Profile photo of Mary Aalgaard

About Mary Aalgaard

Mary Aalgaard is a freelance writer and blogger. Her words stretch across the globe through her blogs on www.playoffthepage.com, which include Play off the Page, inspiration and entertainment reviews; Ride off the Page, a travelog about riding adventures on a Harley-Davidson with The Biker Chef; and Dine off the Page, for chef’s tips, recipes, and restaurant reviews. Mary is also a playwright. Her original drama Coffee Shop Confessions was performed in coffee shops around the Brainerd, MN area in 2012. She works with both children and adults to create original dramas, and is offering theatre classes for kids where they write their own plays and create the set. Contact her at Mary@playoffthepage.com. Go. Create. Inspire!

Be the Tiger!

Quote of the Day: The Tiger by William Blake

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Theatre classes for elementary students at CLC, Spring 2015

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

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

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

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

Go. Create. Inspire!

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

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

You Can’t Take It With You, a review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go. Create. Inspire!

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

Damn Yankees! at The Ordway, a review

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

Fitzpatrick-Randy-Schmeling-Dieter-Bierbrauer-and-Reid-Harmsen

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

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

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

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

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

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

Visit the website for The Ordway for tickets and showtimes.

damnyankees

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt: What’s your favorite baseball team? 

Summer Theatre Arts Classes for Kids at CLC, 2015

Quote of the Day: Top five reasons to participate in the arts:
1. It builds your self-awareness, confidence, and creativity.
2. You learn the art of cooperation through group story-telling.
3. You get to make something – physical sets and props, a brand new story, create characters.
4. You make friends.
5. It’s fun, and funny, and you get to hang out with people who love to entertain, tell stories, and be part of a creative team!
DSC_0079

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

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

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

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

Go. Create. Inspire!

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

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

Review of Boeing Boeing at Lyric Arts Theater in Anoka, MN

Quote of the Day: All ziss coming and going! Berthe, the maid in the fun French farce Boeing Boeing playing at the Lyric Arts Main Street Stage in Anoka, MN, June 5-21. I was in the audience on the official opening night with Debbie the mother of one of the actors. What a fun way to spend a Friday night!

boeing

This photo ad is such a great depiction of the show, light, fun, varied and over-the-top characters, and fast paced. Whew! I was breathless just watching this show. The actors have to be sharp. They must pay attention to each other and remember which door to use. You know you’re at a great comedic romp when the stage set has no less than six doors! This French farce relies more on quick wit and snappy dialogue than physical humor and sight gags, although we get a few of those too. I had at least one LOL moment after a big spill. We’re easy audiences. We still get a kick out of someone falling and getting all mixed up. In this case, the mix up comes from trying to juggle too many women and too much scheduling that keeps changing. You know it’s a set-up for a big blow-out. All of the actors were so strong. They were the perfect ensemble. No one being weaker and no one being an obvious stand-out scene stealer. Really, they were all so polished and fluid. I can only imagine what rehearsals were like for this cast. How many times did you need to practice those door openings and closings, the quick eye movements, the turn of the head?

Also, kuddos to the director, Scott Ford, for bringing out the uniqueness in each character. They were all distinct and quirky in their own ways, each having her own accent and personality. That must have been a challenge! I know how easy it is to mimic another character’s accent. You have to concentrate on not only your lines, but how you deliver them, with the right inflections. Plus, their mannerisms enhanced their characters. All three love interests of Bernard (Ryan Nielson) are flight attendants for different airlines. He schedules his time with them according to the flight plan. I thought Gloria (Nykeigh Larson) was a tiny dancer, then her movements took over the stage. Gabriella (Katharine Strom) was quite convincing as the sexy Italian flight attended, but sharp as a blade, picking up on comments and questioning them, sending Bernard and Robert (Kyler Chase) in search of the best explanation, ever entangling themselves in the web of deception. The third woman Gretchen (played by Jessica Scott) has a strong presence. She struts in with a lower, but sexy, voice swooning at the love she feels for Bernard while “accidentally” kissing Robert. Robert and the French maid Berthe (Jennifer Inderlee) are the characters who know what’s going on and try very hard to keep up the charade. Berthe has some of the best lines, and Robert has the task of reacting to the next lover who shows up unexpectedly. He’s the one in charge of sending everyone through the correct door! Audiences love it when they know what’s behind the doors and lies, but the characters on stage do not. It’s great to hear adults commenting from the audience with “Oh, no’s. What about Gloria? Here comes the other one.” And, other such phrases that prove they’re paying attention.

If you find yourself in Anoka, MN this June, visit Lyric Arts Theater. It is a darling theater, classy front of the house, and a huge mural painted on the outside of the building. Grease is coming up next, July 10 – August 2, 2015, an audience favorite. Debbie and I walked around a bit downtown as we were looking for a place to have dinner. It reminded me a little of Stillwater, with antique stores, candy and ice cream shops, a nice music store (where we asked for a recommendation for dinner), and good food at Billy’s Bar. How could you go wrong with a place called Billy’s Bar? Unfortunately for us, the patio was full. It was a gorgeous evening! You can read a little more about the history of the show on the blog for Lyric Arts, written by Education Director,Cassandra Proball.

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt: Have you ever tried to juggle too many schedules, or love interests?

The Gospel of Lovingkindness at Pillsbury House Theater, Review

Quote of the Day: No home is sacred from violence. No part of the nation is free from race clashes, and indeed the fair name of our country is soiled throughout the civilized world because of it. Ida B. Wells (activist in the 1800’s against lynchings) in the play The Gospel of Lovingkindness written by Marcus Gardley, directed by Marion McClinton, and playing at The Pillsbury House Theatre in Minneapolis, May 29-June 28, 2015.

 Namir Smallwood as Manny and Thomasina Petrus as Mary in The Gospel of Lovingkindness at Pillsbury House Theatre. Photo by Rich Ryan

The Gospel of Lovingkindess reflects on life, mothers and sons, a cry to end violence, and above all hope. Manny is a gifted musician, has a plan, and high hopes for his future. His mama, Mary, is so proud of him. Noel is struggling to figure out what his purpose is in this world, where he fits in, and how he’ll survive. They meet on a terrible day when Noel feels desperate to prove himself, and all Manny wants to do is look good in a new pair of shoes and go about his business. The play moves forwards and backwards in time as we get to know these boys and their mothers, the place where they live, and how the world looks to them. A visit from the ghost of Ida B. Well, an activist from the 1800’s who protested against lynchings, lights a fire under Mary. Her grief is deep and unending, but she realizes she can make good out of something terrible. Mary says, “No neighborhood is safe. It’s just a matter of time until violence comes to your home, too.” In a scene between her, a congressman, and a radio interviewer, she challenges the congressman to do something, take action, and stop thinking it happens “somewhere else.” What happens in one neighborhood happens to all of us.

Mary (Thomasina Petrus) tells the congressman (Jams A. Williams) to do something to end the violence, as the interviewer (Namir Smallwood) looks on. Photo by Rich Ryan

I watched this play with my 17-year-old son. It was the second show we saw on our mother-son date. The first one was Juno and the Paycockat the Guthrie Theater. It is about a poor family in Ireland in the 1920’s who are struggling to survive during the Irish Civil War. The mother’s cry to end violence was also loud and clear in this play. “What good is going through the pains of childbirth to bring my son into the world only to carry him to an early grave?” Oh, the keening of mothers in neighborhoods across the globe throughout the ages. When will it end? What do we need to do?

Namir Smallwood as Noel comforting his mama, played by Aimee K. Bryant. Photo by Rich Ryan

 

Mary (Thomasina Petrus) and Noel's mother (Aimee K. Bryant) united in pain and fear for the future, as they hold each other up and believe in a better tomorrow. Photo by Rich Ryan

Playwright Marcus Gardley is speaking to the current generation of people living in a violent and broken world. The characters mention the bloody scene at the movie theater shooting in Aurora, CO and the massacre of school children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. None of us are immune to the violence of this world. We need to somehow instill hope in every child that they can live a better life, that they’ll have shelter and enough food for themselves and their families. They need to know that the education they’re receiving will get them through the doors of success and fulfillment in life. We need to spend more time lifting each other up rather than putting each other down. And, above all, we need to build a community of trust. That is the hope for the future. That is what will keep mothers from weeping at the graves of their children instead of singing songs of praise at the birth of their grandchildren.

The ghost of Ida B. Wells (Aimee K. Bryant) telling Mary (Thomasina Petrus) that she can make a difference.

Some people are afraid of watching dramas because they don’t want to think about the pain and violence of this world. The Gospel of Lovingkindness shows you the terrible outcome of such violence, but it also shows you what love looks like. It’s hope mixed with laughter. It’s rising above the pain and taking action to help others. Hope, it’s what we feel when we look into the eyes of our children. Tomorrow can be a better day.

The Gospel of Lovingkindness is playing at the Pillsbury House Theatre in Minneapolis, May 29 – June 29, 2015.

Go. Create. Inspire!

I am offering summer theatre classes for kids in the Brainerd Lakes area. Please contact the CLC box office to register 218-855-8199. Visit my website, Play off the Page, for more info.

Journaling Prompt: What gives you hope?

Juno and the Paycock at The Guthrie Theater, Review

Quote of the Day: Blessed Virgin, where were you when my darling son was riddled with bullets? Sacred Heart of Jesus, take away our hearts of stone and give us hearts of flesh. Take away this murdering hate and give us thine own eternal love. From Juno and the Paycock by Sean O’Casey, currently playing at The Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, the final production directed by long time Artistic Director Joe Dowling.

Joe Dowling and the cast of Juno and the Paycock, playing through June 28, 2015 at The Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis.  Photo by Joan Marcus

Juno and the Paycock seems to be Joe Dowling’s signature play as a director. It’s the one that brought him over to the States in 1988 as part of a festival in New York City. He gained the attention of the Guthrie Theater and has been the Artistic Director there since 1995. He will be moving on to other artistic endeavors, and from what I’ve read, we haven’t seen the last of him.  While watching this drama, I thought of him, what little I know from reading and interviews, and felt like he was giving us a glimpse of his home country, Ireland, it’s darker days, and a bit of who Joe Dowling is and where he came from. You can read an interview about him in this recent article by Rohan Preston in the Star Tribune. He is no stranger to poverty and the pains of this world.

Joxer Daly (Mark Benninghofen) and "Captain" Jack Boyle (Stephen Brennan).  Photo by Joan Marcus

"Captain" Jack Boyle (Stephen Brennan), Johnny Boyle (David Darrow), Juno Boyle (Anita Reeves) and Mary Boyle (Katie Kleiger). Photo by Joan Marcus

Juno and the Paycock, written in the early 1920′ by Sean O’Casey, starts out with a meandering pace, as most early literature does. Modern plays tend to start off with a bang, but O’Casey gives us time to get to know the characters and get oriented to the setting. It’s a good time, as an audience member, to sip on the drink you brought in and pay attention to the many details of the set which give you the impression of the sparsity of life, from bound together chairs and worn out rugs to the tin cup that holds their meager funds. Stephen Brennan plays “Captain” Jack Boyle, the Paycock, (like a rooster, or cock) who struts around and doesn’t seem to be able to do much of anything else. His wife Juno, played beautifully by Anita Reeves, is the strong Irish mama who keeps everyone in line, fed, clothed, and earns wages besides. Where would we be without strong mamas like Juno? Their son Johnny (David Darrow) was wounded in the Irish Civil War and is damaged both mentally and physically. Their daughter Mary (Katie Kleiger) is a reader, a dreamer, and probably the most hopeful character in the family. Other characters move in and out with varying degrees of comic relief (Joxer, played by the wonderful Mark Benninghofen), and tragedy (Mrs. Tancred, played by Dearbhla Molloy, who’s son is found murdered). Their neighbor Mrs. Maisie Madigan (Sally Wingert, another twin cities favorite) seems to be there to add levity, with a musical interlude in Act II, and bring out some truths in the situation. While O’Casey writes about the darkness of this world, tragedy that existed then and now, he gives you moments of light and hope, and you can take away the thought that life continues to offer you a new story.

Joxer Daly (Mark Benninghofen), Maise Madigan (Sally Wingert), "Captain" Jack Boyle (Stephen Brennan), Juno Boyle (Anita Reeves) and Johnny Boyle (David Darrow).

Juno and the Paycock was the first in a double feature theater date with my 17-year-old son. He said he liked the play and was glad he went. Although it’s dark, he felt there were places of light and hope as well. We still have much to learn as we try to survive in this broken world. The second show we saw was The Gospel of Lovingkindness at Pillsbury House theatre in Minneapolis. We saw some parallels.

Juno and the Paycock written by Sean O’Casey, directed by Joe Dowling, is playing at The Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, MN through June 28, 2015. You can listen to Joe Dowling talk about the show on an MPR interview. Thanks, Mr. Dowling for bringing so much creative energy to Minnesota. I wish you well.

Go. Create. Inspire!

(Sign up for Theatre Classes for kids in the Brainerd lakes area, July 13-24, 2015, by calling 218-855-8199.)

Journaling Prompt: What gives you hope?

Family Dramas Kick Off Summer Theatre Offerings in the Metro

   My summer theatre viewing and reviewing kicks off next weekend with two family dramas. Juno and the Paycock is playing at the Guthrie Theater, and The Gospel of Lovingkindness is premiering at the Pillsbury House Theater in Minneapolis.

Synopsis for Juno and the Paycock from the website for The Guthrie Theater. One of the great plays of the 20th century, Juno and the Paycock is an epic tale of one family’s survival in Dublin following the Irish Civil War. Jack Boyle, known to his neighbors as the “paycock,” is out of work and determined to stay that way. He and his sidekick Joxer spend their time drinking and playing cards while Juno, the matriarch, attempts to keep their family together. When the family learns of an inheritance from a distant relative, the money is spent before it even arrives. But will they transcend the events that conspire to keep them in their place? Director Joe Dowling’s legendary Gate Theatre production opened on Broadway in 1988 and launched his prolific directing career in the U.S. The New York Times raved “Dowling’s Juno is alive at every level – as a boisterous comedy, as wrenching tragedy, as blistering social commentary.” You won’t want to miss this singular evening in the theater. 

  I’ll attach the press release for Lovingkindness. This play looks at issues that we currently face in our society. I’ll be packing lots of Kleenex and an open heart for these two performances. Recommended for children 13 years and older because of the content, language, and violence. I plan to bring at least one of my sons, age 17.                                      

From the road weeps, the well runs dry playwright Marcus Gardley comes The Gospel of Lovingkindness,
a poetic new play about mothers and sons affected by gun violence

lovingkindnessMinneapolis, MN—Pillsbury House Theatre presents the area premiere of The Gospel of Lovingkindness by Marcus Gardley, May 29 – June 28, 2015. A powerful and poetic drama about two black mothers and their sons whose lives are shattered by the heartbreak of gun violence, The Gospel of Lovingkindness is directed by Marion McClinton and stars Aimee K. Bryant, Thomasina Petrus, Namir Smallwood and James A. Williams.

On the South Side of Chicago, Mary and Miriam are two single mothers with teenage sons. Mary’s son, Manny, is all she had hoped he would be. He is doing well in his North Side school, he just sang at the White House for President Obama, and he is kicking it in a new pair of Air Jordans. Miriam’s son, Noel, however, is struggling to stay on the track his mother has put him on. He is making minimum wage at Walmart, he just found out he has a newborn son, and his hopes for a basketball scholarship have vanished. Longing for a better future for himself and his family, Noel goes to work for his drug-dealing uncle. But when Noel’s uncle asks him to prove himself by stealing Manny’s $260 shoes off his feet, Noel’s desperation leaves behind two grieving mothers and a city on edge.

The Gospel of Lovingkindness is at once an urgent appeal for an end to gun violence and a prayer for forgiveness, dignity, and hope. “The Gospel of Lovingkindness is my attempt to start a healing process,” says Gardley. “Perhaps, by sharing a play that explores a common experience, we can find communal healing.”

The world premiere of The Gospel of Lovingkindness was produced in 2014 by Victory Gardens Theater in Chicago, Illinois (Chay Yew, Artistic Director; Chris Mannelli, Managing Director). Newcity Stage called it “a rollercoaster of emotions, from unequivocal joy to heart-wrenching sorrow and everything in between.” Chicago Theater Beat wrote of it: “Gardley crafts a very poetic script that’s more reminiscent of a gospel hymn than a traditional stage play. In many respects, it works. The same passion you’d hear from a choir singing in a church is felt in each spoken line.”

The Gospel of Lovingkindness plays May 29 – June 28, 2015, at Pillsbury House Theatre, 3501 Chicago Ave. S. in Minneapolis. Performances are Wednesdays through Saturdays at 7:30 pm and Sundays at 3:00 pm. All tickets are pick-your-price (regular price = $25), and available at pillsburyhousetheatre.org, 612-825-0459, or 612-787-3622 (for group sales).

Free child care, provided by the staff of Pillsbury Early Education Center, is available for the 3:00 pm performances on Sundays, June 7 and 14. Audio-description will be available for the 7:30 pm performance on June 12. American Sign Language interpretation will be available for the 7:30 pm performance on June 20. Post-show discussions with our community partner will be held following performances on June 7, June 11, June 17, and June 26.

ABOUT THE PLAYWRIGHT

Marcus Gardley is a poet-playwright. His work was most recently seen on Pillsbury House Theatre’s stage in the rolling world premiere of the road weeps, the well runs dry. Gardley is a 2012 James Baldwin Fellow, a 2011 PEN Laura Pels award winner for Mid-Career Playwright, and a Mellon Foundation Playwright in Residence Grantee with Victory Gardens in Chicago. The New Yorker described him as “the heir to Garcia Lorca, Pirandello and Tennessee Williams.” His most recent production, The House That Will Not Stand, won a 2014 Glickman Award, and every tongue confess was nominated for the Steinberg New Play Award, the Charles MacArthur Award for Best Play and was the recipient of the Edgerton New Play Award. His musical, On the Levee premiered at Lincoln Center and was nominated for 11 Audelco Awards including outstanding playwright. His critically acclaimed epic …and Jesus Moonwalks the Mississippi was received the SF Bay Area Theater Critics Circle Award. Gardley holds an MFA in Playwriting from the Yale Drama School and is a member of The Dramatists Guild and the Lark Play Development Center. He is a professor of Theater and Performance Studies at Brown University.

 

ABOUT THE ACTORS AND DIRECTOR

Aimee K. Bryant (ensemble): Recently named City Pages’ “Best Actress 2015,” Aimee has appeared on several stages throughout the Twin Cities and across the nation. Her Pillsbury House Theatre credits include: Marcus; or the Secret of Sweet, In the Red and Brown Water, River See and Phoenix Fabrik. She is also a teaching artist and songwriter. Her original music can be heard on her debut CD, Becoming. Aimee is a graduate of Howard University.

Thomasina Petrus (ensemble): Thomasina was most recently seen on stage in Park Square’s The Color Purple, and, before that, in Pillsbury House Theatre and The Mount Curve Company’s co-production of Marcus; or the Secret of Sweet. Thomasina is a company member at Penumbra Theatre and Mixed Blood Theatre. In addition to being a 20+ year Equity actor, she is known for her multifaceted range as a vocalists on stages both locally and abroad. She has performing with the likes of James “Cornbread” Harris, Sr., Jevetta Steele, T. Mychael Rambo, Stokley, Walter Chancellor and Prince. A successful departure from performing, Thomasina has also created Thomasina’s Cashew Brittle.

Namir Smallwood (ensemble): Namir was most recently seen on stage in the Twin Cities in Ten Thousand Things’ production ofRomeo and Juliet. He has also appeared in Pillsbury House Theatre’s productions of Buzzer, The Brothers Size, and Pa’s Hat: Liberian Legacy, as well as on numerous stages around the Twin Cities including at the Children’s Theatre Company, Penumbra Theatre, Mixed Blood, and the Guthrie Theater. Television credits include NBC’s Chicago Fire. He is an alumnus of the UMN/Guthrie BFA Actor Training Program.

James A. Williams (ensemble): James is an Artistic Associate at Pillsbury House Theatre where he was most recently seen in all three of Tarell Alvin McCraney’s The Brother/Sister Plays. He has also performed with Signature Theatre, CenterStage, The Goodman, Mark Taper Forum, The McCarter, Seattle Rep. and Yale Rep., culminating on Broadway in August Wilson’s Radio Golf. Williams performed multiple roles in the Kennedy Center’s August Wilson’s Century Cycle in 2008 and Off-Broadway in My Children! My Africa!, Jitneyand Marion McClinton’s Walkers. He was named “Actor of the Year” by City Pages in 2003, and in 2008, he received an Ivey Award for performance excellence and was named “Artist of the Year” by the Star Tribune.

Marion McClinton (director): Marion has directed several critically acclaimed productions for Pillsbury House Theatre includingMarcus; or the Secret of Sweet, Buzzer, The Brothers Size and In the Red and Brown Water at the Guthrie Theater’s Dowling Studio andthe road weeps, the well runs dry, Pa’s Hat: Liberian Legacy, Bulrusher, and Home at Pillsbury House Theatre. He has also directed on Broadway, at the Royal National Theatre in London and in numerous regional theatres including the Goodman, Guthrie, Arena Stage, Mark Taper Forum, Kennedy Center, Seattle Rep., CenterStage, Pittsburgh Public and Huntington Theatre among others. He has directed in NYC at the Public Theater, Playwrights Horizons, Manhattan Theatre Club, Second Stage, the Foundry and Juilliard. He has won numerous awards including the Obie Award for directing, two AUDELCO’s, two Beverly Hills/NAACP Image Awards, among others, and his nominations include a Tony nod and Drama Desk Award. He is a Core Member for Life of The Playwrights’ Center, an alumni of New Dramatists, a longstanding member of Penumbra and an Artistic Associate of Pillsbury House Theatre. He concluded his life-changing collaboration with the great August Wilson by giving the eulogy at his funeral. In 2014, Marion received an honorary doctorate of letters from Concordia University. He is the father of Jesse Mandell-McClinton.

CALENDAR LISTINGS

The Gospel of Lovingkindness

A powerful and poetic drama about two black mothers and their young sons whose lives are shattered by the heartbreak of gun violence.

May 29 – June 28, 2015
Wednesdays – Saturdays at 7:30 pm
Sundays at 3:00 pm

at Pillsbury House Theatre
3501 Chicago Avenue S, Minneapolis, MN

Tickets: Pick your price (Reg. = $25)

Box Office: pillsburyhousetheatre.org or 612-825-0459

ABOUT PILLSBURY HOUSE THEATRE
From the Mainstage series to Chicago Avenue Project and Naked Stages to the Power of Our Voices teen ensemble, PILLSBURY HOUSE THEATRE brings audiences closer—to the edge, to the actors, to affordable, adventurous theatre, to fellow audience members, and to a strong community. Now in its 24th season, Pillsbury House Theatre is proud to be a professional theatre unlike any other. In partnership with Pillsbury United Communities, one of the largest human services organizations in the state, Pillsbury House Theatre demonstrates that the highest quality art is an integral part of all healthy communities, winning awards for theatre across the metro while also inspiring choice, change, and connection through raw, intimate drama. pillsburyhousetheatre.org.

The Odd Couple Entertains at Stage North in Brainerd

Quote of the Day:  I can’t take it anymore, Felix, I’m cracking up. Everything you do irritates me. And when you’re not here, the things I know you’re gonna do when you come in irritate me. You leave me little notes on my pillow. Told you 158 times I can’t stand little notes on my pillow. “We’re all out of cornflakes. F.U.” Took me three hours to figure out F.U. was Felix Ungar. Oscar Madison from Neil Simon’s classic comedy The Odd Couple.

The Odd Couple at Stage North in Brainerd, MN Travis Chaput as Felix, and Brad Wagendorf as Oscar Madison

Most of you know the plot line, probably saw the old movie, the stage play, or even the television series starring Jack Klugman and Tony Randall. As soon as they played the music from the television show, I was picturing the opening segment. It ran from 1970-1975, so I probably know it from reruns. It’s a classic comedy, perfect set-up with foil characters thrust into a relationship. Oscar, the slob, takes in Felix, the neat freak, where humor and angst ensue. Our Travis Chaput nailed the part of Felix! He had the mannerisms, line delivery, and facial expression that made his character very real and fun to watch. Oscar, played by Brad Wagendorf, has the “I don’t care – leave me alone” part down. He’s not the curmudgeon with charm that Jack Klugman has perfected, but he carries the part on his own merit. I felt like he had to change the most through the show. I brought my son Zach, a junior in high school, and he chuckled throughout the show. He’s young enough to have never even heard of The Odd Couple! He thought the cast did a great job with the script. I said it seems like it might have been one of the first shows to deal with divorce in a humorous way. What made the television series funny, and long standing, was the dynamic between these opposite personalities. Although they irritate the heck out of each other, they have a male bond that keeps them together. Zach said he was very satisfied with how the stage play ends. So, cool. This classic comedy clearly has lasting power to entertain throughout the ages. The guys did a great job. The women had the best costumes, but I’ve never cared for their part. It’s as if Neil Simon found women irritating at this stage in his life and makes them into dumb broads. Has anyone seen the female version of this play?

Cast of The Odd Couple, playing at Stage North in Brainerd, MN, May 14-16, 2015

If you’re in the Brainerd lakes area this weekend, go to the show! It’s a delightful couple hours of entertainment. Maybe you’ll trip down memory lane a bit as you remember the classic movie, stage, and/or television series. Bring a younger person along! They need to know where all the great theatrical plays came from.

The Odd Couple is playing at Stage North, in the Franklin Arts building, in Brainerd, MN May 14-16, 2015. Visit their website,facebook page, or call 218-232-6810 for tickets and showtimes.

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt: Are you more like Oscar or Felix? Which versions of this play have you seen? Would you ever move in with a friend after a major life change? How would that go?

Theatre Classes for Kids in the Brainerd lakes area, Summer 2015

Quote of the Day: Top five reasons to participate in the arts:
1. It builds your self-awareness, confidence, and creativity.
2. You learn the art of cooperation through group story-telling.
3. You get to make something – physical sets and props, a brand new story, create characters.
4. You make friends.
5. It’s fun, and funny, and you get to hang out with people who love to entertain, tell stories, and be part of a creative team!
DSC_0079

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

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

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

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

Go. Create. Inspire!

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