge as theater artists to reverse that trend and what are some innovative ways that we can address this very serious issue in our field" says Hanson

Being the theater artists that they are, the best way they knew how to deal with the problem was to face it head on together.Just like a show they would rehearse for as a group.

As the conference comes to an end tomorrow (Monday)  Hanson hopes the artists can take away connecting with each other and collaborating in a meaningful way.

"Last night just looking over the room and seeing my good friend Kate from Bemidji talking to the production designer at Chanhassen Dinner Theater in the suburbs and sitting next to the marketing person from Ordway. You are like this is incredible to have these three perspectives having a conversation based on an inspiring keynote speaker that we all heard together. You go yeah it's definitely worth it the planning and this is why we do it"

It's the connections like Kate is making that keep the alliance motivated in coming up with ways to better serve its members.

As far as the people that weren't able to attend Hanson advises for everyone to not only go see theater but to support as well.

It's still not too late for you to attend the conference if you are interested. The last day is tomorrow and sessions will start at 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. in the Centenary Room at St. John's University.

If you as an individual artist or your theater organization is interested in joining the Minnesota Theater Alliance you find more information regarding the group on their website.