ARTIST PROFILE SERIES - Cheryl Skafte
A hometown girl, Cheryl Skafte, like many people who grow up in the Twin Ports, went away to college, and to work elsewhere, but found herself drawn back to where she knew was the place she wanted to be, in Duluth.
After graduating from high school in Hermantown, Cheryl attended Hamline University in St. Paul where she earned a BFA in Urban Education, History, and English. She later went to UMD and earned her master’s degree in Advocacy and Political Leadership.
After graduating from Hamline, she moved to Baltimore, Maryland, to serve in the Lutheran Volunteer Corps, and worked at Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. “It was a life changing experience, and I was able to do some amazing work and meet amazing people,” Cheryl explained.
“One of my favorite memories was taking a group of middle school students to Washington D.C. to meet with some Senators on a bill that addressed the treatment of unaccompanied refugee minors,” she added. “We were able to sit in on the bill’s hearing, and we were recognized by Senator Ted Kennedy who invited all the students to sit on the dais.”
Moving to New York City in 2003, she worked at the Four Seasons Hotel in the gift shop. “I am a huge fan of the movies, and I legit get starstruck very easily,” she said. “I loved all the celebrities that I met working at the hotel, including Sylvester Stallone, Beyoncé, Morgan Freeman, George Clooney, and Muhammed Ali.”
She came back to Duluth in 2005 because her sister was getting married. She noted, “My intention was to stay for six months and then move back to the East Coast. That never happened. Duluth is home.”
Since moving back to Duluth, she has mainly worked in the field of volunteer management and public service with different organizations, including the Duluth Area Family YMCA, Head of the Lakes United Way, and the City of Duluth Park Maintenance Division.
In 2020, Cheryl was recognized with the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management’s Outstanding Community Partner Award. Cheryl was nominated for this award for her outstanding work following the October 2019 storm. She helped to identify needs within Duluth and matched those needs with volunteers throughout the state.
“Currently, I am at the University of Minnesota Duluth as the Public Engagement Coordinator,” Cheryl said. “It is a new role, since January 2023, and it’s very exciting and dynamic. I work to promote, support, and advance campus-community partnerships.”
Cheryl has been married to Luke Moravec since July 2012. She met Luke, a fellow actor, doing Three Musketeers, and then went on to do other shows together including Amadeus, Hamlet, and One Man, Two Guvnors.
Luke was recently seen in Misery at the new Lab theater space at the Norshor. He hosts Northland Morning for 103.3 The North.
Cheryl and Luke have two “curious cats,” Cairo and Kenji. Cairo’s name is inspired by the couple’s 2019 trip to Egypt.
“I love to travel – and recently went to Utah to check out Bryce and Zion National Parks. I got to see the annular eclipse in Bryce with two of my high school girlfriends that I used to do theater with!” Cheryl said.
She added, “I also do various ‘side hustles!’ I coordinate volunteers for Bent Paddle’s volunBEER program and Festiversary. I host trivia a couple times a month at Wild State Cider. I have worked the past two summers giving tours for Viking Cruise guests visiting Duluth. This past summer, I worked concessions at the Huskies games with my 15-year-old niece.”
In her spare time, Cheryl loves reading mysteries and enjoys running Grandma’s Half Marathon. She said, “I have run it every year for the past seven years. I love spending time near and in Lake Superior!”
Rich and Varied Theater Experiences
Cheryl performed in a number of shows in elementary/middle school through the Hermantown summer program. She also started doing shows at the Duluth Playhouse, which consumed every summer.
“I did all the theater I could at Hermantown. My favorite role in high school was Nora in A Doll’s House. I participated in the One Act competition all four years – going to state twice. In college, I did a handful of shows, including one of my favorite productions, Waiting for Godot.”
She explained, “It’s hard to pinpoint what hooked me about doing theater. I think that I found a strong sense of belonging in the theater. I loved to play. I loved to memorize lines. I loved to tell stories. I loved the adrenaline. I loved the applause and the lights. I loved being able to pretend to be someone else.”
“Everywhere I’ve lived I’ve gotten involved in the local theater scene. I think that is something else I’ve loved about theater –It’s a way to give back to the community, to get involved.”
Cheryl has acted at many area venues including the Playhouse, Underground Theater, Zeitgeist, and Wise Fool. Some of her favorite roles are Sabine in The Three Musketeers; Constanze in Amadeus; Anne Shirley in Anne of Green Gables; Babette in The Arsonists, Logan in The Thanksgiving Play; and Viola in Twelfth Night.
Since moving back to Duluth, Cheryl has taught theater classes for the Duluth Playhouse, directed a few Family Theater shows, and performed in shows where the cast are adults but the audience is children. Some of her notable roles include Pinocchio in Pinocchio, Roo in Winnie the Pooh, and Sally in The Cat in the Hat.
“I love performing for children. They are so excited to be there, and they get so into the show by responding to what is happening on stage with passion and intensity,” she said.
For several years, Cheryl has narrated the Christmas City Express at the Lake Superior Railroad Museum. “Now, I don’t just ‘read,’ the story – I ‘tell’ the story. Every holiday season, I get to tell this magical story to thousands of people, and the innocence and joy of the young people in the audience give me so much happiness.”
“In terms of theater mentors, I would mention Jean Olson, Diane Bean, Pat Castellano, Neil Witikko, and so many others who encouraged me when I was in high school. They gave me opportunities, supported me, and instilled in me a love of theater that persists to this day.”
“I am also so grateful to the core women in my life - my mom, Mary Skafte, my grandmas, Evelyn Hon and Marge Skafte, my sisters, Lynn Whalen and Krista Ringsred. While my grandmas aren’t here anymore – I carry the lessons they taught me with me every day.”
What the Constitution Means to Me
Cheryl is next playing the role of the play’s author, Heidi Schreck, in What the Constitution Means to Me.
“I’ve never been in a one-woman show! While I share the stage with the amazing Chris Nollet and Larisa Miller, the play is largely Heidi talking and telling her story. My theatrical goals with this show are to be authentic and honest, strong and vulnerable, and share this award-winning script with a Duluth audience.”
She said, “Memorizing over forty pages of text has been a blast! It was interesting working through the show. The stories were relatively easy to get into my brain but memorizing text from the Constitution took forever!”
“I love that Heidi Schreck crafted a script that is raw, funny, and touching – but it’s not easy telling some of the stories. Some of them are very difficult and painful – and knowing that they are based on true events, makes them even more difficult and painful,” Cheryl said. “We are living in a very volatile time, politically, environmentally, socially. The Earth is on fire. There is so much war. Divisiveness is rampant. Gun violence is a daily occurrence.”
“I hope people who see the show think about what the Constitution means to them . . . how it has impacted their lives personally. I know I didn’t think about it very much before working on this show. But this document is a foundational document that is used to negotiate our basic human rights. I hope that people are challenged by the questions posed in the script – most specifically, is this document doing what we need and want it to do? Why hasn’t the Equal Rights Amendment been ratified? Who gets to interpret this document and what are the consequences of that?”
Just in time for election season, Rubber Chicken Theater is staging the Northland premiere of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize finalist and Tony Award Best Play nominee What the Constitution Means to Me.
What the Constitution Means to Me by Heidi Schreck
This production contains mature language and themes.
Spirit of the North Theater in the Fitger's Complex
600 East Superior Street, downtown Duluth
Friday and Saturday, November 3 & 4 at 7:30 pm
Sunday, November 5 at 2:00 pm
$25 per person. Seating is general but call-ahead seat reservations are accepted. Seats are held until ten minutes prior to curtain.