Tropp, Wood, Snyder to be inducted April 2 into Arts Hall of Fame

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Shelly Birkelo
Sunday, March 19, 2017

JANESVILLE—Jim Tropp had the opportunity to leave Rock County and be an artistic director of a respectable theater in South Dakota.

Yet he didn't take the job and said he would never trade his longtime work with the arts here—not even for a Broadway show.

“It's my art. This is who I am and this is what I do,” said the director of community and school theater productions.

Nobody knows that better than Jim Lyke, Milton, who nominated Tropp for induction into the 2017 United Arts Alliance of Rock County's Hall of Fame.

“When the words 'musical theater' are spoken in Rock County, the first—and often only—name that comes to mind is Jim Tropp. For 30 years, Jim has been turning community musical theater into a true art form, directing dozens of shows that have entertained thousands of theatergoers and launched countless students on to bigger and better artistic endeavors,” Lyke wrote in his nomination letter.

For these reasons, Tropp, 54, Beloit, will be among three local residents to be inducted into the alliance's Hall of Fame on Sunday, April 2, at the Janesville Woman's Club, 108 S. Jackson St.

Anne Katz, executive director of Arts Wisconsin, will deliver the keynote address.

Joining Tropp will be:

--Jackie Wood, Janesville, a longtime advocate and supporter of the arts who remains dedicated to making the arts available to Rock County residents and

--Richard Snyder, Janesville, a master glass artist and instructor of stained glass who has been the lead artist and restorer of the 1899 Oak Hill Chapel.

Tropp admitted he was “a little shocked,” in reaction to his induction but realized it is an acknowledgement of his work.

That work, according to Lyke, has included Tropp co-founding Theatre Unlimited in 1992 and directing its production of “Annie” in 2003 as a fundraiser for the Janesville Performing Arts Center that raised $54,000.

“His 2006 production of 'Disney's Beauty and the Beast' at JPAC drew 6,000 attendees over three weekends,” Lyke said.

Tropp has also directed professional and community productions for The Armory, Wisconsin Theatreworks, Bower City Theater Company and the Rock River Repertory Theater Company. Still, his work with local high school students stands out even more.

“Jim's work at Parker High School and with the School District of Janesville Summer Program has raised the bar for high school productions statewide,” Lyke said.

“His collection of Tommy Awards for Outstanding Musical and Outstanding Director could fill many trophy cases, “Lyke said.

But for Tropp, it's about more than the awards. It's about improving the quality of high school theater, he said.

Lyke agreed: “It's the incredible opportunities and instruction that young, aspiring actors receive that helps them develop their talent and confidence. Many have gone on to continue their craft in college and beyond,” Lyke said.

And for Tropp, that's his reward.

“The goal is to teach and inspire kids, which is my biggest thrill,” he said.

Trygve Danielson, who taught Tropp 35 years ago at Parker High School, also nominated Tropp for induction.

“It has been reassuring to watch Jim evolve into a director who doesn't just produce beautiful and powerful theatre, but a director who inspires and encourages others to value the theatre as an art form," Danielson wrote in his nomination letter. "He has done an enormous service for our community and for those individuals who find theater inspiring.”

Tropp was exposed to theater while attending Wilson Elementary School in Janesville, but it was Danielson who sparked his lifelong love of theater while attending Parker High School.

“That's why I'm so passionate about theater,” he said.

Tropp directed his first show, “Fiddler on the Roof," for a Janesville religious education program at Parker High School and has stayed involved in community theater ever since.

About 15 years ago, he branched out into educational high school theater, primarily at Parker, where he is preparing for the summer school production.

“We have auditions at the end of April. Rehearsals start in mid-June with production in July,” Tropp said.

Tropp summed up the importance of the arts in a community by citing this quote, which reflects his philosophy on life: “When we leave this world of ours, there's only two things to leave behind: children and art.”

“I live by that,” he said.

In looking to the future, Tropp admits, “I'm never going to be done with art.”

Yet he admits there might come a time when “art is going to be done with me.”

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