In Memorium

In Memory of Sandie Karnack

Resident Director of MRP from 1980 – 1996

It is with great sadness that Mouse River Players Community Theater announces the passing on one of our most beloved directors, Sandra Karnack.  She influenced actors and crew who joined our theater activities from 1980 through 1996.

Sandie’s funeral will be Wednesday, August 14th at Little Flower Catholic Church.

Memories will be shared at the visitation at Thomas Family Funeral Home on Tuesday, August 13th from 5 to 8 pm.

Sandie Karnack: 

Energetic, Passionate, Teacher, ‘Sandie-isms’

“I need coffee, where is my assistant director?” shouted Sandie.

Sandie Karnack reigned as Mouse River Players’ (MRP) artistic director from 1980 until she retired at the end of the 1994-95 season.  But, Sandie’s role was much more… director, choreographer, and master teacher. Our memories are flavored with what I will refer to as ‘Sandie-isms’.

“I owe Sandi my life and deepest gratitude for all that she taught me and has given to me,” states Adam Henjum. “Once you have learned the choreography for a song, you will never forget it.  When the music comes on, you automatically move to it, “Jylann Hanson remembers

Sandie Karnack telling her this tidbit of information during a dancing session at MRP. 


Sandie Karnack influenced many people to embrace ownership and teamwork for a theatre production, and as a result, these people personally used this knowledge to ‘if I can do that, I can do anything’ succeed.  She could be heard hollering, “Keep your hands off other people’s props!” or “VOLUME!”  MRP actors (we) learned from the best.


Sandie was born and raised in Donola, PA where she graduated from a performing artist school.  She promptly married Ron Karnack, SR, and the Air Force moved them away.  She kept a low profile until a community theatre in Louisiana needed help.  From there, she became involved in the Air Force programs such as ‘SAC Showcases’ and ‘Tops in Blue’. 


At Minot Air Force Base, she was pulled out of low profile again, when a young man convinced her to choreograph the show, Gypsy, and she ended up finishing the directing job.  This show led an insistent Arlene Saugstad to persuade Sandie to take the artistic director position at Mouse River Players Community for the 1980-81 season.


John Fishpaw’s biggest influence was Sandie Karnack.  “She had a great grasp of her craft.  She even taught us how to tap dance for a show…”


Teacher…Director. “She pushed us to do our best.  She would listen to us if we had a different ‘take’ on something.  Sometimes she added it; sometimes not.  She knew her stuff,” Jacki Haider added.


Regan Eidsness Slind remembers her “energy and passion” for her craft. Popular ‘Sandie-isms’, “You got a volume button in your butt!”  or “That was poo-tinky!”


Sandie says that a community theatre’s season must provide a variety of shows such as comedy, a period piece, mystery, and drama.  Drama provides the audience a way to expand their mind; it becomes a teaching place.


She says community theatre must be performed at its best like professional theater.  Sandie ran a tight ship; the actors become well-rounded people as they researched in order to play a convincing role.  As the cast and crew worked

together to create a finished production, this activity gave them ownership.  The theatre became ‘home’.  She also reminded me that she has the ‘record of Mr. and Mrs.’ which was the wedding couples who met at her theaters.

Sandie has many favorite shows.  One of Sandie’s favorite shows was The Normal Heart (1988-89). It was her favorite because of its impact to educate all people.  She was proud to present this show in Minot, ND when it was boycotted in Washington D.C.   This show’s premise was AIDS. A second favorite show was Godspell.

Godspell (1988) was Sandie’s favorite to experience; she wanted to ‘feel’.  She says she saw an open showcase of the work-in-progress, and “it struck me in my heart.  It (the show) says nothing is what it seems.  You cannot tell a person what to do. They must do it for themselves.”  “It took three years of convincing before I would do it at MRP.”  Another favorite was the ‘fun’ show.

Leader of the Pack (1990) was my favorite ‘fun’ show.  It had great music from the 50s and 60s that told Ellie Greenwich’s personal story.  We created an abstract set that resembled the disco circles and television sets from Ed Sullivan.  The show had 40 cast members as the script didn’t limit the number of singers and dancers. However, Teresa Dixon Kappus remembered a ‘Sandie-ism’, “If I ever do another musical again with more than 30 people—shoot me!”

“Music Revue was Sandie’s forte as she wrote the show, chose the music, cast it, and inspired us,” remembers John Fishpaw.  ‘Sandie-ism’ – “DUCK TAPE!”

Music Revue began as a fundraiser.  After Annie Get Your Gun, we realized that we had no sound system, and the theater had lights without bulbs or gels. We needed a way to earn money earmarked for sound and lighting equipment as this equipment was not in the regular budget.  Sandie gathered a small cast to perform for small parties; this cast would only have to do three shows to purchase the equipment.

The result was the Music Revue performed across the state and Canada. Every cast and crew member worked together to put together a stage complete with drums, pianos, microphones, speakers, mixers and lighting equipment. Another famous ‘Sandie-ism’, “What is wrong with the bus now?”

Sandie’s other programs at MRP included the Mini-Mousers (2nd -8th grades) and MRP Too (Adults with Disabilities).  Mini-Mousers was the place to be on Saturday

mornings for acting and dancing lessons.  MRP Too put on a play by the end of their season.  The best part was the camaraderie.  A famous ‘Sandie-ism’ was the reaction to a statement, ‘I can’t,’ She said, “Give 10 good reasons why you can’t.”

When Sandie looked toward her retirement at the end of Season 1994-95, she taught a director’s class.  In return for these lessons, we each took a turn at directing a show for MRP. For example, she reminded me that before I choose a script to direct, “Read the script three times…” and “We’ll fill in the rest with black curtains.”

“If it wasn’t for Sandie, I wouldn’t be at MRP; she took a chance on me… She didn’t give praise easily.  If she praised you, you earned it,” remembers Ken Haarstad. He also remembers a ‘Sandie-ism’ an actor NEVER wanted to hear.  “Go home and repent because you were truly bad.”

–by Holly Eidsness