Stage Kiss, playing at The Guthrie Theater

Quote of the Day: When I kissed you did it feel like an actor kissing an actor, or a person kissing a person? The character simply named “She” in Sarah Ruhl’s comedy Stage Kiss playing at TheGuthrie Theater in Minneapolis, MN, July 18 – August 30, 2015. Take a look at the photo below. What do you think? Is it real, or are they faking it? And, maybe that is the question that begs answering throughout the show, and in real life. What character are you playing today?

Millie/Maid/Angela (Rebecca Hurd), Kevin (Grant Fletcher Prewitt), She (Stacia Rice), He (Todd Gearhart) and Husband/Harrison (Michael Booth). Photo by Joan Marcus

Millie/Maid/Angela (Rebecca Hurd), Kevin (Grant Fletcher Prewitt), She (Stacia Rice), He (Todd Gearhart) and Husband/Harrison (Michael Booth). Photo by Joan Marcus

On the surface, Sarah Ruhl’s Stage Kiss, is a light, romantic comedy. A play that pokes fun at anyone who has ever been in the acting/theatre business. My sister Joy and I saw this show together, and we spent some time on our ride home comparing it to Michael Frayn’s Noises Off, a play we acted in together, several years ago in a AAAA community theatre production in Alexandria, MN. It’s a fun romp through the ins and outs of theatre life, on and off, the stage! As is the case of Stage Kiss. In the first act, two people, who are simply named “He” and “She,” are reunited onstage after a 20 year separation. They had once been lovers. The intimacy of performing together, night after night, on stage, rekindles the passion they felt for each other. The problem is “She” is married to someone else and has a teenage daughter. “He” is in a relationship with a school teacher from the Midwest. The Husband accuses her of falling in love with every leading many she’s ever been with on stage. Hmm. Sound like anything you might have heard out of Hollywood? In the first act, they are performing a play set in the 1930’s with all the gorgeous costuming, music, and set pieces. It is lovely and romantic. Everything is like one big, long honeymoon.

Todd Gearhart (He) and Stacia Rice (She) in the Guthrie Theater's production of STAGE KISS, by Sarah Ruhl, directed by Casey Stangl with set design by Todd Rosenthal, costume design by Devon Painter and lighting design by Tom Mays. July 18 - August 30, 2015 on the McGuire Proscenium Stage at the Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Todd Gearhart (He) and Stacia Rice (She) in the Guthrie Theater’s production of STAGE KISS, by Sarah Ruhl, directed by Casey Stangl with set design by Todd Rosenthal, costume design by Devon Painter and lighting design by Tom Mays. July 18 – August 30, 2015 on the McGuire Proscenium Stage at the Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis. Photo by Joan Marcus.

“The second act definitely has a different feel,” were the first words my sister said as we exited the show. This time, He and She are playing much darker characters. She is a whore, and He is a violent member of the Irish Republican Army. They rehearse a fight scene where He beats her up. The costuming in this act is over-the-top, both humorous and jarring. Considering that the playwright Sarah Ruhl is a two time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, I believe she was very intentional in changing the mood. While we might be laughing, some of us at least, are cringing just a little at what is happening onstage. How far will any of us go for our art, our love, and our sense of self? What have we lost or compromised in the process? (The Guthrie did not provide any production photos from the second act. You’ll have to go to the show and see it for yourself.)

Full cast of Stage Kiss at the Guthrie Theater. Millicent/Laurie (Cat Brindisi), Kevin (Grant Fletcher Prewitt), She (Stacia Rice), A Director (Charles Hubble), He (Todd Gearhart), Millie/Maid/Angela (Rebecca Hurd) and Husband/Harrison (Michael Booth). Photo by Joan Marcus

Full cast of Stage Kiss at the Guthrie Theater. Millicent/Laurie (Cat Brindisi), Kevin (Grant Fletcher Prewitt), She (Stacia Rice), A Director (Charles Hubble), He (Todd Gearhart), Millie/Maid/Angela (Rebecca Hurd) and Husband/Harrison (Michael Booth). Photo by Joan Marcus

I enjoyed the set, which looks like a street and the inside of a theatre in NYC, or as I whispered to my sister as we sat down, “It reminds me of West Side Story.” (No photography is allowed inside the theater, not even when you are just taking your seats.)

Stage Kiss is playing at the Guthrie Theater McGuire Proscenium Stage now through August 30, 2015. On their Wurtele Thrust stage, you can see The Music Man. It didn’t work out for me to attend press night for The Music Man, so I don’t have a review for you. However, I will be attending it with my three teenage boys in August, towards the end of its run (which has extended to August 30). Will it still have it’s freshness? Will I still think it’s my favorite

Mary Aalgaard and Tracy Jo Blowers, online media reviewers, intermission of Stage Kiss at the Guthrie Theater.

musical? I’ll let you know in August! If you’d like to read a review ofThe Music Man, visit my friend Tracy’s blog. We met as online reviewers and connected in person, found we had much in common, and are now friends. We even hug and take fun intermission photos when we’re reviewing the same performance! Also, check out her podcast Eat This, Twin Cities, that she does with her husband Terry Daniels, for reviews and commentary about everything from restaurants, theater productions, the Minnesota Twins, and more!

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt:  Why do you think the playwright Sarah Ruhl chose not to name her two main characters?

Book Review of Shelterbelts by Candace Simar

Quote of the Day: Above the tree line, beyond the Hanson farm, the steeple of Tolga Lutheran poked into the clouds. The steeple showed from every corner of their farm. Tia looked toward the church many times a day while doing her work. She couldn’t put it into words, and would have been embarrassed to try, but she found a quiet strength in her faith. How else would she have gotten this far? Candace Simar, a excerpt from her book Shelterbelts.

An areal shot of my ruralhood and Bethany Lutheran Church with the red cross on top.

That was the line that connected me to Candace’s newest novel,Shelterbelts. I, too, grew up in a rural, farming community. Our church, Bethany Lutheran, has a red cross on top of its steeple, a beacon in the night, guiding many a traveler, especially during winter storms. Tia, whom I consider the main character, looks to her church for comfort. She is one of those farm girls who isn’t afraid to jump in a cow pen, perform a mercy killing on a deformed calf, or do any of the hard labor of the farm. In fact, she likes it. Her brother, Norman, is returning home from Germany at the end of WWII. He is not as sure about farm life, or any part of life, for that matter. Tia reminds me of my Godmother, who is my dad’s cousin, Iona. She was also a true farmer. I think she worked harder than anyone on her farm! Millie, the church organist, reminded me a bit of myself. She describes the way people are talking or feeling in musical terms.I pictured the old farmsteads in my home area while reading Candace’s descriptions, and saw my neighbor’s farmhouse, clear as day, when she wrote about Millie’s house where she lives with her dad because her brother died in the war, and her mother has already passed away.

Shelterbelts is about a farming community in Minnesota, around the Fergus Falls area. (I grew up near Ada, which is north of Moorhead). World War II has just ended. Some soldiers are coming home, while others never will. The folks who populate this rural area are, for the most part, Norwegian Americans, and the ones who aren’t stand out like a sore thumb. They have church socials, and a few superstitions, especially when it comes to farming. They are set in their ways and have hard dug furrows that define what women and men should be doing. Tia, for instance, won’t be going to ag school, which she’d love to do. Her brother Norman is expected to go, but he’s not so sure he’s interested in farming anymore. Candace includes a large cast of characters in her novel. We enter each home, and perspective, at various times, as the story is told from many angles. Sometimes, I had to stop and look back at how some people are related, and where their farms where in relation to each other. Although, Candace did a good job of coming up with a variety of names, considering most people in the ruralhood of Minnesota have last names ending in -son. We have a bumper crop of Andersons, Olsons, Hansons, Johnsons, and Nelsons. In fact, one clever writer called this “The Land of 10,000 Andersons.” Although, I’m sure there are many, many more than that! The main character is Tia Fiskum. My name comes straight out of the farm country of Norway, Aalgaard. But, most people take the name of their father, and add the -son.

I started reading Shelterbelts while relaxing on the sands of Lake Carlos, not too far from its setting in the Fergus Falls area of Minnesota.

Shelterbelts is a great read for anyone who likes historical fiction, particularly set in rural Minnesota, in the late 1940’s. It’s for anyone who is interested in farm life, and what it used to mean to be a family farm. It’s for anyone who likes to read about a community and how they live and work together, sometimes dropping everything to help a sick neighbor, and at other times, keeping them in their place with preconceived notions and strict religious and cultural beliefs. I loved reading Shelterbelts. I took my time, savoring the language, and living inside that community. It has become one of my comfort books because it feels like home. It sits alongside Jon Hassler’s North of Hope, and Lorna Landvik’s Oh, My Stars.

You can read more about Candace Simar and her award-winning Abercrombie Trail series at her website. Thanks for writingShelterbelts, Candace! You are a sister in the ruralhood! Shelterbeltswill soon be available as an audio book. When I attended her book launch here in the Brainerd area, the reader gave us a delightful sampling. His voice fits the story splendidly.


Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt: Where did you grow up? Is there a book that describes that area that you love to read?


Season Opener at Children’s Theatre Company

CTC Alumna and Broadway Actress Laura Osnes to Perform at 50th Anniversary Season Opener at Target Field; Free Ticket Lottery Open Now Through July 31

Frog and Toad photo by Rob Levine

Frog and Toad photo by Rob Levine

MINNEAPOLIS – Children’s Theatre Company (CTC) begins its 50th Anniversary celebration on August 9, 2015 with a grand-scale, FREE family Season Opener at Target Field. Just announced, CTC alumna turned two-time Tony®-nominated Broadway actress, Laura Osnes, will perform at the event that will also include interactive games, performances by CTC cast for the upcoming season, Theatre Arts Training students, and a jumbotron screening of the never-before-seen filmed theatrical production of A Year with Frog and Toad, based on the Arnold Lobel stories with the original Broadway cast in high definition. The event will begin at 5:30pm and end at 8:30pm.

 CTC Artistic Director Peter C. Brosius adds, “The entire CTC family is thrilled to welcome Laura back to Minnesota for this incredible event. We wished to do a large-scale celebration to give sincere thanks to our home community for supporting us for the last fifty years. The 50th Anniversary Season and Season Opener are meant to give back to Minnesota, because without this community, we wouldn’t be here today. We especially want to thank the Minnesota Twins for partnering with us and Target for making this event possible. ”

 Laura Osnes began her CTC career in Madeline’s Rescue in 2006, tap-danced as a penguin in Mr. Popper’s Penguins in 2007 and played Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz her senior year of high school. She participated in Theatre Arts Training (TAT) Intensives performing inCabaret and Working. She then went on to become a Performing Apprentice the following year. Ms. Osnes began her journey to Broadway stardom when she competed on NBC’s Grease: You’re the One That I Want reality TV program and won the role of Sandy in the Broadway revival of Grease. From there, she went on to become a regular on Broadway stages starring in South Pacific, Anything Goes, and Bonnie and Clyde (nominated for a Tony Award® for Best Actress). Most recently, she was nominated for a Tony Award® for Best Actress for her role in Rodgers+Hammerstein’s Cinderella.

Frog and Toad, Photo by Rob Levine

Frog and Toad, Photo by Rob Levine

 The filmed theatrical screening of the perennial audience favorite, A Year with Frog and Toad is based on the beloved Arnold LobelFrog and Toad children’s stories. The production premiered at CTC in 2002 and played on Broadway in 2003 (nominated for Tony Awards® for Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, and Best Original Score, the same year CTC won the Regional Theatre Tony® Award). The production was filmed at CTC with the original Broadway cast in high definition and was produced by Bob Boyette.

 Tickets to the event at Target Field are complimentary and will be guaranteed to all 2015-2016 6 Play Subscribers and current donors of $250 or more.  A lottery system will be used to distribute all remaining tickets to the event.  The lottery sign up period is now through July 31. All winners will be contacted by August 3. Transportation will be provided free by Metro Transit.  To sign up for the lottery and for all complete details on the event, visit

 This event is sponsored by Target and made possible through a partnership with the Minnesota Twins Baseball Club. Media partners include the Star Tribune, KS95, My Talk 107.1 and ESPN 1500AM. Corporate partnerships are available.


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Children’s Theatre Company (CTC) is the first theatre for young people to win the coveted Tony® Award for Outstanding Regional Theater (2003) and has welcomed more than 11 million people to performances and education programs over the last five decades. As one of the 25 largest theatre companies in the nation, CTC has created over 200 new works, dramatically changing the canon of work for young audiences.

CTC educational programs reach tens of thousands of young people of all ages, ranging from early learners to young adults. CTC’s Theatre Arts Training (TAT) program is designed to mold the next generation of theatre professionals in a guided, dynamic, studio-style program that is tailored to the needs of each individual student.

Steeped in our nationally-recognized Neighborhood Bridges philosophy, the CTC Community Engagement team creates models that arts organizations, schools and educators utilize to animate teaching and learning and develop critical thinking through creative writing, storytelling and theatre arts. Our three core programs include Neighborhood Bridges (currently serving grades 2-8), Building Bridges (serving Kindergartners) and Early Bridges (serving ages 3- 5). Our programming exists to promote accessibility and to deepen engagement with teachers and students locally and nation-wide.

Come Watch Steel Magnolias at CLC

Quote of the Day: Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion. Truvy, in the tender comedy, Steel Magnolias


The quote pretty much sums up what it’s like to watch this play. These six women create a delightful cast, as we watch their stories unfold, as it can only be told amidst up-dos, manicures, comb-outs and cuts at the beauty shop. A salon like Truvy’s is much more than a place to get your hair done. It’s a place where you come together and share snippets of your life. I felt like I had my own cup of coffee in hand and was waiting for my turn in the chair. Being Southern ladies, they are full of color and spunk. They’re not afraid to say what’s on their minds, argue a little, gossip a lot, and run to each other’s aid when necessary. The witty banter keeps you chuckling. The real life situations, pain, and drama bring a tear to your eye. No one is exempt from the heartaches of this world, but with a few close friends by your side, and a good hair do, you’ll make it through.

steelmagnoliascoverThe cast includes Bri Keran as M’Lynn, Nicole Rothleutner as Shelby, Stephanie White Kloss as Truvy, Barb McColgan as Clairee, Deb Binda as Ouiser, and Margaret Thompson as Annelle. The production is directed by Patrick Spradlin. Set design is by Tim Leagjeld, with costuming by Dawn Marks and sound and lighting by Ben Kent. Sarah Broton is the production manager, and Marc Oliphant is stage manager. They were all marvelous in their roles, bringing life and heart to this story, based on the playwright Robert Harling’s own life.

You can see Steel Magnolias at Central Lakes College, Chalberg Theatre, in Brainerd, MN tonight, Saturday, July 18, 7:30, or next week, July 23-25. Call the box office, 218-855-8199 for tickets, visit their website, or come early and buy your tickets at the door. Seating is general admission. This is a well-loved show with many memorable lines and characters. Come out and support your local theatre! To read more about the play, see this article.

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt: Where do you go to get your coffee, gossip, and emotional support?

The Cemetery Club at Cream of the Crop Theater in Randall

Quote of the Day: Some relationships are so strong; nothing could possibly break them… not even death. Beth Selinger, in her director’s notes for the current production of The Cemetery Club atCream of the Crop Theater in Randall, MN.

cemeteryclublogoThe old undertaker’s wife joke goes like this. The Merry Widows Club is having so much fun, I can’t wait to join them! This is not a line from The Cemetery Club, but I had a similar feeling as I watched the show. Here is a story about friendship that lasts through the decades, through thick and thin, through the merriment and the grieving. Three friends in a Jewish community have a regular date to visit the graves of their deceased husbands. What bonds them is their friendship, their history together, their grief. What makes them different is how they’re handling this major life change and how they may, or may not, move on from it. It is an endearing story, full of great lines, laughter, tender moments, and hope. Watching the three main characters interact felt like a true friendship. The women who play Doris (Rhonda Schmidt), Ida (Sharon Hartley), and Lucille (Janice Bear) seem to be really comfortable with each other onstage, like friends in real life. Sam (Dan Dambowy) waltzes in as a new love interest and throws the trio for a loop. He has a sweet demeanor, and is working through his own grief. He has a friend named Mildred (Gloria Weber) who brings a few extra laughs and twists in the plot line.

The Cemetery Club has three more shows left this weekend. July 18 & 19, 7:30, upstairs at the Randall Creamery Quilt Shop, and Sunday, July 20, at 3:00. Call 320-749-2420 for tickets.

During Sunday evening’s performance last week, the Storm of the Century ripped through the lakes area. The sirens went off, and the entire cast and audience had to “schlep” down the stairs – TWICE! Beth, the director said, “It was quite the scene, helping everyone up and down the stairs. They had planned to take photos after that performance, but it wasn’t good timing. Despite all that, the performance went on, and the audience members were troopers. One even stopped to snap this shot as she was leaving the theater.


Next up at Cream of the Crop Theater is auditions for Regrets, a play for and about high school students and the difficult challenges they face. Beth directed this play a few years ago, and I found it to be a powerful script. Auditions are for teens, ages 14-18, August 2, at 1:00 pm at the theater. Performances will be September 18, 19, 20. Cast members have come from Pequot Lakes, Brainerd area, Little Falls, and of course, Randall.

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt: Write about one of your best friends?

Open Window Theatre, 2015-2016 Season

Quote of the Day: They open a door, and enter a world. C.S. Lewis, from The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. I am excited to announce that The Open Window Theatre in Minneapolis will be producing this show in December. I’d love it if our church would bring our youth group. I’ll volunteer to chaperone! Open Window is a fairly new theatre in the twin cities. This is the start of its 5th season. I sawLilies of the Field there spring 2014, and it quickly became one of my favorite plays. They are growing and thriving and have a wonderful line-up for this upcoming season.

Season 5_email banner

Open Window Theatre Announces 2015-2016 Season and Expansion Open Window Theatre enters its fifth season building upon a 45% jump in season subscribers last season and a current summer expansion that will accommodate 30-40% more patrons in its intimate black-box setting. “We’ve consistently seen growth in our audience base,” says Artistic Director Jeremy Stanbary, “and we’re proud to provide more amenities along with the memorable theater experiences our patrons have come to expect.” In addition to extra seating, audiences will also enjoy an expanded lobby and the addition of public restrooms within the space. Highlights of 2015-16’s Season Five include the Minnesota premiere of an award-winning play, a provocative true story by playwright Mark St. Germain, a return to a C.S. Lewis favorite, and a classic work known by theatre students but rarely seen on stage. The season opens with the winner of the 1996 National Play Award, Sister Calling My Name, by St. Olaf College alum, Buzz McLaughlin. McLaughlin is the author of The Playwright’s Process and founded The Playwright’s Theatre of New Jersey some 25 years ago. Sister Calling My Name is a thought-provoking tour de force that grapples with issues of faith and doubt, the strength of family ties, and the dignity of the mentally disabled. The show runs September 18-October 18, and the playwright himself will attend the first two performances of this Minnesota premiere. The holiday season will bring a non-traditional classic to the stage with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Open Window has found great success with iterations of works by and about C.S. Lewis, having producedShadowlands, Christmas in Niatirb (a new work by artistic director Stanbary, based on Lewis’s essays) and Freud’s Last Session, an imaginary conversation between Lewis and Sigmund Freud. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe runs December 4-30 and will be directed by Joy Donley. After the show, children will be able to meet Father Christmas and receive a small gift. The allegorical drama, Everyman, will start the new year. This treasured piece of theater history is an English morality play not often seen on today’s stages. Open Window will take a modern twist on the tale written by an anonymous author. It will run February 19-March 20. The theatre will be producing another Mark St. Germain play in the spring following the success ofFreud’s Last Session, which closed its Season Four to great acclaim.Best of Enemies is based on the remarkable true story of the friendship between black civil rights activist, Ann Atwater, and Exalted Cyclops of the Ku Klux Klan, C.P. Ellis. Their unlikely story exposes the poison of prejudice on both sides of the racial divide at a time when racial tensions are once again flaring up across the country. Best of Enemieswill be performed April 22-May 22. Season tickets are on sale now, singles go on sale August 1. 612-615-1515 or

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Jeremy Stanbary, Artistic Director, (612) 615-1515, email: Joy Donley, Publicist, (952) 454-7344, email: Website: Open Window Theatre Location: Open Window Theatre, Metropolis Minneapolis Building, 1313 Chestnut Ave #102, Minneapolis, MN.

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt: Did you ever imagine walking through some kind of portal like Lucy did when she entered the Wardrobe in “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe?” What world would you enter?

Be the Tiger!

Quote of the Day: The Tiger by William Blake

TIGER, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder and what art
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand and what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? What dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And water’d heaven with their tears,
Did He smile His work to see?
Did He who made the lamb make thee?

Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

InsecureWritersSupportGroup.jpgThis post is part of the monthly submissions to the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG). To learn more about the group, to join, or to find more bloggers participating, visit their website, or the founder Alex J. Cavanaugh. Today, I want to talk to you about being the Tiger. I found inspiration for this while teaching my theatre classes for kids this spring at Central Lakes College in Brainerd.

Theatre classes for elementary students at CLC, Spring 2015

The Tiger was a 3rd grade boy. His grandma signed him and his sister up for my class. The sister came dressed to the nines the first day, complete with sparkly shoes. Tiger stood behind her and wrung his hands, smiling shyly. We did some warm-up exercises, one that gets you moving and helps learn each other’s names. The other one is called Gears. In Gears, one person starts building the machine by walking into the center of the circle and making a noise and an action. The next person enters and connects to the first with his noise and action, and so on until everyone has joined the circle. The noise and actions escalate until someone throws a “cog in the wheel” so to speak. Well, Tiger held back every time. I tried to help him come up with a noise and an action. He pulled back, wringing his hands, yet looking intensely at the group. By the end, I invited him to be the cog (or water or bomb) with me, and we destroyed the machine together, to much laughing and falling down on the floor. Tiger chose his character, a Tiger, to go with our farm theme for the spring play. In my Play off the Page classes it is perfectly fine for a Tiger to live alongside the chickens on the farm. Tiger had the important job of popping out of his cage (box) and scaring the chicks away. Then, he gets chased off by the witch and her sidekick. We had six sessions to develop our play. On the 7th day, we performed for family and friends. At the end of the 5th class, Tiger came up to me (Grandma and Sister stood quietly behind him) and said, “I think this is my last day.” I said, “What, why? What’s going on?” He said, “I’m just too shy. I can’t do it.” I looked at Grandma. I looked at Sister. They both looked back at me. I said, “Tiger, I need you. The group needs you. Who will scare the chicks if you’re not here? And, besides. I know it’s scary, but you’re not alone. You have this whole group here to tell the story with you.” He wrung his hands. He didn’t quite say, okay, but I could tell he was considering it.

The next week, our final rehearsal before the performance day, we were missing a couple kids, one of whom played the Wolfman. The kids looked at Tiger and said, “You can do the Wolfman today. You can do both parts.” Tiger didn’t say a word to me, but when it came time for the Wolfman to howl, or appear with a growl and chase away the detective and her cats, he entered with a presence. He didn’t hold back. Tiger was not only the Tiger, he was the Wolfman. He knew he was needed, and he did a great job!

On our performance day, he came dressed and ready. I had a couple moms helping with make-up. Wolfman was back in action, and the play went on to a great success. Tiger was all smiles. I was all smiles. His mom, Grandma, and sister were all smiles. And, I knew that something profound had happened in that little black box theater. Someone had faced his fears and become the Tiger.

Dear Insecure Writers and Artists, remember the Tiger when you start to falter. When your confidence wains and you want to say, “This is my last day. I’m not coming back,” know that I’m here with you. You’re not alone. All the other IWSG-ers are part of your team. You can do it, now…

Go. Create. Inspire!

I will be offering theatre classes this summer for kids in grades 1-12, various times, July 13-24. Call the CLC box office to register 218-855-8199. Visit my website, Play off the Page, to read more about the classes or to contact me. 

Journaling Prompt:  Describe a time when you wanted to quit, when you were sure you didn’t have the moxy to go on. Now, describe how you persevered, or what you could do to be the Tiger and feel that sweet moment of success. Let me hear you roar!

You Can’t Take It With You, a review

Quote of the Day: Just walking into any theatre gives me a thrill. Tony Kirby from You Can’t Take It With You by Moss Hart and George Kaufman, playing now through August 9, 2015, at The Jungle Theater in Minneapolis, MN. Kaufman and Hart, a creative team for only ten years (1930-1940), but friends for life wrote collaboratively to great success, and as individuals, during the time of great change in America – WWII, stage to film, and silent movies to talkies. They knew how to make us laugh, cry, connect, dream, and engage. You Can’t Take It With You is my favorite play written by a couple of guys. I played Essie in High School, and wore a similar style redMary Aalgaard and Beth Z. Hey, we're A to Z! Lovin' and laughin' during You Can't Take It With You at The Jungle Theater!

dress to the one that Julia Valen wears in Act I of this production. I directed it at Greenway High School in Coleraine, MN with a no budget set. The kids came up with their own costumes, and I somehow roped in the janitor to help with light and sound effects. Beth played Alice in our production, and she accompanied me to opening/press night at The Jungle on Friday night. We laughed before most of the punchlines were delivered. We swooned at the cute costumes and elaborate set. Oh my, Tom Butsch and his crew worked hard at adding all the little details! It is an eclectic display, much like the characters who occupy this explosive comedy, a bit Norman Rockwell-esq.

Penny Sycamore (Angela Timberman) and Paul Sycamore (John Middleton) PHOTO CREDIT: Kerri Pickett

Penny Sycamore (Angela Timberman) and Paul Sycamore (John Middleton) PHOTO CREDIT: Kerri Pickett

It seems the Sycamores have been collecting borders, and hobbies, for the past eight years or more, ever since Grandpa Martin Vanderhof (played by the spunky Raye Birk) walked away from his high stress job on Wall Street. (And, he proudly states that he hasn’t taken a bicarbonate of soda in as many years.) The brilliantly talented Angela Timberman plays Penny, who’s a playwright because a typewriter was delivered to their door by accident. I’m not sure where Mr. DePinna (Jay Albright) came from, but he and Paul Sycamore (John Middleton) spend a lot of time in the basement making fireworks! “And, how do you explain Donal?” asks a frustrated Alice (Anna Sundberg) of her upscale boyfriend Tony Kirby (Hugh Kennedy). They’re in love, and it’s time for the families to meet. But, somehow, they come on the wrong day when chaos is the norm and frankfurters are on the menu. They play an interesting getting to know you game, that in the end, leaves them all feeling like they know each other too well. We have dancing, xylophone music, a Roman costume, home-made fireworks and candy, a Russian ex-pat and his friend the Grand Duchess Olga Katrina, a drunk actress, and many, many unfinished plays. To me, this is an ensemble show. You need all these unique characters and their quirks to contribute to the mayhem and message that you need to live your life the way you want to. “Oh, there will always be the folks who like to work. Let’em,” says Grandpa. You can earn all the money you want, but You Can’t Take It With You! 

Peter Lincoln Rusk (Donal), Allen Hamilton (Boris Kolenkov), and Julia Valen (Essie Carmichael)

Peter Lincoln Rusk (Donal), Allen Hamilton (Boris Kolenkov), and Julia Valen (Essie Carmichael) Photo by Keri Pickett

The explosive comedy by Kaufman and Hart You Can’t Take It With You is playing at The Jungle Theater in Minneapolis through August 9, 2015. Tickets are selling fast. Opening night was sold out. It is also the farewell performance to long-time Artistic Director Bain Boehlke. Thank you for giving so much fun, excitement, and meaningful theatre experiences to the folks who live in, and visit, the twin cities of Minnesota. You created a gorgeous little theatre with a big heart. I am proud to be able to help promote your art.

You can see more photos of this fabulous production on their Facebook page.

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt: How would you spend your days if you didn’t need to worry about making a buck?

Damn Yankees! at The Ordway, a review

Quote of the Day: A man doesn’t know what he has, until he loses it.. Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets… You gotta have Heart… Remember the game! These are some of the song lyrics running through my brain after watching Damn Yankees! at The Ordway Center for the Performing Arts in St. Paul, MN last night. In fact, many people walked away from the theatre singing You gotta have heart, their curtain call song.


Damn Yankees! is a fun show about America’s favorite past-time in America’s favorite theatre experience – a musical. It’s witty and fast-paced. James Rocco and his creative team made a few changes to bring new life to this 1950’s musical, and it works. The cast is multi-talented and more diverse in culture than perhaps you would have seen in the past. I had flashbacks to the Jackie Robinson story because the setting for this musical is at the time when the color barrier had been broken, but wasn’t yet fully accepted. It didn’t matter on this stage. Everyone was equally talented and seemed to be having a delightful time telling this story together.

 Thay Floyd as Joe Hardy, Gary Briggle as the Commissioner, and Kersten Rodau as Gloria Thorpe

It’s a story about selling your soul to the Devil to have a different life, to be the guy who changed the outcome of the game, to experience life in a way that has otherwise been out of your reach. In the end, it is a reminder that what is

Tari Kelly as Lola in the Ordway’s production of Damn Yankees! She’s seductive and self-assured until she meets her match with Joe’s class and devotion to his wife.

truly important has nothing to do with the score of a baseball game, or even your own batting average. To beat back the Devil, you need to remain true to your beloved and be there for each other. It’s a steamy night of theatre as Lola pulls out all the stops to tempt the younger, more athletic, Joe Hardy. The devil himself, Mr. Applegate, works Joe over, promising him great things, and working his own angle to defeat those Damn Yankees and bring victory to the Washington Senators (the precursor to our own Minnesota Twins). They keep the show moving with big dance numbers and flashy costumes. Mr. Applegate looked like a Las Vegas magician, and Lola was both sexy and funny in her glitter and lace and shimmying moves. The baseball players seemed to be a bunch of guys who were in it for the sport, the camaraderie, and the excitement. Their songs were entertaining and playful as we watched them in all stages of dress in their locker room. The dancers, especially for the mamba song, were fun to watch.

The crowd was really into the story of those Damn Yankees (and the Washington Senators), the high energy dancing, and the sweet love story that brings Joe back home. There were whistles and cheers, sighs, and hoots of delight, just like when you’re hanging out at the ballpark with your friends. All that was missing was the beer and hot dogs.

Visit the website for The Ordway for tickets and showtimes.


Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt: What’s your favorite baseball team? 

Summer Theatre Arts Classes for Kids at CLC, 2015

Quote of the Day: Top five reasons to participate in the arts:
1. It builds your self-awareness, confidence, and creativity.
2. You learn the art of cooperation through group story-telling.
3. You get to make something – physical sets and props, a brand new story, create characters.
4. You make friends.
5. It’s fun, and funny, and you get to hang out with people who love to entertain, tell stories, and be part of a creative team!

The above picture is from my Spring Theatre classes. I had 21 students in the elementary group, and 12 in the middle school group. We wrote a play together, used minimal set with the boxes and a few props. The kids created their own characters or took the parts of Millie and Willie, and a few others that I used to introduce the story. This summer, I’ll be teaching classes again in the Brainerd lakes area, Monday-Friday, July 13-24. Classes will be held at the Dryden Theatre at Central Lakes College. The space is generously provided by the CLC theatre department, and they are also handling all the registration.

Theatre workshop for elementary kids (entering 1st-4th grades) 9:00-10:00 am. Our theme is tall tales, using story ideas from our area like Paul Bunyan and Big Foot. The kids will create their own stories and characters as they tell their tales around a campfire. We’ll also decorate t-shirts and make things for our set. Performance for family and friends will be on July 24, 9:30 am. To register, call 218-855-8199, cost is $65.

Theatre workshop for middle school kids (entering 5th-8th grades) 10:30-12:00. The students will create stories and characters using the theme of going to camp, tall tales like Paul Bunyan, Big Foot, and others. They can tell the story alone, or work in groups. This is also a great opportunity for kids who are writers to share their work. We’ll have a performance for family and friends on Friday, July 24, 11:00 am. To register, call 218-855-8199, cost is $75.

*New this session! I am offering a class for kids in high school at CLC July 13-24, Monday-Friday, from 1:00-2:30 pm. This class is for both playwrights and actors. We’ll read a classic play together and discuss it. Write and work on our original scripts, and provide voices and actors for each play. If you’re not a playwright, you can help others and be a reader/actor. We’ll also work on theatre skills and have a public reading of our plays on Friday, July 24, 1:00 pm. To register, call the box office at CLC, 218-855-8199, $75 per student.

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt: Tell a story from your camping days. Did you go to a sleep away camp? Did you go on camping trips with family? Have you written any tall tales?

For more information, visit my Facebook page, or website Play off the Page, or email me at, or call 218-232-6069