Review of The Other Place at Park Square Theatre

During the month of April, I participate in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. That is 26 posts in one month, for each letter of the alphabet, time off for good behavior on Sundays. Over 1800 bloggers are participating this year. Last I checked, I was #883. This year, Millie and Willie Cottonpoly, my sock puppet creations, are here to tell you their story and share reviews, ideas, and inspiration with you. They’re also helping to teach theatre classes for kids in the Brainerd area, and continue to view and review theatre productions and some books. This retired couple doesn’t just sit around watching reruns on MeTv. (Although, Willie does like to put up his feet whenever Petticoat Junction comes on. It’s that sound of the train whistle. Millie makes no apologies for watching the Lassie marathon while holding her dog Tillie on her lap.) We’re up to the letter K which worked out for the review of The Other Place at Park Square Theatre.

K is for Linda Kelsey who stars as Juliana in Park Square Theatre’s production of The Other Place by Sharr White. This is a psychological drama that is told from the perspective of Juliana who is experiencing the symptoms of early onset Alzheimer’s Disease. What is heartbreaking is the sad confusion that she lives in and the chaos she creates for others. We aren’t sure if what we’re seeing is a memory, a mixed-up memory, or a fantasy that only she sees as reality. Three other actors weave in and out of scenes, playing various characters in her life. The show runs 90 minutes, with no intermission, creating a feeling of intensity and the need to focus, even as the subject is foggy. 

Linda Kelsey as Juliana Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma

Linda Kelsey as Juliana
Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma

Kelsey has had an extensive career on stage, in movies and television, including the role of Billie Newman in Lou

Linda Kelse as Juliana, James A. Williams as Ian. Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma

Linda Kelse as Juliana, James A. Williams as Ian.
Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma

Grant. I looked up her bio and was surprised to see that she is almost 70. I thought she was younger. While watching her perform, I totally believed that she was a woman in her 50’s, educated, intelligent, someone who had studied the brain, and was now suffering one of the worst diseases imaginable. We wonder as we watch, what’s reality, and what is the mystery she is trying to solve from her own past.

Other K’s in this production include Director Aditi Kapil, who staged a show I could watch many times over. The set was simple, representational, and had surprise elements that added another dimension to the performance. Kirstin Ellert  was Scenic and Projection Designer, Kathy Kohl was Costume Designer, and Michael P. Kittel was Lighting Designer. The non-K’s also gave outstanding performances on and off stage. Assistant Director Addie Gorlin, Sound Designer C. Andrew Mayer, Properties Designer Sadie Ward, Stage Manager Megan Fae Dougherty. The other cast members are James A. Wiliams, Joy Dolo, and Matt Wall, who made each of their characters distinct.

So many families are dealing with this horrible illness. It robs people of their memories and dignity. They don’t recognize loved ones. The people around them don’t quite know what to do or how to react. Watching plays like The Other Place, and reading books like Still Alice by Lisa Genova (I hear the movie is also great.) help us see how it is for some people and to know that you’re not alone in this struggle. The theatrical trailer offers a glimpse of Kelsey’s phenomenal performance and this brilliant production.

Millie and Willie had their own talk about memory and growing old.

Willie: Sometimes, I’m afraid, Millie. That I won’t be there for you when we’re old.
Millie: None of us knows what illnesses we might get, or how gracefully we’ll age.
Willie: It seems impossible to forget you, or all the great memories we’ve made together.
Millie: We have the pictures, of course, and I keep a diary.
Willie: I have my travel journals and bandannas from the places we stopped at when I was working on the railroad.
Millie: We’ll help each other as best we can, Willie.
Willie: I’ll keep retelling you our story, Millie, emphasizing all the good parts.
Millie: I know you will, and if you’re slipping away into your own time zone, I’ll bring you back with your favorite song.
Willie: But, Millie, you hate that song.
Millie: I don’t hate it. I just get tired of hearing it so many times. But, I’d sing it for you, Willie. I’ll always think of you whenever I hear it.
Willie: Could we sing it right now, Millie?
Millie: Alright, Willie.

20150411_205621They wrap themselves around each other, singing a round of I’ve been working on the railroad. Remembering the old days, holding onto the good ones that they still have to experience together.

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt: What’s your favorite song? What would be playing on the soundtrack of your life?

To read more of my A to Z challenge posts, and other reviews, go to my website, Play off the Page.

Restaurant and Theatre Review

This past weekend, The Biker Chef and I had a delicious dining adventure at the hottest new restaurant in Minneapolis, The Spoon and Stable, then watched Shooting Star at Park Square Theatre in St. Paul. 

Mary Aalgaard and The Biker Chef and Spoon and Stable

Mary Aalgaard and The Biker Chef and Spoon and Stable

Chef Gavin Keysen has created an open and welcoming atmosphere in the former stables of Minneapolis. The spoons hanging on his wall are the collection he’s pilfered from various restaurants where he has had a memorable experience. We scored spots at the counter in front of the open kitchen and enjoyed dinner and a show as we watched the talented staff prepare our food, and dishes for the other diners. Chef Gavin welcomed us and talked shop a bit with the Biker Chef. His right hand man Chris Nye worked in front of us most of the evening, and often looked up and interacted with us. To read about our culinary adventure, click over to the review on our blog Dine off the Page. Here’s a small sampling of the delectable delights.

Cheese curds and cream spinach at the Spoon and Stable in Minneapolis, MN.

Cheese curds and cream spinach at the Spoon and Stable in Minneapolis, MN. One of their most popular dishes.

After dinner, we headed across the river to St. Paul for a show at Park Square Theatre. In the play, Shooting Star by Steven Dietz, two people who were once lovers reunite in a moment where they’re forced to reconnect. Reed McAllister and Elena Carson are trapped in an airport somewhere in the Midwest during a snowstorm. All the flights are cancelled. They have no one else to talk to, and can’t easily avoid the other person. At first, it’s comedic how they recognize each other, try to avoid eye contact, pretend they’re all cool and collected, then finally reveal that they still care about each other. Their theatrical trailer gives you a great glimpse into the essence of the show. It’s that moment that we all could have, when we run into someone from our past, the person who once knew us better than anyone else could. But, you went your separate ways. You lived a different life, a separate one, then you see each other again, and wonder, “What if?” This is a terrific play, one that you snuggle in with. You want to grab your honey and go, or see it by yourself and allow yourself to feel and remember your own loves, and lives, lost and refound. Sally Wingert and Mark Benninghofen are two of the finest actors in the twin cities. They reunite on the Park Square stage and shine like “Shooting Stars.” They sparkle and wink and leave us longing for another reunion. I could easily watch this show over and over again.

Go. Create. Inspire!

You can read more reviews on my website, Play off the Page. Also, during the month of April, I participate in a Blogging from A to Z Challenge. That means, we write a post for each letter of the alphabet, starting with A on April 1, and ending with Z on April 30. My sock puppet characters are stealing the show. Stop over and see what they’re up to!

Park Square Theatre in St. Paul has Two Terrific New Shows

IMG_20150124_190516 

Steven Dietz’s poignant comedy comes to

Park Square March 27 – April 19

Sally Wingert and Mark Benninghofen are old flames who get snowed in unexpectedly 

Saint Paul, Minn., March 9, 2015 – Park Square continues its 40th season this month with Steven Dietz’s wistful comedy, SHOOTING STAR. Dietz, author of Becky’s New Car, produced by Park Square in 2009, is one of America’s most produced playwrights, and with SHOOTING STAR he gives us a moving new twist on the one that got away. Twin Cities favorite Sally Wingert* is joined by Mark Benninghofen* as the couple that could have been. NPR called Dietz’s SHOOTING STAR “…a quick and sharp play about our lives, one that gives us all the fun and all the tears of our times.”

“What a joy to work on a beautifully made play with such masterful actors,” says director Leah Cooper, “Sally and Mark both have the wonderful ability to move between hilarious wit and moments of heartbreak with such agility and grace, and together, their chemistry is just magic.

Snowed in overnight at an airport in the Midwest, college lovers Elena Carson (Wingert*) and Reed McAllister (Benninghofen) have an unexpected reunion. Elena has stayed true to the hippie counter-culture path they forged together, but Reed has gone corporate and conservative. She’s been unlucky in love; he’s married with children. As the awkward meeting gives way to memories and laughter, Elena and Reed revisit a past that holds more surprises than they imagined — and a present that neither of them could have predicted. Filled with laughter and heartache,SHOOTING STAR is a bittersweet romantic comedy about the middle days of our lives and how we got there.

 From Alan Alda and Ellen Burstyn in the classic Same Time Next Year to Katy Perry’s pop hit “The One That Got Away,” lost loves and what could have been are perennially popular subjects across many media. Dietz’s contemporary look at roads not taken and the political shifts in our lives is a nostalgic and insightful look at how we arrive at the middle of our lives. Dietz said in an interview that each person has three pasts: “We have the past we remember, we have the past that we may have transcribed or written in the journal or diary, and we have the past that actually happened. The tension between what we remember, what we invent and what actually happened is fairly inexhaustible.” During a blizzard, with no way out, Elena and Reed laugh and reminisce as they hope to determine whether the one that got way should have never gone away.

The SHOOTING STAR production team includes Mary Beth Gagner (Costume Designer), Kit Mayer (Set Designer), and Michael P. Kittel (Lighting Designer), Anita Kelling (Sound Designer), and Wayne Hendricks* (Stage Manager)

SHOOTING STAR Performance Schedule: Previews begin Friday, March 27 and run through April 2. April 3 is Opening Night, and the run continues through April 19. Show times are 7:30 p.m. except for Sunday performances, which begin at 2 p.m. All performances are in the company’s 348-seat proscenium stage in Saint Paul’s historic Hamm Building, 20 W. Seventh Place.

 Ticket prices: Previews: $27 and $37. Regular Run: $40 and $60. Discounts are available for seniors, those under age 30, and groups. Tickets are on sale at the Park Square box office, 20 W. Seventh Place, or by phone: 651.291.7005, (12 noon to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday), or online at www.parksquaretheatre.org.

*Member, Actors Equity Association

(I plan to view and review Shooting Star on opening/press night. Read the review here, or on my website, Play off the Page.)

And, on the Boss Thrust Stage at Park Square Theatre, which I hope to also attend.

THE OTHER PLACE
Previews: April 3-9
Regular Run: April 10-19
By Sharr White
Directed by Aditi Kapil
Featuring Joy Dolo, Linda Kelsey,* James A. Williams*

Juliana Smithton is a successful neuroscientist. While she is on the brink of a breakthrough in Alzheimer’s treatment, the rest of her life seems to be unraveling. Her husband has filed for divorce, her daughter has eloped and her health is in danger. But in this haunting new play, nothing is as it seems. As past collides with present, and fact blurs with fiction, the truth about Juliana’s life boils to the surface in this riveting psychological thriller. “…White jigsaws together details until they form a full picture, complete with a touching emotional kick.”New York Daily News

 PARK SQUARE THEATRE. 20 W. Seventh Place, Saint Paul. Box office: 651.291.7005.www.parksquaretheatre.org

Food, Wine, and the Apocalypse

Mary Aalgaard and The Biker Chef

The Biker Chef and I dressed up in our new chef’s jackets and attend the Minnesota Monthly Food and Wine Event in Minneapolis, March 7 & 8, 2015. They held the event inside at the Target Field, where you would go to watch the Minnesota Twins play baseball in the summer. The sun was offering its springtime warmth, although the wind still had a bite to it. We walked over to the field from our hotel with a brisk step. The line to enter snaked around the parking ramp hallway, and I’ll have to admit, it took a few tries to figure out which door to enter (signs at the stadium door would have been helpful). With over 80 vendors, we had plenty of choices to sample. Although, my Minnesota nice gave me some concern. Do I stand in line, not entirely sure for which sample, or do I muscle my way into the booth and stick my hand, or my glass, out for a sample? I tried a little of both. The Biker Chef says, “You gotta muscle your way in.” Some booths had clear lines. Others did not. The cheese booths from Wisconsin were particularly crowded, but worth the body jarring to get a taste! To read more about the MN Monthly Food and Wine Event, and our favorites, visit my website Play off the Page!.

In other news, The Guthrie Theater is producing a new play by Anne Washburn called Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play, March 31-May 10. I have an interview with her posted on my website, Play off the Page! It was fun to read about the playwright’s inspiration for the play and why she chose The Simpson’s “Cape Feare” episode as something that survives the apocalypse. 

Go. Create. Inspire!

Sweetened Condensed Version of Huck Finn at Children’s Theatre in Minneapolis

Quote of the Day: Just because you’re taught that something’s right and everyone believes it’s right, it don’t make it right. Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (All photos provided by the Children’s Theatre Company, taken by Dan Norman, featuring Dean Holt as Huck Finn, Ansa Akea as Jim and other characters, and Reed Sigmund in multiple roles. Victor Zupanc and Joe Cruz are the onstage musicians.)

Huck Finn at The Children's Theatre, Joe Cruz and Victor Zupanc, musicians. Photo by Dan Norman

It takes a great deal of strength to row against the current streams of society. It’s much easier to go with the flow, never making waves, never rocking the boat. That way, you’ll be sure to be carried along by the majority without fear of being thrown overboard. That works for a while, and for some, it works for a lifetime. For others, who have a little brighter vision, who feel deeper than most, they start to see things that just aren’t right. They start making a little noise about it. They start to question the beliefs and rules of a society. And, when the injustices really get to them, they stand up. They rock the boat. They challenge and risk everything. They don’t even wait to be thrown overboard. They leap right out, find their own raft, set their own course, and never look back. Once you’ve seen the truth, you can never go back.

Huck Finn at The Children's Theatre Company. Photo by Dan Norman

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a classic novel, written by Mark Twain between the years 1876 and 1882. He set it aside after the first burst of inspiration, nearly tossed it out, then picked it back up again seven years later. There is a distinct difference in the mood between the first and second parts of this novel. The first part feels lighter, more like an extension of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (where the character of Huck Finn first appears) and the second half is much darker, where Mark Twain describes how cruel humans can be to one another, and how they work so hard to keep each other down, and rarely learn from their mistakes.

Dean Holt as Huck Finn, Reed Sigmund as multi characters, Victor Zupanc, musician, in the background. Photo by Dan Norman

Joe Cruz, Victor Zupanc, Ansa Akea, and Reed Sigmund as various characters in CTC's Huck Finn. Photo by Dan Norman

How does the Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis handle this classic, and controversial, piece of literature written by the famous satirist Mark Twain? Very well, with the gentleness and care that they give to all their productions. The main theme of this production is love and friendship and doing what’s right despite what society has taught you to believe and how the mob might react to your actions. The subject matter is heavy: slavery, child abuse, alcoholism, abandonment, harsh conditions created by both nature and man. What makes this an endearing story is that it’s told through a most beloved character, Huck Finn. We see the world through his eyes, still a bit innocent, and not controlled by society in any way. He’s been left to his own devices, seemingly since birth. He’s resourceful and clever. He’s slow to judge and quick to make friends. He also shows us that if we learn to think for ourselves, we’ll be better off for it. The right thing isn’t always the law, nor the majority’s belief, but what you know is right in your heart.

Floating on the River. Photo by Dan Norman

In an hour and 2o minutes, no intermission, you get the sweetened condensed version of Huck Finn by the gentle and sensitive cast and crew of The Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis. They show the harsh realities just long enough to help us understand what’s going on, and they offer up the humor that Mark Twain was known for, and the energetic sweetness that only Dean Holt can portray as he gives us the Huck Finn we know and love. Reed Sigmund stretches his actor’s muscle to the extreme, playing everything from Aunt Polly to mean and drunk old Pappy. Ansa Akea shines as Jim, sings us a gorgeous song about floating on the river, and transforms himself into other characters to fill in the gaps of the story. Victor Zupanc and Joe Cruz sit on stage, playing bluegrass and providing sound effects, that give the show its riversong.

Joe Cruz and Victor Zupanc, musicians for Huck Finn at The Chidren's Theatre. Photo by Dan Norman

Why would you go to a show like Huck Finn? Because life is not all fairy tales and princesses. Life is filled with adventures, with twists and turns, storms and sunny skies as you navigate the streams and by-ways. Friendships can be formed by unlikely pairs, and we can find strength in following the inward and outward journey of others.

Ansa Akea as Jim in CTC's Huck Finn. Photo by Dan Norman

Huck Finn is playing at the Children’s Theatre in Minneapolis through April 4, 2015.

To read more of my reviews of theatres, food, and travel, visit my website, Play off the Page.

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt: What current societal belief is challenging you right now? What do you like about the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn?

Review of Mary Poppins at Chanhassen Dinner Theatre

Quote of the Day: Anything is possible if you get out of your own way. Mary Poppins, who’s practically perfect in every way.

Mary Poppins at The Chanhassen Dinner Theatre, Jolly Holiday with Bert, Mary, Jane, Michael and the energetic dancers. Photo by Heidi Bohnenkamp

What a delightful performance for my first visit to the Chanhassen Dinner Theatre for press night. I have been there in the past, but this was my first time as a reviewer. They treated us grand! Our tablemates were friendly, the food good, and the performance was magical. Mary Poppins is an illusionist! At least, with the help of Jared Sherlock who shared his expertise in the craft with Mary and the production team. Just like the magic carpet bag in the movie, Mary pulls out a lamp and large plant. She measures them up, verifying that she is indeed “Practically perfect in every way.” The stage version adds a song about it, and it’s the one that stuck in my head! They do most of our favorites from the movie, A Spoonful of Sugar, Chim Chim Cher-ee, Jolly Holiday, and the fantastic dance number Step in Time. You should see what they did with Supercalifragilisticexpialidoscious! They can spell it with their bodies. I still have to look it up to type this post! (Did I get it right? I still have that squiggly red line under the word!) They change some of the songs for the stage version, and cut a few. I missed I Love to Laugh, but you can’t do everything on the stage that you can in the movies. Mary, Uncle Albert, and the children do not elevate to the gallows. Still, the stage show is so alive and vibrant, with the amazing costumes, live music, adorable children, animated adults, and divine singing. And, the dancing! I’m breathless just thinking about it. They were gorgeous and energetic. Their movements dazzled the audience. And, Mark King, who plays Bert is the most talented of them all. Don’t worry about missing Dick Van Dyke, you’ll have Mark King who brings Bert to life with grace and style. I felt his love for Mary and the children, and his delight in being a Jack of all trades in a world of chalk drawings and chimney sweeps. Well done.

Mark King as Bert, and Ann Michels as Mary Poppins at the Chanhassen.  Photo by Heidi Bohnenkamp

Ann Michels is Mary Poppins at the Chanhassen Dinner Theatre. Photo by Heidi Bohnenkamp

Then, there’s Mary Poppins herself. Of course, there is only one Julie Andrews,and there is the one and only Ann Michels. And, yes, she is practically perfect in every way. I read the book by P.L. Travers, and found that Mary portrays herself as stern and serious, but the reality is the fantasy that she creates for the children. She makes taking your medicine a surprise and cleaning your room a game. Laughter provides levity, literally, and imagination can take you anywhere. Wouldn’t it have been fun to have her slide up your banister when you were a child! An additional scene taken from the book includes Mrs. Corry, her extra large daughters, sweet treats, and pasting stars on the night sky. Loved the ladders as props and set and the vision of climbing to the stars.

Additional enchanting characters are The Bird Woman and Miss Andrew. Does anyone else feel a special softness for the Bird Woman as she calls out,Feed the Birds? In other words, take care of those around you. That scene charms me every time. Her polar opposite is Miss Andrew who does not appear in either the book or the film, is a force in the stage show. Her operatic scale from top to bottom literally sends Jane, Michael, and their father to their knees. She put the fear, and excitement, in all of us.

Michelle Barber as Bird Woman. Mary, Jane, and Michael pulled into her song "Feed the Birds." Photo by Heidi Bohnenkamp

Susan Hofflander as Miss Andrew Photo by Heidi Bohnenkamp

The Chanhassen is a dinner theatre, so bring a group of friends or family if you go. It’s more comfortable to sit close and cozy with familiar folks. Although, you could see it as an opportunity to meet new people. If your chair is turned away from the stage, don’t be shy about turning it around so you don’t get a crick in your neck or a torque in your back that would distract you from the wonderful performance. The show ran late. We got out of there around 11:00 p.m., so I’d recommend bringing younger children to the matinees. (The show is intended for audience members age 5 and over.)

Mary Poppins company, Step in Time. Photo by Heidi Bohnenkamp

Mary Poppins is playing at the Chanhassen Dinner Theatre through August 29, 2015. I expect the house to be full for every performance. This is a family friendly show with family friendly food and magic for all to experience. Just see where your imagination can take you!

We had a terrific weekend in the metro visiting the Chanhassen Dinner Theatre, attending the Food and Wine Event, organized by the Minnesota Monthly magazine, dining out, and watching Huck Finn at the Children’s Theatre. Visit my website, Play off the Page, for more reviews, click in Dine off the Page to find out where, and not, to have breakfast in Minneapolis. I’ll be posting those this week.

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt: What is your favorite song from Mary Poppins? Have you read the book? Do you know any magic tricks?

Women Writers Read their Work

Quote of the Day:  I see no reason to keep silent about my enjoyment of the sound of my own voice as I work. Muriel Spark

20150130_112944Margi Preus‘ latest novel, the first in her Northwoods Mystery series, set in the northern lakes region of Minnesota, Enchantment Lake has officially been released. I was fortunate enough to receive an ARC from Margi and wrote the review here. I wanted to let you know that the book is now available, and provide a link to Margi reading an excerpt from her book for KUMD, Duluth Public Radio. In addition to hearing the author read her work, I’d like to point out that the station welcomes women writers to read their work on their station. I know some local authors who would be excellent readers for this. I don’t have any books out. I’ve written plays, so I’m looking at another regional radio station who is seeking submissions for radio plays, about 25-27 minutes in length (4800-5200 words), rated G. I’m hoping Millie and Willie might have their radio debut on Lakes Area Theatre. You don’t have to be from the area to submit a radio play. Go to their website for more info, or contact me.

Mr. Happy and all his puppet pals, chillin' at the park.

We’re three weeks away from starting another theatre class for kids in the Brainerd area. Millie and Willie are excited. Mr. Happy is excited. Tillie, their dog, is a little nervous as there are some mysterious things happening at The Old Farm. Stay tuned for further adventures!

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt:  What do you think about the above quote? Do you read your own work out loud? Just to yourself? Or, have you done some public reading/speaking? I really enjoy hearing writers read their work out loud. And, I loved hearing my play read out loud by other people. More on that on the IWSG post on Wednesday on my website Play off the Page!

Huck Finn coming to the Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis

Children’s Theatre Company Presents a Spirited Adaptation of Huck Finn

March 3 – April 4, 2015

 

Huck Finn, Ansa Akea and Dean Holt, photo by Rob Levine

Huck Finn is playing at The Children’s Theatre Company, Minneapolis, MN, Starring Ansa Akea and Dean Holt, photo by Rob Levine

MINNEAPOLIS— Based on Mark Twain’s classic Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Children’s Theatre Company (CTC) is proud to present Greg Banks’ adaptation of Huck Finn, March 3 – April 4, 2015. Banks, whose CTC credits include Pinocchio, Robin Hood, Antigone, Romeo and Juliet and more, will direct, with music composed by Victor Zupanc, set by Joseph Stanley, costumes by Mary Anna Culligan and lighting design by Paul Whitaker. Huck Finn premiered at CTC in the 2006-2007 season and is part of the theatre’s ongoing commitment to reimagining classics for the stage.

Director Greg Banks explains, “When you adapt classics, you are always looking for an opportunity to enter into the story anew, to tease out what it continues to say about society and about ourselves. Theater grants audiences a part to play in bringing the story to life. For me, that’s what makes it so exhilarating.”

In this inventive take on Twain’s classic story, acclaimed Twin Cities actor Ansa Akyea and CTC Company members Dean Holt and Reed Sigmund take on multiple roles, from Huck and Jim to a bullfrog, a steamboat, fog, and even the great Mississippi river itself. Huck Finncomposer and CTC Music Director Victor Zupanc will play live on stage alongside accomplished multi-instrumentalist Joe Cruz playing a multitude of instruments throughout the show.

In creating this production, CTC and director Greg Banks confronted the controversy that the book has courted since its publication in 1885. Originally banned because of Huck’s “coarse language” and “crude behavior,” Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has more recently come under fire for its use of the ‘n’ word. Carefully weighing the decision of whether to include the use of the derogatory word as it is used in the original text, the creative team ultimately decided that the word would prevent audiences from experiencing the extraordinary power of this story. The relevance of the story today is what attracted Ansa Akyea to this production: “I am doing this story for my children, for them to see and understand the challenges of the world they are coming into. I am doing this piece because it captures Mark Twain’s American literary genius in reflecting man’s capacity for cruelty in the institution of slavery, man’s ability to love beyond skin color, and the importance of family beyond definition, country, and freedom.”  

 Huck Finn runs March 3 – April 4, 2015 on the UnitedHealth Group Stage. As part of CTC’s commitment to programming for ages two through eighteen, Huck Finn is recommended for grades 3+. Single tickets are on sale now. Groups of 10 or more save up to 25 percent. For more information, visit childrenstheatre.org or call the Ticket Office at 612.874.0400. The production is sponsored by US Bank; Piper Jaffray; Deluxe Corp Foundation; Knock, inc; and the Radio sponsor is Minnesota Public Radio.

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.

 

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 Daily.com 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 atchildrenstheatre.org/50.

 

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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 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.

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Go. Create. Inspire!

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