Review of A Christmas Carol at The Guthrie, 40th Anniversary Production

The Guthrie Theater’s 40th Anniversary production of A Christmas Carol is delightful and witty with a story that makes you ponder life. I attended this performance with my three teenage sons and the Biker Chef. My boys said, “It’s fun, and funny, and makes you think.” We laughed. We sighed. We left with a good feeling in our heart. It is a reminder that not everyone has a large goose (or turkey) to place on their tables during the holidays. Many people struggle day by day. Some don’t believe in Christmas or Santa Clause or that anyone could truly have a change of heart and open their blast proof safes to provide for someone less fortunate. Greed rules the world and the need for power and control create hard hearts and tight fists and a wide gap between the Haves and the Have-Nots. But, those ghosts who are both amusing and terrifying point out what was important, what you’re not really seeing in the present, and what happens in the end if you die with your vault full, and your heart empty.

Full cast of A Christmas Carol at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, MN.
Photo by Dan Norman

I am so grateful that we have made a tradition of attending A Christmas Carol at the Guthrie Theater. We make a day of spending time with each other. We’re experiencing the story together. We talk about it and laugh again at the humorous parts. This production brings out the humor more than we’ve ever seen before. The dancing, the costumes, the lighting, the music, the story, the fine acting and storytelling all work together to create a special kind of magic that only live theater can produce.

To read more of my reviews for this show and others, visit my website Play off the Page.

A Christmas Carol, adapted for the stage by Crispin Whittell and directed by Joe Chvala, is playing on the Wurtele Thrust Stage at the Guthrie Theater through December 28, 2014. Be part of this 40 year tradition at the Guthrie and continue to make memories of your own as you spend time with those you love.

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt:  What are some activities you enjoy doing with friends and family? What are your holiday traditions?

Review of Singin’ in the Rain at Pequot Lakes, MN

Quote of the Day:  A few lines from the classic dancing musical Singin’ in the Rain.
“People?” I ain’t “people.” I am a “a shimmering, glowing star in the cinema firmament. Lina Lamont
If we bring a little joy into your humdrum lives, it makes us feel as though our hard work ain’t been in vain for nothin’. Bless you all. Lina Lamont


Cast of Singin' in the Rain, Community theatre production in Pequot Lakes, MN. Promotion photo on the Brainerd Dispatch.

Cast of Singin’ in the Rain, Community theatre production in Pequot Lakes, MN.
Promotion photo on the Brainerd Dispatch.

That second quote sums up what community theatre is all about. It is building community, the coming together. The cast and crew get to step out of their normal, humdrum lives for a few weeks. They got plenty of exercise doing this show with all the dancing. Great job! The people in the community get to leave their houses, and same old reruns on TV, on cold nights to watch friends, neighbors and relatives kick up their heels and entertain us for a few hours.

According to this article printed in the Brainerd Dispatch about Greater Lakes Area Performing Arts (GLAPA), many of the actors had never tap danced before. Wendy DeGeest, the choreographer, held some tap dance classes before auditions, so people could learn a little ahead of time. My sister Joy was in the production, and she said that they worked very hard to learn the steps. Their costumes are stunning. The chorus in particular has many costume changes, and they are all adorable. Well, maybe the one where they’re construction builders during the song “Make’em Laugh” isn’t exactly “adorable,” but it did make us laugh!

Joy Ciaffoni, chorus girl extraordinaire.

Joy Ciaffoni, chorus girl extraordinaire.

Although it is one of the best known and loved movie musicals of all time, you don’t often see it performed in community theater. It is a challenging show. The actors need to be good dancers, or work really hard at it during rehearsals. The musical score is difficult. You can’t really pull it off with just a handful of rehearsals and young musicians. The set is beautiful, and they have many big numbers. You need an accommodating stage, and lots of stage hands! In this production, director Gary Hirsch hired a local film maker to film a few black and white scenes that are projected during the show. The story is set in Hollywood in the late 1920’s when film is switching from the silent film to talkies. (Did anyone see the 2011 Oscar winning film The Artist? Also, a great show that depicts that transition.) The black & white film projection was one of my favorite parts of GLAPA’s production. And, of course, watching my sister perform is a highlight. She is in her element in the role of a dancer.

Singin’ in the Rain is showing again this weekend in Pequot Lakes, MN. Go to the GLAPA website for tickets and showtimes. You might just want to enroll in some tap dancing classes after you see this show!

To read more of my reviews and to keep up to date on entertainment, visit my website, Play off the Page.

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt:  Are you a dancer? What gets your toes tapping? Have you seen “Singin’ in the Rain” or “The Artist?” What did you think of the show?

Review of Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas at CTC, 2014

Reed Sigmund as The Grinch. Photo by Dan Norman

Back by popular demand at The Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis, MN, is The Grinch! (even though he hates all that singing and the noise, noise, noise, noise!) Old Max the dog returns each night with his suitcase packed full of memories as he retells the story of how the Grinch tried to steal Christmas. How he went down to Whoville, disguised as the gift giver in red, and Max himself wearing antlers and pulling a sleigh. The Whos do seem to be infatuated with the whole Christmas thing, the shopping, the buying, the crowds, and the stuff, oh the STUFF!

The Children’s Theatre Company of Minneapolis, and particularly director Peter C. Brosius, knows how to create the true Christmas spirit. How the Grinch Stole Christmas sparkles with magic and love. The show has original music by Mel Marvin. Victor Zupanc is the talented conductor. The music is wonderful, but it’s not the same as you hear in the animated version. They play “You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch” as background music, which is fun. And, the Who’s have a new special song which is catchy and sweet. The costumes are so amazing, you can’t take your eyes off of them. The Whos, with their rounded shapes and boing-y hair, crack me up. We sat in the second row, so we were up close and personal, noticing every expression.

Full Cast of How the Grinch Stole Christmas at the Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis. Photo by Dan Norman

To read more of my review, visit my website Play off the Page.

Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas is playing at The Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis, Nov. 11, 2014 – Jan. 4, 2015. They have a wide range of ticket prices and showtimes, as well as student performances. This is a show that will delight the young and old, the tall and the small. Perhaps, your own heart might grow a few sizes!

Go. Create. Inspire!

Shows for the Holidays

If our early snowfall hasn’t sparked the holiday spirit, perhaps some classic holiday shows will. From local theatre to the many offerings in the metro, performers and audience members alike have many opportunities to hear or sing their favorite tunes and watch the shows that warm our cold hearts and melt our frozen toes.

First, I’d like to give a shout out for Steerage Song by Theatre Latte Da. They are currently on tour and had a stop here at the Chalberg Theatre at Central Lakes College in Brainerd. I must have given it a good sales pitch because my three teenage sons accompanied me to the show, and they liked it! We talked about it afterwards, the story, the songs, the message. It’s a beautiful evening of song and story of the European immigrants in the late 1800′s to early 1900′s, what they brought with them and what they left behind. The actors needed to perform in many different languages and accents. We learned more of the heartache and hopefulness that their journey gave them. If it comes to your area, you won’t want to miss it!

Here in the Brainerd lakes area, a new theatre company has formed. Stage North will be presenting A Christmas Carol, adapted for stage by Michael Poller, on the stage at the Franklin Arts Center, Dec. 18-21, 2014. Gary Hirsch and Kevin Yeager are the creative team making this happen. For their debut production Gary will be directing, and Kevin is in charge of set design and most of the other details. They have asked me to direct a children’s choir that will be part of the show as well as providing music before the show and during intermission. Joy Ciaffoni is assisting me in directing. She is a voice and piano teacher in the Brainerd area. I don’t have a production photo at this time, so check back on my writer’s blog, Play off the Page, or follow me on Instagram or Twitter.

If you’re a big fan of old Ebenezer Scrooge and the ghosts that haunt him, and you’re in the Minneapolis, MN area, The Guthrie Theater is presenting their 40th annual performance of A Christmas Carol, adapted for stage by Crispin Whittell, November 13 – December 28, 2014 on the Wurtele Thrust Stage. We have made this show a family tradition and will be at the Guthrie to view and review it Nov. 22. I have a longer post on this at my writer’s blog, Play off the Page, including some wonderful production photos.

The Ordway Performing Arts Center in St. Paul, MN is presenting A (You’ll shoot your eye out!) Christmas Story, Nov. 29-Dec. 28, 2014. What a fun show to watch during the holidays. My previous post is the press release, so I won’t get into detail here of Jean Shepherd’s classic tale. But, if you’ve grown up chuckling at the innocence and antics of Ralphie and his obsession with the “Official Red Ryder® Carbine-Action 200-Shot Range Model Air Rifle,” you might want to get tickets! I’ll be in the audience to view and reivew this one on Dec. 5.

If you’re already “Christmas caroled out” by Thanksgiving, and you’re pining for summer, visit The Jungle Theatre in Minneapolis for On Golden Pond, Nov. 7 – Dec. 21, 2014. I hear that the matinees are already selling out! This is the first time the Jungle is staging this poignant play, which in addition to twin cities legends Bain Boehlke and Wendy Lehr, features a stellar cast and one of Bain’s distinctive detailed sets. I’m trying to figure out how I can fit this one in. I love this play and would be thrilled to visit the Jungle theatre again to see it.

If you’re in the Alexandria, MN area, visit their AAAA community theatre production of White Christmas, Dec. 12-21. The AAAA really knows how to do community theatre. I recently saw The Addam’s Family musical there, and they did a spectacular job!

These are just a few of the fabulous shows coming up during the holiday season. Whether you’re watching the grandkids in the church Christmas program, or playing your favorite CD, your mood just might lift as you’re planning your holiday meals and special times together with family and friends.

Go. Create. Inspire!

A Christmas Story coming to The Ordway in St. Paul, MN

I’ll be sharing press releases from time to time about shows coming up in the area and in the metro. This is from The Ordway in St. Paul, MN.

“You’ll shoot your eye out, kid!”

“Fra-gee-lay. It must be Italian!”

“Oh, fudge!”

The Ordway Center for the Performing Arts Presents

A Christmas Story, the Musical

Nov. 29–Dec. 28, 2014

Your favorite holiday movie is now your favorite holiday musical

We triple-dog-dare you not to miss it!

ST. PAUL, Minn. (Oct. 28, 2014) — The Ordway Center for the Performing Arts is excited to present its 2014 holiday show, A Christmas Story, the Musical. The Ordway-produced musical comedy will run Nov. 29–Dec. 28, 2014, for a total of 36 performances. Tickets are available now and can be purchased online at, by phone at 651-224-4222 or in person at the Ordway ticket office.


The cast features Gary Briggle as Jean Shepherd, Billie Wildrick as Mother, Jake Goodman as Ralphie, James Ciccarelle as Randy, Dieter Bierbrauer as The Old Man and Erin Schwab as Miss Shields.


The ensemble includes Jack Ahern, Carter Bannwarth, Lisa Bartholemew-Given, Olivia Lyn Coon, Jennifer Eckes, Mario Esteb, Joshua Feldman, Larissa Gritti, Amasia Gordon, Michael Gruber, Reid Harmsen, Annie Hoffman, Lillie Horton, Olivia Huber, Sophia Huber, Suzie Juul, Nike Kadri, Gavin Kimmel, Brad Madison, Julianne Mundale, Hope Nordquist, Aja Parham, Kersten Rodau, Jack Romans, Randy Schmelling, Carl Schoenborn, Rudolph Searles III, Jay Soulen, Madeline Sundheim, Linda Talcott Lee, Brent Teclaw, Austene Van and Tony Vierling. The production also features Oliver and Argyle, two rescue dogs and acting veterans trained by legendary animal trainer, William Berloni.


A Christmas Story, the Musical is the hilarious account of Ralphie Parker’s desperate quest to ensure that the most perfect of gifts, an Official Red Ryder® Carbine-Action 200-Shot Range Model Air Rifle, ends up under his tree this Christmas. Filled with nostalgia, quirky childhood innocence and all the best-loved scenes from the movie, this Ordway holiday production is a heartwarming event for the entire family.


“We couldn’t be more thrilled to be able to bring A Christmas Story, the Musical to life on the Ordway stage. The script is funny, charming and stays true to the classic movie that everyone knows and loves,” said James A. Rocco, Ordway’s vice president of programming/producing artistic director. “Fans of the movie will recognize all their favorite scenes, including the pink bunny pajamas, the leg lamp award, Ralphie’s Wild West fantasy, and of course, the infamous tongue stuck to the flagpole moment. The story has become a part of American culture, and the stage version builds on that with amazing music and extravagant dance numbers.”


Directed and choreographed by award-winning duo James A. Rocco and Sharon Halley, this uproarious holiday musical features a book by Joseph Robinette based on the classic 1983 holiday film and the writings of Jean Shepherd. The show also features music and lyrics by Tony-nominated team Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, one of Broadway’s hottest young songwriting duos known for their work on James and the Giant Peach and the hit television show Smash.


The production’s creative team includes Jeff Rizzo (musical director), Raymond Berg (associate musical director), J Branson (scenic design), Wm. P. Healey (lighting design), Lynda L. Salsbury (costume design), Zach Williamson (sound design) and Robert A. Dunn (hair and make-up design).


A Christmas Story, the Musical opened on Broadway in November 2012, receiving three Tony Award nominations (Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical and Best Original Score). The show was also nominated for two Outer Critics Circle Awards and six Drama Desk Awards.


For tickets and more information, visit



The Ordway is widely recognized as one of the nation’s leading nonprofit performing arts centers and Saint Paul’s most elegant and inviting performance space. The Ordway’s Music Theater and soon-to-be completed Concert Hall attract diverse audiences with an array of productions showcasing the finest in American musical theater, world music, dance and vocal performance. Education and community engagement are integral to the Ordway’s mission, with major initiatives including the annual Flint Hills International Children’s Festival and Ordway Education programs that serve more than 50,000 students annually. The Ordway also sponsors the Saint Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists, a charter high school with a professionally guided academic and artistic environment that trains aspiring pre-professional performing artists. Together with the Minnesota Opera, The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and The Schubert Club, the Ordway is a member of the Arts Partnership and serves as the principal venue for their performances. For more information, visit





Production:                           A Christmas Story, the Musical


Based upon the motion picture, A Christmas Story (distributed by Warner Bros. and written by Jean Shepherd, Leigh Brown and Bob Clark) and upon In God We Trust; All Others Pay Cash (written by Jean Shepherd). Produced with permission of Warner Bros., Theatre Ventures and Dalphie Entertainment.


Dates:                                     Nov. 29 – Dec. 28, 2014


Times:                                    7:30 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 29 – Sunday, Nov. 30

Tuesday, Dec. 2 – Sunday, Dec. 7

Tuesday, Dec. 9 – Sunday, Dec. 14

Tuesday, Dec. 16 – Sunday, Dec. 21

Tuesday, Dec. 23

Friday, Dec. 26 – Sunday, Dec. 28


2:00 p.m.

Sunday, Nov. 30

Saturday, Dec. 6 – Sunday, Dec. 7

Saturday, Dec. 13 – Sunday, Dec. 14

Saturday, Dec. 20 – Sunday, Dec. 21

Tuesday, Dec. 23

Saturday, Dec. 27 – Sunday, Dec. 28


11:00 a.m.

Wednesday, Dec. 24


Accessible Performances

Thursday, Dec. 11, 7:30 p.m. (Open Captioned)

Saturday, Dec. 13, 2:00 p.m. (ASL/AD)


Piano music in the Marzitelli Foyer by Lori Dokken pre-show and during intermission for all performances


Theater Venue                       Ordway Center for the Performing Arts

& Location:                            345 Washington Street
Saint Paul, Minnesota 55102


Ticket Office: 651-224-4222
Groups: 651-282-3111


Price:                                      $36-$110, subject to change


Book:                                      Joseph Robinette


Music and Lyrics:                 Benj Pasek and Justin Paul


Direction and                        

Choreography:                      James A. Rocco and Sharon Halley


Musical Director:                  Jeff Rizzo


Associate Musical

Director:                                 Raymond Berg


Scenic Design:                      J Branson


Lighting Design:                   Wm. P. Healey


Costume Design:                  Lynda L. Salsbury


Sound Design:                      Zach Williamson


Hair and Make-Up Design:  Robert A. Dunn


Production Manager:           Andy Luft


Technical Director:               Jason Allyn-Schwerin


Casting Director:                  Reid Harmsen


Stage Manager:                     Sharon Bach


Animal Trainer:                     William Berloni


Cast:                                       Gary Briggle, Billie Wildrick, Jake Goodman, James Ciccarelle, Dieter Bierbrauer, Erin Schwab, Jack Ahern, Carter Bannwarth, Lisa Bartholemew-Given, Olivia Lyn Coon, Jennifer Eckes, Mario Esteb, Joshua Feldman, Larissa Gritti, Amasia Gordon, Michael Gruber, Reid Harmsen, Annie Hoffman, Lillie Horton, Olivia Huber, Sophia Huber, Suzie Juul, Nike Kadri, Gavin Kimmel, Brad Madison, Julianne Mundale, Hope Nordquist, Aja Parham, Kersten Rodau, Jack Romans, Randy Schmelling, Carl Schoenborn, Rudolph Searles III, Jay Soulen, Madeline Sundheim, Linda Talcott Lee, Brent Teclaw, Austene Van, Tony Vierling


Producer:                               Ordway Center for the Performing Arts


Media Contact:                      Jessica Petrie


Review of The Addams Family at AAAA

Did you know that the classic TV sitcom has been turned into a musical? Well, it has, and it’s terrific. The songs are filled with kookie lyrics. The kids are growing up. Fester is in love…with the moon. And, Wednesday is in love. Horrors! Imagine that moment when you and your sweetheart were getting serious and thought it would be a “good idea” to get the families together for a dinner. You know how you just want them to act like “normal” people…”For just two hours, could you act like a normal family?” plead the young lovers.


The cast and crew of the AAAA theatre in Alexandria, MN did a spectacular job with the quirky and well-loved show. You have the meshing of the mainstream with the macabre. You have the characters and their quirks, on both sides of the cemetery. And, you have the delight of watching them co-mingle, or not. I thought that director Ben Klipfel had a fantastic cast. Really. The actors fit into those classic roles so well. David Christman who played Gomez was particularly well cast. He never slipped out of character or lost that exotic “Spanish” accent.

If you’re in the Alexandra, MN area, or close enough for a lovely fall drive past rotting fields and cemeteries, venture out and take in a kookie and spookie show! I feel I have a better understanding of the Addams’ after watching this musical. Really! Here they are living life their own way, without apology. To read more of my review, go to my website Play off the Page.

You can find showtimes and ticket information at the AAAA website or AAAA facebook page. You will have a spooktacular experience! Or, read a little more from the AAAA website:

“Like the television series, there is a bit of innuendo,” Klipfel said, “but, there is something in it for everybody, and it’s not scary but rather super fun, and very fast moving.”

The Addams Family features a regional cast, including David Christma (Gomez), Kara Gerdes (Morticia), Mackenzie Webb (Wednesday), Brody Uhlenkamp (Pugsley), Kevin Lee (Uncle Fester), Lindsey Roers (Grandmama), Chuck Grussing (Lurch), Alex Shockley (Lucas Beineke), Bill Dietzler (Mal Beineke), and Becky Byrne (Alice Beineke).  The Addams Family Ancestors are played by Ahndree Brown, Alex Johnson, Carolyn Giannone, Trinessa Spanswick, Holly Wallerich, Cole Mercier, Adam Frankel and Pete Woit.

The production features an original story by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, with music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa.  The Addams Family is based on characters created by Charles Addams.  The production is directed by Benjamin Klipfel with vocal direction by Rachel Capistrant.  Lindsey Roers provided choreography. Quincy Roers designed the set and lighting, and Hilary Ninman designed the props.  Costume, hair and makeup design is by Deb Long with assistance from Jamie Sandberg.  Dedra Zweig is the music technician.  Ailee Velazquez is the stage manager, and Rexford Sweetwater is the assistant stage manager.  Eric DeLong and Scott Giannone are the running crew.

The Addams Family musical runs October 24, 25, 31, and November 1 at 7:30pm, with Sunday matinees at 2:00pm on October 26 and November 2.  Tickets are available now at the box office and can be purchased over the phone with a credit card (320-762-8300) or in person at 618 Broadway Street in Downtown Alexandria.  Tickets are $18 for adults, $16 for students and seniors.  There is a group rate of $13 for parties of 12 or more.

The Addams Family is sponsored by Integrity Title of Alexandria.

Review of The Foreigner at CLC

The Foreigner, playing now through Oct. 11, 2014, at Central Lakes College in Brainerd, MN, is a great comedy of excellent writing, set-up, and physical humor. Even the most novice cast will get laughs from the great lines and scenes that Larry Shue offers us in his play on words, cultures, miss understandings, and revealing of secrets. It’s one of my favorite plays. I’m sure I’ve seen it a half dozen times.

The Top Ten Things I Like about The Foreigner:
1. It’s a great set-up for a comedy: A guy enters a new environment. People believe he can’t understand them. They begin to reveal too much about themselves.
2. Sometimes, it’s just easier to let people believe what they think is true.
3. Knowing a secret puts you in a precarious situation.
4. It’s funny to watch how people treat someone when they think they’re superior and won’t get caught in their own ugliness.
5. That scene at the breakfast table with the language lesson and juice glass cracks me up, everytime!
6. Betty’s a hoot. (Bri Keran does a great job playing her.)
7. As an audience member, we are in on all the secrets and lies, and we feel all “in the know” because of it, which makes most of us giggle.
8. The actor who gets to play Charlie has an opportunity to really use his body, facial expressions, and use of made up words to tell the story. He is always delightful to watch. (Mitchell Dallman plays Charlie with great expression and timing.)
9. Watching The Foreigner is a lovely escape from reality on a cold, October night.
10. Live theatre truly builds community, whether you are creating the show on stage, behind the scenes, or sitting in the audience, you are part of a creative moment that gets people out of the house and experiencing something good together.

For tickets and showtimes, visit the Central Lakes College ticket page, or call their box office, 218-855-8199.

Go. Create. Inspire! (To read more of my reviews, visit my website Play off the Page.)

Some Highlights from the Ivey Awards In Minnesota

This press release was sent to me by Anne Ulseth, PR for the Illusion theater, and several others. We have developed a relationship as I am invited to view and review productions at numerous theatres throughout the metro. Thank you, Anne! You’re dong a fine job. It’s fun to see some of the actors and theatres that I’ve visited received awards for their outstanding work in the performing arts. To read my reviews, visit my website, Play off the Page. Go. Create. Inspire!
Illusion Theater’s Michael Robins and Bonnie Morris receive 
2014 Ivey Lifetime Achievement Award;
 Tyler Michaels recognized as Emerging Artist
Three productions and seven individuals/ensembles also honored
at September 22 celebration
(MINNEAPOLIS; September 23, 2014) — For the first time in the Iveys’ 10-year history, two people will share the Lifetime Achievement Award. Michael Robins and Bonnie Morris, co-producing directors of Illusion Theater, were honored at the celebration of Twin Cities theater on September 22 at the Historic State Theatre in downtown Minneapolis. Versatile actor-singer-dancer-improviser Tyler Michaels received the Emerging Artist Award.
The 10th Anniversary Ivey Awards attracted a sold out audience to the show designed to recognize and showcase the work of professional metro-wide theater companies and artists over the past year.
Based on evaluations completed by the more than 150 volunteer theater evaluators who saw more than 1,000 performances created by 66 professional theaters in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area from September 2013 through August 2014, three productions and seven individuals/ensembles were also recognized with 2014 Iveys:
Productions Recognized
Cabaret (Theater Latté Da & Hennepin Theatre Trust) – Overall Excellence
Ordinary Days (Nautilus Music-Theater) – Overall Excellence
Rose (Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company) – Intellect and Emotional Intensity
Individual Recognition
Sally Wingert – Actor: Rose (Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company), The Receptionist  (Dark & Stormy Productions), Cabaret (Theater Latté Da), Tribes (Guthrie Theater)
Ensemble – Actors: Driving Miss Daisy (Jungle Theater)
Nathan Cousins & Tristan Tifft – Actors: The 39 Steps (Yellow Tree Theatre)
Anne Byrd – Director: The 39 Steps (Yellow Tree Theatre)
Seraphina Nova – Playwright: Dogwood (Candid Theater Company)
Eduardo Sicangco – Set Design & Costumes: Cinderella (Children’s Theatre Company)
Sandra Spieler & Julie Boada – Properties Design: Between the Worlds (In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre)
MICHAEL ROBINS (Lifetime Achievement Award) founded Illusion Theater in 1974. Over the past 40 years, he has guided several hundred plays to production. Robins directs the inimitable Miss Richfield 1981 in her annual holiday show at the Illusion, has directed Allison Moore’s adaptation of Willa Cather’s My Antonia, several of Jeffrey Hatcher’s plays, Caryl Churchill’s A Number, James Still’s Iron KissesThe Velvet Rut and I Love to Eat, and Bill W. & Dr. Bob by Stephen Bergman & Janet Surrey, among others. He directed Illusion’s searing production of The Laramie Project and the Midwest premiere of the Kirsten Childs’ groundbreaking musical The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin. Along with Bonnie Morris, Robins was one of the team members who created Illusion’s Peer Education/Prevention program in 1977, starting with the original groundbreaking work on child sexual abuse prevention, the award-winning play and video Touch, a collaboration with the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office.
BONNIE MORRIS (Lifetime Achievement Award) has been a part of Illusion Theater’s remarkable 40-year history as an actor, writer, educator and producer. Morris is passionate about new work and new artists. She co-authored all of Illusion’s educational plays, including Touch, For Our Daughters, Like Waters Rolling Down, No Laughing Matter, Clear the Air, and Ready Set Action.
Together, Robins and Morris have programmed innovative work since the company’s inception in 1974, from Orlando, Orlando at the Walker Art Center to works by Spaulding Gray, Ping Chong and Karen Finley. Well-regarded new work showcases include the annual Fresh Ink series, which marks 28 years in 2015, and Lights Up!, which soon will celebrate its 10th anniversary.
In its 40 years, Illusion Theater has commissioned or developed more than 350 original mainstage plays that have been seen by more than one million people and have been staged by more than 40 theaters across the US, including major regional theaters such as the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles, Goodman Theater in Chicago and Manhattan Theater Club. Illusion productions have received Ivey Awards, two plays have been made into motion pictures (Miss Evers’ Boys and The Velocity of Gary), and 10 have been published. One was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize (Miss Evers’ Boys) and two plays have been finalists for the American Critics Association Best New Play (Autistic License and Sez She).
TYLER MICHAELS (Emerging Artist Award) was born and raised in Bloomington, Minn., and graduated from Minnesota State University Moorhead (MSUM) with a BA in Theatre Arts with an emphasis in Acting, Directing, and Musical Theater. While studying at MSUM, he competed for the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival’s Irene Ryan acting scholarship. Upon receiving the scholarship, Tyler traveled to the Kennedy Center to claim the Mark Twain Comedic Performance Award as well as a scholarship to study at Dell’Arte School of Physical Theatre.
Since moving back to the Twin Cities in January 2011, Michaels has worked with the Guthrie Theater, Flying Foot Forum, Theatre Latté Da, Chanhassen Dinner Theaters, 7th House Theater Collective, Actors Theater of Minnesota, Circa Productions, NUTS ltd, Newton Theater, Minneapolis Musical Theatre, HUGE Theater, Got It Made Productions, Studio206 and Bloomington Civic Theatre. He is also part of Bearded Men Improv, a long-form experimental improv troupe, performing at HUGE Improv Theater as well as all over the country during various comedy festivals and tours.
About the Iveys
The Iveys are unique among awards events in the country in that they are open to the public and that there are no nominees, set number of awards or pre-determined award categories, with the exception of the Lifetime Achievement and the Emerging Artist Awards. The artists and organizations receiving special recognition are selected from evaluations completed by the general public and the volunteer theater evaluators. Each participating theater receives a vote to determine the Lifetime Achievement and Emerging Artist Awards.
The 10th Anniversary Ivey Awards are presented with the generous support of Carousel Motor Group, BMW of Minnetonka, Porsche of Minneapolis, Porsche of St. Paul, Mercedes Benz of Maplewood, Audi Minneapolis, Audi St. Paul, Target, Best Buy, IATSE, Actors’ Equity Association, Trinchero Family Estates Winery, McKnight Foundation, J.P. Morgan, Dorsey Whitney, Robins Kaplan, martinpatrick3, Spyglass Creative, Risdall Marketing Agency, City Pages, The Hotel Ivy, Solera Restaurant, Summit Brewing Company, Cities 97, Mpls/St. Paul Magazine, MINQ, Clear Channel Outdoor, Palisades Asset Management Company, Thomson Reuters, Disciplined Growth Investors, Western Bank, My Sister, Inc., and UBS.

Review of Busy Town at the Children’s Theatre in Minneapolis

This production of Busy Town, the Musical was adapted for the stage by Kevin Kling, music and lyrics by Kevin Kling and Michael Koerner, directed by Sean Graney, and choreographed by Tommy Rapley. The music is jazzy and bouncy and causes some definite seat wiggling. I’m still humming Busy town, da-da, da da da, de dum. Busy Town, mm. hmm. Add a little bepoppin’ around the stage and you can’t help tapping at least a toe! You can listen to some of the songs at the Children’s Theatre website. (They include the song “Pickle Car.” If you’re having a traffic moment, dial this one up. It’s bound to make you smile, if not make the other non-pickle cars move faster.) Victor Zupanc is a master musician who is truly part of the production in the pit with his floppy ears hat and subtle interaction with the actors and story.

Pickle Car! Kasono Mwanza, Reed Sigmund
Photo by Dan Norman, production at The Children’s Theatre Company, Minneapolis, MN

Busy Town is appealing to kids from preschool through early elementary school, and for any older audience member who likes happy, bouncy musicals with great jazzy music, choreography, enthusiastic actors, and gorgeous staging. The Children’s Theatre always gives the audience surprises that delight kids young and old! Visit the Children’s Theatre website for tickets and showtimes. Up next at The Children’s Theatre is Seedfolk and Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! 

To read more of my review, visit my website, Play off the Page.

Go. Create. Inspire!

Review of The White Snake at The Guthrie Theater

Many years ago, in the land of China, White Snake and her friend Green Snake went on the transformation journey to find out what it was like to live like a human. They discovered love and shared their medicine. Green Snake, aka Greenie, stayed close by the side of her friend White Snake, aka Bai Suzhen, who married a mortal man. Just as life was becoming beautiful, with a baby on the way, Fa Hai, the evil religious man, tried to break them apart by exposing the truth and turning Bai Suzhen back into The White Snake. This nearly kills her husband Xu Xian, but with the help of forest creatures and special medicine, all is not lost. Still, the path is never straight, and none of us are always what we at first appear to be. The storytelling, costuming, and staging of The White Snake are so beautiful, like unfolding layers of fine, silk fabric, or a Chinese fan.

Amy Kim Waschke (White Snake) and Tanya Thai McBride (Green Snake).
Photo by Liz Lauren

The White Snake, written and directed by Mary Zimmerman, based on the classic Chinese folktale, is playing at The Guthrie Theater, September 9 – October 19, 2014. Go to their website for tickets and showtimes and to see more production photos and a video clip.To read more of my review, visit my website, Play off the Page.

Go. Create. Inspire!