Running Uphill: A Minnesota Theater Memoir

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By Sally Bronski Childs

Running Uphill is a stunning memoir of Sally’s life in theater. Her rich memories of the Lyric and Jon Hassler Theaters spin out a treasured list of artists that reads like a “Who’s who of Minnesota theater.”

—Ron Peluso, History Theatre’s Artistic Director, 1995–2022

About the Book

Running Uphill emerged from the memories of a woman brought up on the shirttails of the Depression and World War II, that time of great change for women who left jobs as domestics, secretaries, and teachers to move into war production jobs while the men were conscripted into military service. Cultural changes flowed from historical events, and women were cutting their apron strings. But despite this change, women still needed Gloria Steinem and MS. magazine to launch careers in what remained a man’s world.

Using memoir techniques of storytelling, Childs delves into her story of becoming a theater artist, joining friends to start a nonprofit theater company in 1985, naming it the Lyric Theater.  The mission of the Lyric entailed making music integral to stage productions, which led to stage adaptations of work by several Minnesota poets. When the Lyric began producing scripts by well-known Minnesota author Jon Hassler, it settled into an uphill climb. In 2000, the Lyric transitioned into the Jon Hassler Theater and moved to Plainview, Minnesota, Jon Hassler’s boyhood home.

About the Author

Sally Bronski Childs holds a B.S. in English Education from the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, and an M.F.A. in Theatre from Minnesota State University, Mankato. From 1968 to 1980, she taught high school English with an emphasis in writing and multimedia classes in Babbitt, Minnesota. She attended a ten-week summer course at the Bread Loaf School of English (part of the Middlebury College language arts summer institute) in the Program for Teachers of Rural Writing, which fed her passion for teaching, writing, and theater. Recent classes in Writing Memoir at The Loft enabled her to complete Running Uphill.

Childs interned at The Cricket Theater (in Stage Management) and the Guthrie Theater (as Assistant Director for Hedda Gabler). She served as the Artistic Director for the Lyric Theater from 1985 to 2000 and for the Jon Hassler Theater from 2000 to 2004. She played a pivotal role in forming the Writers’ Center in Plainview, Minnesota. Childs’ adaptation of Jon Hassler’s novel Dear James was produced by the Lyric, the Jon Hassler, and the Barn Theater in Willmar, Minnesota. In 2018, Childs acted as dramaturg for Grand Opening at Theatre in the Round in Minneapolis. Her adaptation of Hassler’s novel Rookery Blues was produced by the Jon Hassler Theater with funding from the NEA. She is a retired member of the Actors’ Equity Association.

Praise for Running Uphill

“Sally’s memoir is a truly engaging story that speaks of a time when passion alone could—and often had to—create a life in theater. Her unbounded commitment to finding the music in theatrical storytelling, challenging herself artistically, and providing artists and audiences with provocative works of substance, all while managing the administrative challenges of founding and running a small theater company, is a powerful reminder of why we do what we do.”

—Ben Krywosz, Artistic Director, Nautilus Music-Theater


“Sally Childs is a force of nature. A major contributor to the great, male-dominated Minnesota theater community, she triumphed by talent and tenacity. If you want to learn about how a small theater works, read Running Uphill. If you want to know more about Minnesota’s literary world, read Running Uphill. And if you want to know how a woman can thrive in a historically male-dominated field, read Running Uphill.”

—David Unowsky, Bookseller and Publisher (Hungry Mind)


“Running Uphill is filled with raw emotion and good storytelling that illuminates the uphill climb for a woman in a once male-dominated profession. It is a personal story of a difficult journey but one that resonates with so many in the theater. Running Uphill is a cautionary, informative sourcebook but, more importantly, a thought-provoking story of success. Bravo!”

—Erica Zaffarano, Theatre Professional


Sally has crafted a courageous, insightful memoir about finding a life in the theater and acting on it. Like a good night in the theater, it is thought-provoking and highly entertaining.

—Peter Rothstein, Theater-Maker

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