On April 20-23 and 27-29, Osseo area schools will hold their annual Wastebasket Revue (WBR) at Park Center High School in Brooklyn Park. At this year’s 50th anniversary show, attendees will be serenaded by the Swingin’ Eds chorale group, amused by a variety of lively comedy sketches, and entertained by the dance line’s choreographed routines, all while enjoying live music and witnessing this year’s scholarships awarded to area graduating high school seniors.
The much-anticipated fundraising event began when music teacher Duayne Malewicki brought the idea with him from a Virginia, Minnesota school where he previously taught. That school produced a variety show known as the “Blackboard Revue.” When District 279 was looking for a way to help high school seniors with post-secondary education expenses, Malewicki figured a similar theatrical event put together by teachers and community members would help the cause.
Fifty years later, the revue has raised more than 1 million dollars for 802 scholarships since its first performance in 1967.
The Wastebasket Revue founder reflects on the lengthy history of the show and all the people who have made it possible. “We are just a bunch of amateurs doing this, but I’ve always been a firm believer that wherever you go, there’s a lot of talent,” Malewicki says. “All you have to do is find that talent, bring it out and give it an opportunity to put it on display and that’s what we’ve done.”
Dave Looby is the president of the non-profit side of the enterprise and a long-time participant in the show. “We were organized to raise money for scholarships,” Looby says, “so the primary way we raise money and to get these people together is to put on an annual variety show.” The event plays a big part in giving new teachers and employees in the district an opportunity to meet colleagues in other buildings.
Graduating high school seniors from Osseo area schools are eligible for the Wastebasket Revue scholarship based on criteria involving leadership, participation in activities, awards and honors, financial need and a personal essay written by the student.
In the name of helping students pay for college, the show has been a source of entertainment and many laughs over the years, strengthening old friendships, cultivating new ones, and highlighting the creativity and talent of its many volunteers ranging from teachers and administrators to cooks, aids, parents and members of the community.
Looby recalls a favorite sketch: In 2011 the Wastebasket Revue featured a Vegas theme and Looby created a sketch based on the iconic 1960s “Rat Pack.” “I ended up emceeing the show that year as Dean Martin and another friend of mine who was an insurance guy, he’s a fabulous singer and does Frank Sinatra. Then we got somebody from Osseo Senior High to be Sammy Davis Jr.”
“I watched the old Dean Martin celebrity roasts and pulled together a lot of the old stories and jokes to write the script,” Looby recalls. “I got a local formal wear shop to donate tuxedos for the three of us and we just had a lot of fun doing it.”
Skits have covered countless music, movie and pop culture references over the years. In one show, a twist on the classic Three Little Pigs tale involved a realtor showing the pigs potential houses on the market. In another, a tattered ensemble of teachers, dressed as zombies, performed choreography from Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” And, in a nod to a high school generation’s reality show obsession, one staff member gave a hilarious performance as gum-chewing, hair bun-wearing Snooki from Jersey Shore.
Weeks ahead of the performances, nearly 300 teachers, faculty and community members put in hours to prepare for the show, with many teachers and employees staying late after the regular school or work day to practice their roles for the big event. “What I remember most is the transformation from the first rehearsals to the end production,” Malewicki says, “And all the changes that take place so it comes out looking like it was professionally done.”
It is not uncommon for the volunteers to be involved in more than one production aspect of the revue, or to perform in multiple numbers. “Sometimes you have such a quick change—you have to get from a tuxedo to a tutu in a matter of 30 seconds because you’re in the next number and it’s something completely different,” Looby chuckles.
For the show’s 50th performance, the event will feature “the best of” requests from the audience as well as volunteer-favorite skits, songs and pieces performed over the years. The committee will also make acknowledgements. “We are going to honor all the people over the years who have been our patrons, who have given extra money besides buying the tickets. . . with a VIP lounge for an hour before each show,” Malewicki says.
Another special feature this year will be the presence of previous scholarship winners, starting from the very first year in 1967, as special guests of honor. “We’ve been in the process of trying to find and invite back all 802 past recipients,” Looby says. “I’m really looking forward to meeting with them and hearing their stories.”
Michael Lu is a 2016 scholarship recipient from Maple Grove Senior High and recalls the fun of attending the revue. “Seeing Jenna Diem, my 6th grade teacher, Mr. Harmer, our 9th grade band teacher, Mrs. Will, our 10th grade pre-calculus teacher, and many other familiar faces brought me back to the old days. Watching the staff dance and perform in skits just made me remember how grateful I was to be able to be a student for 12 years through the Osseo-Maple Grove schooling system,” Lu says.
Tom Greve is a special education teacher at Palmer Lake Elementary and an adult education teacher at the Osseo Adult Education Center. His roles include set-building, writing and performing in the show’s skits and dance lines.
“I feel my involvement in some of the ‘behind-the-scenes jobs’ gives me a unique perspective on the show,” Greve says. “We write skits and dialogue weekly beginning in October. It is a fabulous, dedicated group of friends. Some nights we accomplish a lot, some nights not so much, and some weeks we come back and toss all we had done the previous week, but we always end up with a script.”
After weeks of hard work practicing choreography, lines, music, building sets, putting costumes together and running through dress rehearsals, “the reward comes when we start performing,” Greve says. It makes the endeavor even more meaningful knowing that the proceeds help graduating seniors pursue their post-secondary goals.
“After 50 years it runs like clockwork, kind of. Part of the reason that I said yes to being the president is to help make sure it goes on for another 50 years,” Looby says. “It’s fun. We couldn’t do it without all people involved and it’s just amazing how it all comes together.”
Reflections from past scholarship winners
“The Wastebasket Revue Scholarship has allowed me to pursue my dreams in post-secondary education. The great thing is that the program allows students to give their complete attention to finding post-secondary education and achieving their goals, without financial burdens limiting their choices.” —Michael Lu, 2016 scholarship winner
“I received the very first scholarship back in 1968. At that time the funds allowed me to pay tuition for my entire freshman year at Winona State and go on to a 40 year teaching career in high school English, speech, and drama. I like to think I carried on the heart of this show with the multitudes of musical performances I directed. Duayne and Diane Malewicki are my best memories of the Revue. Their passion for good performances and for students is what I remember. That and the laughter. I know their dedication is what drives the tradition of this show. I feel very honored to have been a small part of it all.” –Candace Newman, 1968 scholarship winner
“I was fortunate to be one of the 1987 Wastebasket Review Scholarship recipients in their 20th anniversary year. The WBR Scholarship helped me to pursue my post-secondary education at the University of Minnesota, in dentistry. I began attending the WBR with my family when I was in kindergarten in the mid 1970s. We’ve seen quite a few shows over the years. Going to the WBR every year is like one big, fun family reunion. I look forward to seeing my former teachers showcasing their talents each year. Now my kids look forward to seeing their teachers too.”
—Nancy (Kochenderfer) Olsen, 1987 scholarship winner