Review of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, MN

Quote of the Day: Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind, therefore is wing’d Cupid painted blind. William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act 1, scene 1. It’s hard to see straight and think straight when your eyes are clouded over by fairy magic and tricky love potion.

Tyler Michaels (Puck) and fairies in the Guthrie Theater's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, by William Shakespeare and directed by Joe Dowling and David Bolger. Set design by Riccardo Hernández, costume design by Fabio Toblini, lighting design by Frank Butler and projection design by Christopher Ash. February 7 - March 29, 2015, on the Wurtele Thrust Stage at the Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis. Photo by Dan Norman.

The Guthrie Theater’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is colorful, bold, psychedelic, lively, and fun. It’s a bit of a trip, if you know what I mean, but then so is love’s journey. Sometimes, people are telling you what to do, like Hermia’s father who decides that she should marry Demetrius because he wants him for a son-in-law. However, Hermia loves Lysander, and Helena love Demetrius, but he doesn’t love her. So, Lysander and Hermia cook up a plan to steal away, through the mystical forest, and secretly wed. Well, Cupid’s arrow doesn’t always shoot straight, and mischievous fairies make sport of human folly. An unsuspecting theatre troupe gets caught up in the shenanigans, and much humor ensues.

Emily Kitchens (Helena), Casey Hoekstra (Demetrius), Zach Keenan (Lysander), Tyler Michaels (Puck) and Eleonore Dendy (Hermia) in the Guthrie Theater's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, by William Shakespeare and directed by Joe Dowling and David Bolger. Set design by Riccardo Hernández, costume design by Fabio Toblini, lighting design by Frank Butler and projection design by Christopher Ash. February 7 - March 29, 2015, on the Wurtele Thrust Stage at the Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis. Photo by Dan Norman.

When you attend a Shakespearean play, it takes a little bit to get used to the language, the words and how they’re strung together, the rhyme, and the play on words. If the actors are good, they know what words to emphasize that help you get the gist of the the dialogue. They also use their bodies and facial expressions, as well as stage movement to tell the story. This play is larger than life. It goes beyond human comprehension into the realm of magic and make-believe with fairies, queens, mystical creatures, and mysterious love potion. You see how easily humans are tricked and manipulated, and once stripped of their worldly layers, they become vulnerable, yet more open to discovering the truth. The staging of this play also brings you in and out of the experience. They have set additional seating at what is the back of the thrust stage, so it is truly theater in the round. When the action is taking place in the realistic place of Athens, Greece, all the action takes place on the stage. When they are in the forest, lights surround us like a giant strobe light, we heard wind chimes and other sound effects, music, and the actors move in and out of the audience, creating a feeling that we are in the mystical forest with them.

Alex Gibson (Mustardseed), Christina Acosta Robinson (Titania), Tyler Michaels (Puck), Nicholas Carrière (Oberon) and Tony Vierling (Peaseblossom) in the Guthrie Theater's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, by William Shakespeare and directed by Joe Dowling and David Bolger. Set design by Riccardo Hernández, costume design by Fabio Toblini, lighting design by Frank Butler and projection design by Christopher Ash. February 7 - March 29, 2015, on the Wurtele Thrust Stage at the Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis. Photo by Dan Norman.

The creative team at the Guthrie Theater turn the Wurtele Thrust Stage into a magical forest and ancient Greece, with a bit of modern fun poked in. With the addition of music, composed by Keith Thomas, and sound design by Scott W. Edwards, all your senses will be seduced by this spectacular production. If you can find your way to The Guthrie Theater this spring, go to A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Maybe you’ll be transported into the mystical realm for a while and your own heart will feel lighter.

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt: Do you keep a dream journal? Write about a vivid dream.

2015-2016 Season at the Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis

Quote of the Day:  Field trips to live theater enhance literary knowledge, tolerance, and empathy among students, according to a study. The research team found that reading and watching movies of Hamlet and A Christmas Carol could not account for the increase in knowledge experienced by students who attended live performances of the plays. Students who attended live performances of the play also scored higher on the study’s tolerance measure than the control group by a moderately large margin and were better able to recognize and appreciate what other people think and feel. from an article at Science titled Major Benefits for Students who attend live theater.

The Children's Theatre Company in Minneapolis, MN. Photo by Dan Norman.

The Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis, MN. Photo by Dan Norman.

The Children’s Theatre Company of Minneapolis, MN has announced it’s 2015-2016 season, and it’s fabulous. CTC has been the leading children’s theatre in the nation, and they are the first theatre to produce many shows, including Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, a play they commissioned playwright Cheryl West to write for the stage, from the book by Gary D. Schmidt. I’m so excited to see a mix of new plays and cherished classics. Here is their press release:

An Innovative 2015 – 2016 50th Anniversary Season Including Five Premieres

The 2015- 2016 Anniversary Season encompasses a blend of reimagined classic stories and inspiring new works.  Adapted from the critically-lauded film, Akeelah and the Bee has Broadway director Charles Randolph-Wright making his CTC debut in this tale about a young girl harnessing her talent for spelling in order to overcome adversity in a tough neighborhood. Followed by a new Jungle Book brought to stunning life through director Greg Banks’ unique style which emphasizes the sheer virtuosity of the actors. Next, experience the power of finding your place in the world with the return of the much-celebrated and critically-acclaimed Wizard of Oz. Direct from New York, multimedia, music and a classic tale with a modern twist collide in The Frog Bride, an enthralling performance by award-winning master storyteller David Gonzalez.The Snowy Day and Other Stories by Ezra Jack Keatscaptures the epic struggles and profound victories of a child’s life in vivid color and shadow through the unparalleled design of Italy’s puppetry master Fabrizio Montecchi.  Animal Dance engages preschoolers in their own language, one of gesture and movement, all conceived and performed by nationally-acclaimed dancer and performance artist Ann Carlson. Finishing the season is the highly-anticipated musical adaptation of Jeff Kinney’s beloved series Diary of a Wimpy Kid, from acclaimed Chicago director Rachel Rockwell.

Peter C. Brosius continues, “This season, we bring nationally and internationally celebrated artists to the theatre, some of whom have never made work for this audience, to lend their creativity and passion. Whether it’s through the director’s vision, the actors’ craft, or redefining the language of theatre through dance or puppetry, we shaped this season to be alive, powerful, contemporary, and filled with theatrical surprises.”

 Akeelah and the Bee – Premiere

Adapted for the Stage by Cheryl L. West

Based on the Original Screenplay by Doug Atchison

Directed by Charles Randolph-Wright

 September 1 – October 11, 2015

UnitedHealth Group Stage

 Akeelah has a crazy passion for words: the more abstruse and labyrinthine, the better. But this gift is almost overwhelmed by the challenge of her daily life in a tough, dangerous Chicago neighborhood, and by Akeelah’s yearning for a different life. The first theatrical adaptation of the critically-acclaimed film is directed by Charles Randolph-Wright and captures all the hope and spirit of the original story in an inspiring tale of a community united behind one little girl’s dream. Akeelah and the Bee will also be featured in La Jolla Playhouse’s DNA New Work Series and will travel to a major regional theatre following its run at CTC.

 “I am thrilled to be directing Akeelah and the Bee for CTC’s 50th Anniversary Season – it is a compelling, lively, and important story that resonates right now. I love this play, I love this theatre, and I am excited for Minneapolis to take Akeelah’s journey.” – Charles Randolph-Wright

The Jungle Book – Premiere

Based on the Book by Rudyard Kipling

Adapted and directed by Greg Banks

September 29 – December 6, 2015

Cargill Stage

 Mowgli is rambunctious and curious, scrappy and silly. Sound like a kid you know? This new adaptation of the beloved Rudyard Kipling story finds a child lost in the Indian jungle, where he is adopted by Baloo the Bear, Bagheera the panther, and all the beasts who call the mysterious wilderness home. Our fast-paced retelling keeps you perched on the edge of your seat as young Mowgli comes face-to-face with sneaky monkeys, noisy vultures and his mortal enemy: the tiger, Shere Kahn.

 “I couldn’t be more excited to be working on The Jungle Book at CTC and especially as part of the 50th Anniversary Season. I’ve had the privilege of working with CTC on some of my favorite projects and I can’t wait to see what we can do with this timeless story about finding out where you truly belong.” –Greg Banks


The Wizard of Oz

By L. Frank Baum

With Music and Lyrics by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg

Background Music by Herbert Stothart

Dance and Vocal Arrangements by Peter Howard

Orchestration by Larry Wilcox

Adapted by John Kane for the Royal Shakespeare Company

Based upon the Classic Motion Picture owned by Turner Entertainment Co.

and distributed in all media by Warner Bros.

Directed by Peter C. Brosius

November 3, 2015 – January 3, 2016

UnitedHealth Group Stage

 And… we’re off! The songs, the costumes, the wonder of it all – together again in a holiday extravaganza that nobody can resist. Our production pulls out all the stops to take the beloved L. Frank Baum story to dizzying heights, with a cast of munchkins, monkeys and four friends in the pursuit of courage, a brain, a heart and a home. Take the whole family on a fairytale musical trip over the rainbow – and yes, Toto too.

 “This is a piece that touches all of our hearts as it dives so deeply into what the idea of home truly means. I love this powerful story of a young Dorothy as she faces extraordinary obstacles, makes incredible allies and finds new strengths along the way. This is my first time directing this show and I simply can’t wait to get started.”

– Peter C. Brosius


The Frog Bride

Written, Conceived, and Performed by David Gonzalez

Directed by Lenard Petit

Music by Sergei Prokofiev and Daniel Kelly

Video Design by Matyas Keleman

Lighting Design by David Lander

January 12 – February 28, 2016

Cargill Stage

When a king sends his three sons to find their brides, two return with fair ladies but the youngest returns with…A FROG?! Acclaimed storyteller David Gonzalez masterfully weaves this classic Russian folk tale with a rich, multimedia experience using video projections, live musicians and an original jazz-funk score. The Frog Bride has everything you need for a rousing tale – a royal ball, a curse, a broken heart and the search for true love – performed with an energetic and skillful modern twist in what The New York Times calls “absorbing, funny and suspenseful, it is, in the great tradition of storytelling, enchanting.”

“I am thrilled to be included in Children’s Theatre Company’s 50th Anniversary Season. The Frog Bride has everything I love in stories; great characters and settings, a truly troublesome problem, a quest, and the unearthing of wisdom. I feel is a perfect fit for CTC audiences.” –David Gonzalez

The Snowy Day

And Other Stories by Ezra Jack Keats –Premiere

By Jerome Hairston

Based on the Books by Ezra Jack Keats

Directed by Peter C. Brosius


February 9 – March 20, 2016

UnitedHealth Group Stage

The wonder of a fresh snowfall, the delight of that first successful whistle, the awe in finding a special treasure: Ezra Jack Keats had a gift for capturing the rapturous joy in a child’s day-to-day life. In this new staging of Keats’ beloved works with puppet design by Italy’s renowned Teatro Gioco Vita, director Peter C. Brosius brings the little boy in the red coat to enthralling life. Revisit Keats’ treasured stories in this wholly original theatrical adaptation.

“Ezra Jack Keats was a master at capturing the tiny details of a child’s life, the epic struggles and the glorious little victories that mean so much. He made the urban landscape of his childhood a vibrant and enchanting world as only a child could see it. His brilliant images remind us all what it is like to be a child with open eyes and huge hearts.” – Peter C. Brosius

 Animal Dance –Premiere

Choreographed and Directed by Ann Carlson with Peter C. Brosius

March 22 – May 1, 2016

Cargill Stage

What do kids (baby goats) and kids (not-so-baby people) have in common? World-renowned choreographer and performance artist Ann Carlson will dance her way to the answer with the help of some curious goats and their animal buddies in this brand-new piece developed specifically with preschoolers’ interests and attention spans in mind. It’s a story of the similarities we share with our animal friends in the quest for self-expression and ultimately, understanding. So stomp your hooves, clap your paws and expect the unexpected.

“I’m so honored to be working with CTC during their 50th Anniversary Season to develop this work for our most important audiences.  This piece aims to look inside that wonderful connection of humans to the animal world.  It’s sure to surprise!” – Ann Carlson

Diary of a Wimpy Kid the Musical –Premiere

Based on the book by Jeff Kinney

Music and Lyrics by Joe Iconis

Book by Joe Tracz

Directed by Rachel Rockwell

Produced by special arrangement with Fox Stage Productions and Kevin McCollum

April 12 – June 5, 2016

UnitedHealth Group Stage

 Greg Heffley is in survival mode. All. The. Time. From bullies to his big brother to his height-challenged stature, he’s the wimpy kid we can all relate to. The beloved series hits the stage in a brand-new musical with Rowley, Manny, and of course, Rodrick joining in the mayhem. A ridiculous amount of fun for anyone who has survived, is surviving, or hopes to survive middle school, inspired by the award-winning and bestselling book series.

“I am thrilled to be collaborating with Children’s Theatre Company on a musical stage adaptation of Diary of a Wimpy Kid.  To see my stories and characters come to life and set to music is exciting and I can’t wait to see Greg Heffley and his family take the stage.” – Jeff Kinney

The 50th Anniversary Season is sponsored by 3M, Ameriprise Financial, Target, KNOCK, inc. and United Health Foundation.


Three Key Celebratory Events Planned Throughout the Anniversary Season to Celebrate the Community


Three key events associated with the Anniversary Season have been planned to honor and celebrate the community that has supported and sustained CTC over the last 50 years.  Peter C. Brosius adds, “Our 50th Anniversary Season is an opportunity to give back to our community. We wanted to ensure that the events within this landmark season also provided a time for reflection and a renewed dedication to serving and engaging our community.”

Free “Season Opener” at Target Field on August 9, 2015

50th Anniversary themed Curtain Call Ball and Backstage Bash on September 12, 2015

Free Open House at CTC on February 15, 2016

The 50th Anniversary “Season Opener” will commence with a free “grand-slam” event at Target Field on August 9, 2015. This commemorative event will feature a jumbotron screening of the filmed theatrical production of A Year with Frog and Toad, based on the Arnold Lobel stories with the original Broadway cast in high definition.

A perennial audience favorite, A Year with Frog and Toad, produced by Bob Boyette, premiered at CTC in 2002, played on Broadway in 2003 and was nominated for three Tony® Awards including Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical and Best Original Score. Additional programing surrounding the event and special guest appearances will be announced at a later date. Further information on obtaining tickets can be found on CTC’s website.  This event is sponsored by Target and made possible through a partnership with the Minnesota Twins Baseball Club.

Tickets to the event at Target Field are complimentary and will be guaranteed to all 2015-2016 classic 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 will be Tuesday, June 2 – Tuesday, June 30 at 5PM.  All lottery winners will be contacted by Monday, July 13.

The celebrations continue over the course of the season, including a 50ththemed Curtain Call Ball and Backstage Bash on September 12, 2015 and a free Open House at Children’s Theatre Company on February 15, 2016.   The Open House will be an opportunity for the public to experience exclusive, behind-the-scenes activities on how theatre is made, as well as further connect with the artists and staff of CTC.

 Additional details on the 50th Anniversary Season and events, including information on obtaining tickets to the “Season Opener,” can be found


#             #             #


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 20 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.


Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt: What children’s story would you like to see performed on stage?

Theatre Classes in the Brainerd area, Spring 2015

Quote of the Day:  Work with students where they are, not where you think they should be. Viola Spolin, Improvisation for the Theater

creativebenefitsI am offering theatre classes for kids again this spring in the Brainerd lakes area. As always, I am excited to work with kids who are looking for a unique experience. It is an excellent way to learn skills of cooperation and story telling. I give them a setting and a set up for the story that they will tell, together, creating their own characters, dialogue, and yes, much problem solving. I often feel nervous before we start, and sometimes in the early stages, because I have around 20 creative minds with individual personalities, and we somehow have to come up with a story line that works for all of us, and that the audience understands. It is a remarkable experience.

The director of the college theatre program, Patrick Spradlin, along with his office staff Jean and techie Sarah support this program by providing theatre space, registration, and some technical support. Thank you so much! We had a blast last November with our play Millie and Willie Host Thanksgiving. The theme this time is: Millie and Willie Cottonpoly are visiting Cousin Dyllie. His horse Phillie has come down with a mysterious illness, his cattle are disappearing, and the chickens have stopped laying eggs. In the middle of the night, strange lights flicker and music starts playing in the old barn. What is causing all this chaos, and who will be able to solve the Mystery at the Old Farm? I am, once again, using my sock puppets Millie and Willie, and friends to introduce the story.



See details below for class description and registration. If you have questions, please contact me. Thanks! Here’s the write-up from CLC:

Mary Aalgaard and her company, Play off the Page, along with the support of the Central Lakes College Theatre are offering theatre classes for children in grades 1-4 & 5-8. The classes will take place in CLC’s Dryden Theatre. 



Grades 1-4

Things to know:

  • Class meetsThursdays
    beginning March 19 – April 30
  • Class time: 4:30 – 5:30 p.m.
  • CLC’s Dryden Theatre
  • Performance for family & friends is April 30 at 5:00 p.m.
  • Non-refundable class fee: $65



Grades 5-8 

Things to know:

  • Class meetsThursdaysbeginning March 19 – April 30
  • Class time: 6:00 – 7:30 p.m.
  • CLC’s Dryden Theatre
  • Performance for family & friends is April 30 at 7:00 p.m.
  • Non-refundable class fee: $75


~To register, contact the CLC Theatre Box Office~
In person: Tuesday – Friday 10:00 a.m. – 2 p.m.
By phone: 218-855-8199
* Pre-registration is required
* Space is limited
*Registration deadline – March 17, 2015
Go. Create. Inspire!

Enchantment Lake by Margi Preus

Quote of the Day: “I see. The case of the poisoned spatula,” Francie said. Man, why hadn’t she had lines like these in her show? “Don’t you ever watch crime shows?” she asked. “The person left holding the murder weapon is never the one who actually did it.” from Enchantment Lake Mari Preus.

20150130_112944I had the privilege of receiving an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) of Mari Preus’ latest novel, Enchantment Lake, A Northwoods Mystery, the first in a new series. The setting could easily be in my backyard, so to speak, as I live in the lakes country of central Minnesota. Although her setting feels a bit more towards the Duluth area and north of there, a part of the country that still has a few places where cell phone service is sketchy, and the natural landscape hasn’t been totally developed. In Enchantment Lake Francie, a 17-year-old budding actress, is summoned to her childhood playland, Enchantment Lake, by her crazy old aunts. “Someone is trying to murder us,” they say, and hang up the phone, leaving Franchie hanging, and worrying, and jumping the next flight back to Minnesota, ditching her audition in New York City. The story clips along nicely as Francie, who isn’t really a detective, she only plays one on TV, sorts out the clues to the puzzle of mysterious deaths, and the controversy over paving a road to the outlying cabins on her aunts’ side of the lake. Are they really as innocent as they claim? Who is digging in the middle of the night? What’s happening on the island? Is the realtor as shifty as he seems? And, why can’t she get honest answers about her own parents’ deaths?

Margi Preus has created a colorful cast of characters that add both whimsical humor and dark motive. The action clips along, and you root for Francie who seems to be alone in solving the current crimes and the mystery of her own life. I had moments of, “This is like Scooby Doo,” where you feel like someone is creating a spooky environment to keep outsiders away. I half expected the criminal in the end to say, “I’d have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for you meddling kids.” And, Margi has a definite nod to Nancy Drew with the “Clue of the poisoned spatula,” line. I kept thinking of my 10-year-old piano/theatre student who just loves a good book with plenty of darkness and intrigue, and death. I’ll be handing it to her next week at piano lessons. I could also see older teens, especially those who aren’t as strong readers, picking this one up, because the story flows so nicely, it’s about 200 pages long, and the characters are also teens, or adults. This book is a delightful story for readers of all ages who like mysteries, varied and colorful characters, outdoor settings, humor, and a little death for good measure.

Margi Preus is a New York Times-best-selling author of books for young readers, including Shadow on the Mountain, West of the Moon and Heart of the Samurai, winner of a Newbery Honor and the Asian/Pacific American Award for Children’s Literature. She has loved mysteries since she was allowed to stay up past her bedtime to watch Perry Mason with her dad. (from the book cover) I met Margi at a Young Author’s Conference where she shared stories and ideas for writing and working with kids in theatre. Margi expects a March 1 release date for Enchantment Lake. She’s currently working on the second book in the series and expects them to span the seasons that create very different landscapes here in the North Country.  I can’t wait to read another Northwoods Mystery and see how Francie solves them!

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt:  Do you have a reading buddy like my cat Leo? Where is your favorite spot to curl up with a good book? Have you ever walked or driven a car on a frozen lake like we do here in the North Country?

Review of The Color Purple musical at Park Square Theatre

Quote of the Day:  I am an expression of the divine, just like a peach is, just like a fish is. I have a right to be this way…I can’t apologize for that, nor can I change it, nor do I want to…We will never have to be other than who we are in order to be successful. We realize that we are as ourselves unlimited and our experiences valid. It is for the rest of the world to recognize this, if they choose. 

The Color Purple starring Aimee K. Bryant as Celie, Parke Square Theatre, photos by Petronella J. Ytsma

The Color Purple starring Aimee K. Bryant as Celie, Parke Square Theatre, photos by Petronella J. Ytsma

The novel The Color Purple by Alice Walker has been adapted for the stage as a musical by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis, and Stephen Bray, book by Marsha Norman. It first appeared on Broadway in 2005. You can now see it performed live at the Park Square Theatre in St. Paul, MN through Feb.15, 2015. The book itself is one that sticks with you, the characters, the story, the images and descriptions. It changed the way I saw the world, including God, men, women, history, who we are and where we came from, and how to persevere. With the addition of music, dance, and superb acting, this show is sure to awaken something inside of you, too.

The Color Purple at Park Square Theatre, Regina Marie Williams is Shug Avery. Photos by Petronella J. Ytsma

The Color Purple at Park Square Theatre, Regina Marie Williams is Shug Avery.
Photos by Petronella J. Ytsma

Aimee K. Bryant who plays the main character Celie must explore an enormous range of emotions, and age, for this role. The story plays out through the life of Celie, from age 14, when she’s giving birth to her second child, to her mature years where she has finally found her own voice and beauty. Wow. Aimee K. Bryant was so convincing, I forgot she was an actor. I believed every emotion, every word. I ached for her and cringed as the abuses were heaped on her. I cheered when she found someone to admire, and my heart soared when she stood right in front of me and sang out, “I’m beautiful, and I’m here.”

The Color Purple at Park Square Theatre. Photos by Petronella J. Ytsma

The Color Purple at Park Square Theatre.
Photos by Petronella J. Ytsma

“I think us here to wonder, myself. To wonder. To ask. And that in wondering bout the big things and asking bout the big things, you learn about the little ones, almost by accident. But you never know nothing more about the big things than you start out with. The more I wonder, the more I love.”
― Alice WalkerThe Color Purple

Regina Marie Williams as Shug Avery, Aimee K. Bryant as Celie. The Color Purple at Park Square Theatre. Photos by Petronella J. Ytsma

Regina Marie Williams as Shug Avery, Aimee K. Bryant as Celie. The Color Purple at Park Square Theatre.
Photos by Petronella J. Ytsma

The Color Purple is the show to see this season in the twin cities. If you have only a few spare evenings or dollars, use them to see The Color Purple. If you have more time and money, buy tickets for all your family and friends, and go to the show as many times as you can before it closes on Feb. 15, 2015. This is a heavy story. I remember reading the book and feeling such strong emotions: fear, worry, anger, love, redemption, the power of forgiveness. I dreaded reading more about the abuses. I was a little apprehensive about how they might portray all of this on the stage. The cast and crew of The Color Purple handled this difficult subject matter remarkably well. We knew just enough about the abuses to understand the fear and emotions and the story line. They included humor, music, and both lovable and hateful characters. “The Church Ladies” are a hoot, and their songs are delicious.You root for Celie from the opening scene. The music and dancing are marvelous. I would go again just to experience that. I was hoping that they’d be selling the CD on my way out the door.

Regina Marie Williams is Shug Avery, and Aimee K. Bryant is Celie in Park Square's production of The Color Purple. Photos by Petronella J. Ytsma

Regina Marie Williams is Shug Avery, and Aimee K. Bryant is Celie in Park Square’s production of The Color Purple.
Photos by Petronella J. Ytsma

Experiencing a story like The Color Purple changes how you view the world, what you will accept, and what you won’t. You see things in a new light, and perhaps it comes in shades of purple. You begin to realize that despite the ugliness of the world, and the darkness in men’s hearts, there is beauty all around us.

Everyone of the cast members did an outstanding job. I was particularly drawn to Aimee K. Bryant, of course, as Celie, and Regina Marie Williams as Shug Avery, who reminded me a little of Whitney Houston, especially in the bathtub scene. Thomasina Petrus plays a spectacular Sofia. Celie, and we, learn to be a strong woman from her words and actions. I think every girl should learn the song, “Hell No!” Mmm hmmn. I even gave a little shout out after that number (and, I’m from stoic Norwegian heritage). Oh, ya, I was tappin’ my toes, hummin’ quietly, and wantin’ to practice my shimmy as I watched this performance!


Thomasina Petrus, Sofia, leading the women in a heart pounding chorus of "Hell No!" during Park Square's performance of "The Color Purple." Photos by Petronella J. Ytsma

Thomasina Petrus, Sofia, leading the women in a heart pounding chorus of “Hell No!” during Park Square’s performance of “The Color Purple.”
Photos by Petronella J. Ytsma

Have I convinced you, yet, that The Color Purple is the show to see this season?! Wherever you are in the world, I hope that you have the chance to see this powerful story come to life. Read the book. Then, beg your theatres to produce this musical! Maybe you, like Celie, will see the world in a new color, not just black and white, but many shades of purple.

The Color Purple at Park Square Theatre in St. Paul, MN. Photos by Petronella J. Ytsma

The Color Purple at Park Square Theatre in St. Paul, MN.
Photos by Petronella J. Ytsma



Previews: January 16 – 22, 2015

Regular Run: January 23 – February 15, 2015

Based upon the novel written by ALICE WALKER and the Warner Bros./

Amblin Entertainment Motion Picture; Book by MARSHA NORMAN


Directed and Choreographed by LEWIS WHITLOCK III

Musical Direction by REV. CARL WALKER

First local Twin Cities Production featuring a live orchestra of 20 and some of the finest talent in the Twin Cities!

 PARK SQUARE THEATRE. 20 W. Seventh Place, Saint Paul. Box office:


Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt:  Who or what empowers you to be your authentic self and believe you are beautiful?

Review of Snowflake at The Children’s Theatre in Minneapolis

Quote of the Day:  Gale LaJoye is a master storyteller in the tradition of Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin, legends of the silent film era who could make us laugh, cry, and keep us at the edge of our seats without uttering a single word. Peter Brosius, Artistic Director at The Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis, MN.

Snowflake lives in what appears to be an abandoned lot, full of trash and broken and discarded objects. He, himself, seems to be abandoned, broken and discarded, and yet, he finds ways to create joy and companionship. A crutch in a box and a coat become a “coat friend” who takes care of him, washing his face, combing his hair, giving him a hug when he’s sad. He turns an old suitcase into a dog and a thrown out puppet into a boy, then, he spends the time trying to cheer up his “boy.” You feel his longing for family and his need for companionship, and a bit of cheer of his own.

Actor Gale LaJoye moves with grace and style. His training as a clown is apparent, and his balance is amazing. He can even do ballet on skis! It was breathtaking.dress

Snowflake is a show that is full of surprises. What will Snowflake do with this bit of trash that just flew over the fence? How will he cheer up his little companion? How on earth can he balance on those skis, on a skateboard, on his toes, pirouetting?



With the help of sound effects, music, even a few magic tricks, LaJoye keeps us watching his every move. And, according to the press release, this man was once paralyzed. How does he do it?

Snowflake is a quiet and gentle show, appropriate for any age. LaJoye captures your attention and sparks your imagination. As you watch, you understand that the need for connection, to be part of a family, is at the heart of most people. He does what he can with what he’s given, and it is beautiful. The show is maybe a bit long and quiet for the youngest audience members. They might enjoy The Biggest Little House in the Forest a bit more, performed by the extremely talented Autumn Ness. They did this show two years ago, and you can read my review of this delightful puppet show on my website Play off the Page.

Snowflake is playing at The Children’s Theatre in Minneapolis, Jan. 13 – Feb. 22, 2015. The Biggest Little House in the Forest is playing Feb. 3 – March 15, 2015.


Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt:  Can you do ballet? Can you ski? Can you do ballet on skis? What’s the most amazing thing that you can do?

Review of Gertrude Stein and a Companion at the Jungle Theater

From the press release from The Jungle Theater (it really is the best description).

To celebrate 25 years of great theater, the Jungle remounts GERTRUDE STEIN AND A COMPANION, starring two of the Twin Cities most extraordinary actors, Claudia Wilkens and Barbara Kingsley. Directed by Bain Boehlke, this will be the Jungle’s eighth production of the imaginative play by Win Wells, opening the season on January 23. This rich and popular production will be on stage at the Jungle, 2951 Lyndale Av. S. in Minneapolis, through March 8, 2015. In Gertrude Stein and a Companion, Playwright Win Wells captures not only the veritable essence of this famous relationship, but also the magic years when a host of famous people including Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway and Henri Matisse graced the writer’s salon. The compelling drama, spanning the decades between the early 1900s to the 1960s, poignantly portrays the genesis and development of Stein and Toklas’ 40-year bond.

Using text from Stein’s writings, letters and interviews, Wells is able to gradually reveal the inner workings of their relationship. The Jungle first staged Gertrude Stein and a Companion in 1992 at the “old” Lyndale Avenue theater. That production also starred Wilkens and Kingsley, who have been in all subsequent shows. A second staging was part of the Jungle’s 1994-95 season. The production went on to be presented at the Ordway’s McKnight Theater, at the Minneapolis Theater Garage and on tour in the Midwest and West Coast. It was last presented in 2001 at the current Jungle space. “This production is a perfect example of the Jungle’s repertory initiative. Many of the theater’s most celebrated productions – I Am My Own Wife, The Syringa Tree, Shirley Valentine, A Life in the Theater, The Gin Game – can be reprised time and again since the actors and designers all live in the Twin Cities,” says Boehlke. “I love it that a young woman in her 20s who saw the play in the early 90s can now see it again with her 20-year old daughter. It’s like sharing living memories.”

Gertrude Stein and a Companion at The Jungle Theater. Photo by Michal Daniel

Gertrude Stein and a Companion at The Jungle Theater. Photo by Michal Daniel

Indeed, watching a live production with someone is like “watching a living memory” and also making memories together. There is something about that shared experience that is unique to attending theatre. Go, with a companion. This play is for anyone who has ever longed for that one true companion who is always her champion. Alice loves Gertrude unconditionally. Even after her death, she is living out Gertrude’s legacy, making sure her works get published. “It’s easy,” she says, “You write the book. You get it published. You sell a few copies.” Those of us in the writing business know the truth of that. In fact, Gertrude says, “She didn’t know anything about publishing, but did it anyway.” With one of Gertrude’s many paintings from the greats like Picasso and Cezanne, tucked under her arm, Alice set out to make it happen. I couldn’t help but think about my own dear friend who wants nothing but the best for me, the one I could call at any time for a pep talk. I believe that is whyGertrude Stein and a Companion is so popular. They had the kind of relationship that we all long for, and watching them, we have hope that we can have that, too.

The creative team features Artistic Director Boehlke (director and set designer), Barry Browning (lighting designer), Amelia Cheever (costume designer), Bill Healey (lighting designer), Sean Healey (sound designer), John Novak (properties designer) and John Stillwell (technical director). Performances of Gertrude Stein and a Companion are Tuesdays ($25), Wednesdays ($33) and Thursdays ($38) at 7:30 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. ($43); Sundays at 2 p.m. ($38); and Sundays at 7:30 p.m. ($33). Senior, student and group discounts are also available, and rush tickets are available every night of the week 30 minutes prior to the performance for $10 off the regular price. Tickets are available at (612) 822-7063 or online

One more note: The Jungle Theater is in a hip and happening part of Minneapolis. The theater itself is gorgeous, all decked out and ready to greet you. I went with a friend and we had a lovely time.

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt:  Do you have that one true companion? Who is it? Let her know. If not, keep searching, it can happen for you, too.

The Color Purple Coming to Park Square Theatre in St. Paul

The Color Purple, playing at Park Square Theatre in St. Paul, MN. Photo by: Petronella J. Ytsma

I am excited to announce, and help promote, an upcoming production of The Color Purple at Park Square Theatre in St. Paul, MN. I read the book by Alice Walker when I was in my 20’s and it is a story that changed my thinking about many things, including God, and has stuck with me all these years. I have not watched the movie, starring Oprah Winfrey, however. The story is filled with heartache, separation, fear, abuse, soul-searching, relationships, hope, and reconciliation. It is a powerful story. It was set to music and stage in a musical version in 2005. Now, you can watch it unfold at Park Square Theatre in St. Paul, MN. Here is the blurb:

Join us for this celebration of life, resilience and love. All her life, “Po’ chile” Celie has known only hardship and cruelty. She is married off at the age of 14 to a callous local farmer and her sole joy in the world is the letters she receives from her missionary sister Nettie. But when sassy nightclub singer Shug Avery comes to town, Celie’s awakening – emotional and otherwise – promises to lead her to healing and joy. With a jubilant score of roof-raising gospel, jazz and throaty blues,The Color Purple is the tale of an everywoman triumphing over adversity, and a testament to the power of hope.

Why go?  To join a celebration of the spirit — with the best talent in town just a few feet away.
Who Should you bring? Someone who appreciates a powerful story and uplifting music.



Previews: January 16 – 22, 2015

Regular Run: January 23 – February 15, 2015

Based upon the novel written by ALICE WALKER and the Warner Bros./

Amblin Entertainment Motion Picture; Book by MARSHA NORMAN


Directed and Choreographed by LEWIS WHITLOCK III

Musical Direction by REV. CARL WALKER

First local Twin Cities Production featuring a live orchestra of 20 and some of the finest talent in the Twin Cities!

 PARK SQUARE THEATRE. 20 W. Seventh Place, Saint Paul. Box office:

I’ll be in the audience next weekend. I hope you’ll find your way there, too! Come back for the review!


Ticket Giveaway for “Snowflake” at The Children’s Theatre in Minnapolis

I am excited to be able to offer a Family Four Pack of tickets for “Snowflake” at the Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis, MN. The package is a voucher for four tickets for a performance of “Snowflake,” that the family can choose. This is a great option for my readers who don’t live in the metro. Please leave a comment below, on my website Play off the Page, or on my Facebook page for Play off the Page, to be entered into a drawing for the tickets. Deadline is midnight Saturday, January 17, 2015. I will draw and announce the winner on my blog on Sunday, January 18, 2015. “Snowflake” will play at The Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis from January 13 – February 22, 2015. I have included production photos and the press release in this post. Thanks! I look forward to viewing and reviewing this production at the end of this week.

"Snowflake" production photos, courtesy The Children's Theatre Company

“Snowflake” production photos, courtesy The Children’s Theatre Company

25th Anniversary of the Inventive, Tender and Highly Celebrated Performance of Snowflake
Comes to Children’s Theatre Company

MINNEAPOLIS—Children’s Theatre Company (CTC) presents Snowflake, celebrating its 25th Anniversary with a run at CTC, where it was created by master storyteller, Gale LaJoye. Hailed by critics and audiences worldwide as “a must see,” Snowflake opened at the Southern Theater in 1990 and has since toured to Canada, Mexico, Australia, Hong Kong, Scotland, and to 300 cities in Japan.Snowflake runs from January 13 through February 22 on the UnitedHealth Group Stage.

dollSnowflake is a wordless play that uses artful physical humor to tell the story of Snowflake, a goofy, sweet and slightly mad genius who sees renewed life in discarded objects – turning an old box fan into a boomerang and an old suitcase into a friendly dog, revealing the magical world around us waiting to be rediscovered through imagination.
The show began in CTC’s shop in 1989 as a collaboration between Gale LaJoye, Steve Unger, Tom Anderson, and CTC’s Music Director Victor Zupanc. Previous to creating Snowflake, LaJoye performed with the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus and after four years, earned one of the highest honors in the circus tradition of ‘Boss Clown.’ To much surprise of those who see him perform today, LaJoye was
paralyzed in 1979 from a car accident and was told he would never walk again. Driven to be a performer, he rebuilt his body and embarked on creating the now acclaimed snowflake_suitcase_lSnowflake.
“The inspiration for this show came from a man in my hometown affectionately known as Snowflake,” reflects LaJoye. “A simple man of few words, Snowflake radiated decency, kindness and hope. He was – as each snowflake is – like no other. Snowflake was special in the way he celebrated his life – a life many others feared or pitied.”
“Gale LaJoye is a master storyteller in the tradition of Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin,” says CTC Artistic Director Peter C. Brosius. “He can make you laugh, cry and be surprised without uttering a single word. One of the qualities that makes Snowflake so engaging is how it speaks to the human heart in the universal language of gesture, humor, and play. Every one of us possesses a playful, inventive spirit honed in our
childhood that may fade as we grow older but never truly goes away.”

The production is sponsored by Microsoft and Arts Midwest. More about the production can be found at

BOX OFFICE: (612) 874-0400
2400 Third Ave S, Minneapolis

(612) 874-0400 or

Three-play A packages for children ages 2-7 start at $42
Three-play B packages for children 8 and up start at $50
Performance Dates
Tuesday, Jan 13 7pm (preview)
Wednesday, Jan 14 7pm (preview)
Thursday, Jan 15 7pm (preview)
Friday, Jan 16 7pm (opening night)
Saturday, Jan 17 2pm & 5pm
Sunday, Jan 18 2pm & 5pm
Thursday, Jan 22 7pm
Friday, Jan 23 7pm
Saturday, Jan 24 11am & 2pm
Sunday, Jan 25 2pm & 5pm
Sunday, Feb 1 2pm & 5pm
Thursday, Feb 5 7pm
Friday, Feb 6 7pm (AD performance)
Saturday, Feb 7 2pm & 5pm
Sunday, Feb 8 2pm & 5pm
Wednesday, Feb 11 7pm
Friday, Feb 13 7pm
Saturday, Feb 14 11am & 2pm
Sunday, Feb 15 2pm & 5pm
Wednesday, Feb 18 7pm
Friday, Feb 20 7pm (Sensory Friendly performance)
Saturday, Feb 21 11am & 2pm
Sunday, Feb 22 2pm & 5pm

Word for the Year 2015

Have you ever chosen a word for the year? Many people do New Year’s Resolutions, which typically turn into regrets. Some people set goals. It’s a way to assess your accomplishments for a year. I learned about choosing a word for the year from other bloggers (including Roxane Salonen who is also a blogger on Area Voices) and have been doing so for a number of years, now. Last year, I had two words, “Prosper” and “Fun.” I feel that I experienced both. This year, the word that is calling to me is “Create.” My signature send-off when I blog here and on my home site Play off the Page is “Go. Create. Inspire!” Last year, I experienced quite a bit of get up and GO, as I lived out my words “Prosper and Fun.” 

I was feeling the strength of this word as I cast off the stitches on my latest knitting project. When you cast off, you free yourself, along with your needles, to start something new. The call to create comes in many forms, in knitting projects, learning a new skill or art form, making or building something, writing. I also bought a book called “Fearless Drawing” along with some art supplies and a shiny new journal. I am working on another play which I plan to share with my community this year. I work with kids in my piano studio and through theatre classes. I am excited to see what they create as I guide them through the lessons and activities. 

As you look ahead to a new year, what words are calling to you? Do you have a word or phrase that motivates you? Are you wishing to do more creative work? You can read more about my word for the year on my writer’s blog. Also, this week was the posting for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. You can read about that on my blog, on the founder’s blog, Alex J. Cavanaugh, or on their website. It’s a terrific group that offers support for people in their creative endeavors, especially in writing.

Casting off the old to make room for starting something new.

Casting off the old to make room for starting something new.

Go. CREATE. Inspire!