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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!

Review of The White Snake at The Guthrie Theater

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

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

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

Go. Create. Inspire!

Theatre Classes for Kids in the Brainerd area

I am excited to announce that I am offering theatre classes for kids in grades 1-4 at the Central Lakes College, and Gary Hirsch is offering classes for kids in grades 5-8 at Forestview Middle School this fall. Here are the details.

Mary Aalgaard and her company, Play off the Page, along with the support of the Central Lakes College Theatre are offering a theatre class for children in grades 1-4. The class will take place at CLC in the Dryden Theatre. 

Things to know:

  • Class meets Thursdays beginning October 2 – November 20, 2014
  • Class time: 5:00 – 6:00 p.m. in CLC’s Dryden Theatre
  • Final performance for family & friends is Nov. 20 at 6:00 p.m.
  • Non-refundable class fee: $65
  • Note: Class will not meet on October 16 during MEA break

The theme for the work-shop is Characters and Conflicts for the Holidays, with a focus on Thanksgiving.  Students will create their own characters and write the play under the guidance of playwright Mary Aalgaard.

To register, contact the CLC Theatre Box Office~In person: Tuesday-Friday 10:00 a.m. – 2 p.m. By phone: 218-855-8199 * Pre-registration is required. * Space is limited. *Registration deadline – Sep 30.

 Please contact me if you have questions, mary@playoffthepage.com, or visit my website Play off the Page.

Course description for Gary’s middle school class, Acting Up. You can register through Community Ed.

This program will include numerous theatre and improvisation games, in depth study of an actual script, scenes from that script, monologues as well as individual writing which will be used in a final presentation for family and friends at 4 pm on November 4. Students will also be invited to attend a Pequot Lakes Community Theatre performance of Singin in the Rain in mid-November. Acting Up! Will be taught by Gary Hirsch, retired Mora High School English teacher and Drama Director. Gary taught for 34 years in the Mora system and directed over 100 productions for the school and local community Theatre. Since moving to the Brainerd Lakes area, Gary has directed shows for Central Lakes College, Pequot Lakes Community Theatre and the Pequot Lakes High School. He will be directing Singin in the Rain in Pequot Lakes this Fall. Parents, please pick your youth up at 5 pm at the Forestview front doors.

Also, Stage North is holding auditions for A Christmas Carol on October 10 and 11. The show itself has roles for four children, and I will be directing a children’s chorus which will include about 20 children.

Go. Create. Inspire!

Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, 2014

Mr. Happy at the 2014 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

The Biker Chef and I attended the annual Motorcycle Rally in Sturgis, SD again this year. It’s about the 20th rally for the Chef, and the 3rd one for me. The first two years that I rode along, we just passed through, got a patch commemorating the event from the Jackpine Gypsies, who started the whole thing back in 1937, and didn’t stay. This year, we stayed a few days in the Hills, so we were able to enjoy some of the amazing sites, sounds, and culture of this place. The real motorcycle folks are there for the rides and to be part of the big event. It really is something to see all those motorcycles, thousands of them, lined up and down the streets of, not just Sturgis, but every small town throughout the hills. And, riders come from every state, Canada, Mexico, and beyond, and represent people from all walks of life. I’ve overheard cell phone calls wishing someone Happy Anniversary, and asking how are the kids, the garden, etc. These people make up about 99% of the folks you see all leathered-up taking two wheels on their vacations. The other 1% are members of the scary biker gangs, and you don’t want to mess with them.


Mr. Happy reading “Lot’s Return to Sodom” and Mary reading “In the Belly of Jonah” by Sandra Brannan, during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

While I was on our trip this year, I started reading the first book in a detective series by Sandra Brannan, set in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Her main character, Liv Bergen, helps run the family mining business. When one of her employees, a beautiful young woman, is found murdered, she finds herself more involved than maybe she should be. I was completely captivated by Brannan’s writing, characters, and story. Then, I picked up book #2, a murder/mystery, set during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. OMG! I could not put this one down. What made it even more fascinating for me is that I’ve been to the rally, and brushed elbows with some of those scary guys. The Biker Chef has told me a couple stories, too, so I just had to keep reading. In her book, Lot’s Return to Sodom. Brannan weaves an expert plot line with twists, turns, and switchbacks, that give you the feel of riding on the Needles highway, passing through Nemo Road, and stopping for a beer at the roadside biker joint. She provides some grim, and disturbing, details of Biker culture, so keep reminding yourself this is only 1% of the people who ride.

Leo keeping me company while reading “Lot’s Return” on a rainy Sunday afternoon.motorcycles.

Start with the first one, In the Belly of Jonah, then grab the second one and your favorite furry friend, be it breathing or stuffed, and get ready for a wild ride.


If you’d like to read about our riding adventures at the rally, in the Hills, and beyond, visit my website Play off the Page, and look under the heading Ride off the Page. We have a review of a very fine restaurant under Dine off the Page, The Deadwood Social Club, a hidden treasure in the Hills. You can read a review of In the Belly of Jonah, as well as other entertainment reviews, under the heading Play off the Page.

I hope you all are enjoying the last dog days of summer with maybe a few last adventures before winter sets in. We’re already back in school mode here in the Brainerd lakes area with football practice well underway. My boys are sporting the bruises and sore muscles to prove it! 

Go. Create. Inspire!

Review of Evita at The Ordway in St. Paul, MN

I’ll admit that I haven’t paid much attention to Evita. Of course, I’ve heard the famous “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina,” but somehow a live performance hadn’t come across my path until this week here in Minnesota. (I didn’t even see the movie starring Madonna.) I know, where have I been? It is a beautiful, moving story of a woman who becomes the spiritual leader of a country. She is a real-life rags to riches girl who needs both safety and security and to know that no matter how great she becomes that she is still loved by the people, her people, and sings, “I never left you.” And, of course, they resent her, at first, calling her all sorts of names, saying she used her sexuality to seduce the president.

Sean MacLaughlin as ‘Juan Peron’ and Caroline Bowman as ‘Eva Peron’ in the National Tour of Evita
Production photo by Richard Termine

Eva Perone is just like every other human being on this planet, complex and mysterious. She has flaws and selfish motivation, AND she has deep compassion and a generous spirit. Once she had all that a person could ever dream of having, she gave back. She lifted up the lowly. She befriended the widowed mothers, the abused, the sick, the spiritually and physically poor of her nation. She reminds me of Esther in the Biblical story of a peasant girl who was taken to be the bride of the king and ended up saving her people when he was forced to declare genocide on them. She told him that she was still one of them, and that to save her people was to save her life as well. The king loved her so much that he stopped the violence. As Evita matures and faces the harsh reality of her own mortality, she becomes even more diligent in helping others, remembering her people, and going to them, healing, blessing, and loving them. And, they in return, lifted her up with their love and admiration, and at the announcement of her death, fell to their knees, crying “Santa Evita.”

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

Evita is playing at The Ordway in St. Paul, MN, August 12-17, 2014, and continuing on tour to Des Moines, IA, Hartford, CT, and Washington, D.C. Visit the Evita Broadway Tour website for more information. Or, go to The Ordway for tickets and showtimes, as well as to see what is coming next to this grand performing arts space.

Go. Create. Inspire!

Review of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike at The Guthrie

Christopher Durang’s play Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike is a character show. He had very specific types in mind as he was writing it. I woke up this morning wondering how the casting call might read: Wanted: two males, four females for modern comedy inspired by classic characters – older man, a bit grey and shaky, hasn’t quite lost his ability to appreciate a nice body, bemoans change in technology, culture, and human behavior, given to ranting. Second male – extremely buff and self-confident, able to strut around the stage in his underwear while doing calisthenics, aware, but unaware, of how much he’s turning on everyone onstage…and off! Middle-aged woman with a deep, mysterious voice who practices voodoo (in a funny, yet, pointed way) and “predicts” the future, can do that look that drives deep into your brain. Two sisters, who seem to be polar opposite in body type and personality. One is larger than life full of herself glamorous with an “everybody look at me” air. The other practically disappears into the furniture and has no self-esteem, or life. And, finally, the young and beautiful up and coming actress, slightly star-struck by the veteran actor, wants to please everyone, looks like a doll in a fairy-princess costume.

Put that mix in a blender and see what you come up with! Durang does a smashing  job of bringing out the unique flavors of all those types. The directing (by Joel Sass) and acting add the spice that get your jolly juices flowing. I thought I was going to bust a gut laughing at the “reverse strip tease” scene. Not just because of the hottie-boombalottie, but also the reactions of the other characters. Each one really knows how to make an exit, which leaves you wondering what happens when they come back!

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike (plus, Cassandra and Nina) are highly entertaining on a steamy summer night. It’s a great comedy to be playing opposite the Guthrie’s My Fair Lady. After you’re done tapping your toes to I could have danced all night, trip on over to this crazy comedy and drink in a tall glass of laughs, sight gags (visual stimulation), and characters you just might identify with.

To read more of my reviews of recent shows in the area, go to my website, Play off the Page!


For tickets and showtimes, go to The Guthrie Theater, or call the box office, 612-377-2224.
Both shows are running through August 31, 2014.

Go. Create. Inspire!

My Fair Lady and other great summer shows

I want to thank The Guthrie Theater, and other venues, for continuing to invite me to their productions. Lauren, PR at The Guthrie, says, “We love our online media.” We love you, too! I love promoting the arts online and off. This summer is packed full of wonderful opportunities to attend live performances.

At The Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, MN, My Fair Lady, June 28-August 31, 2014. Director Joe Dowling and his creative cast and crew put on a stunning performance of this classic musical. You can’t take your eyes off the fantastical costumes and set. Seeing those extravagant hats in the racing scene is worth the drive down! Visit my website Play off the Page/My Fair Lady for the review. I loved it so much I might even go again! Also playing at The Guthrie this summer is Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, a comedy inspired by Chekov plays and theatrical fun. I’ve been invited to view and review this one at the end of July. It runs July 19-August 31, 2014.

At the Jungle Theater in Minneapolis, MN, is The Heiress, June 20-August 10, 2014, a bit more of a drama with some great humor lines as well. This play gets you thinking about relationships and how we’re shaped by them, especially the father-daughter relationship. I would see this one again if I had the chance because there is so much to it that makes you think, and I’m sure I would learn more every time I saw it. Visit my website Play off the Page/The Heiress for the review. Also, visit the Jungle Theater sometime, it is a lovely little theater. My playwright friend called it “The best dressed theater” she’s ever seen!

The cast of Blithe Spirit, played by Nicholas Kory (around the table from left), Kryston Wisely, Bri Keran, Barb McColgan, Kevin Yaeger and Brianna Engels, surround a table while holding a séance as they inadvertantly summon the titular spirit played by Nicole Rothleutner. (Kelly Humphrey, Brainerd Dispatch)

In the Brainerd lakes area, Blythe Spirit, is playing at Central Lakes College theatre, July 10-12 and July 17-19, all shows start at 7:30 at the Chalberg Theatre. I’m invited to view and review this show on opening night. Visit my website, Play off the Page, for the review.

Beth Selinger opened a new theatre in Randall, MN, called Cream of the Crop Theater. Her debut performance is On Golden Pond. I’m driving over there to chat with her this afternoon, snap a couple pics, and get back to you on all the goings-on over there. I’m very excited for this performance, an excellent choice for summer theatre in the lakes area. Performance dates, July 17-20, check their facebook page or website for showtimes and tickets. I expect this one to sell out!

Up in Pequot Lakes, MN, the Greater Lakes Area Performing Arts (GLAPA) is performing Mom’s Gift, July 10-13 and 15-17, visit their facebook page for photos.

If you know of other great performances, let me know! (Mary@playoffthepage.com) This fall, we have even more great opportunities to participate in the performing arts. I’ll be offering another workshop for elementary kids. Gary Hirsch is offering something for middle school kids at Forestview Middle School, and the newest theater to our area, Stage North, will debut with A Christmas Carol in December, auditions in October, and I’ll be helping with the youngsters.

Go. Create. Inspire!

Review of Illusions Theater’s My Antonia at the Lab in St. Paul, MN

When I received the invitation to attend opening/press night for this performance, I was sad because I knew I couldn’t get down to St. Paul at that time. The PR contact, Anne Ulseth, offered me another time, and I jumped on it. I had recently found a copy of the novel at a used book store and found myself mesmerized by the words of Willa Cather. Reading her descriptions of the prairie is like lying on the cool grass on a summer day, gazing up at the clouds, and imaging a bigger world, all the while holding hands with your best friend. (sigh) The Nebraska prairie is much like the farming community in Minnesota where I grew up. I wondered how the playwright would translate those sensual descriptions and thoughtful reflections to the stage. She did not disappoint.

Andrea San Miguel (Antonia) and Mary Aalgaard after the performance of “My Antonia” at the Lab theater in St. Paul, MN.

Andrea plays a sweet and charismatic Antonia in the stage adaptation of Willa Cather’s classic novel, My Antonia, adapted for the stage by Allison Moore, directed by Michael Robins, Music by Roberta Carlson. The music adds so much to the mood of this performance.

My Antonia is playing one more weekend at the Lab in the Lowry building in St. Paul, MN. Visit the Illusion Theater website for showtimes and ticket information.

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

Coming up in the Brainerd lakes area:

On Golden Pond at Beth Selinger’s new theatre, Cream of the Crop in Randall. (What a brilliant first play selection for a new theatre opening in the summer in the lakes country!) Let’s all go out there and support her efforts. July 17-20.
Mom’s Gift is playing at the High School in Pequot Lakes (community theater), GLAPA,  July 10, 11, 12 and 15, 16, 17.
Blythe Spirit will be at Central Lakes College Theater, July 9-12 and 16-19.
A new theater is starting up in Brainerd, MN. Stage North, founded by Kevin Yeager and Gary Hirsch will debut this December with a production of A Christmas Carol. The performances will take place on the stage at the Franklin Arts Center. Auditions are October 10 & 11, parts for all ages, including children. They have asked me to work with the kids and some music selections. Looking forward to it!

Go. Create. Inspire!


Excellent Entertainment Coming to Theatres this Summer

Now, that we have warm weather and clear roads, this is an ideal time to get out and enjoy some live performances, near and far. I’ll highlight a few here as invites, press releases, and tantalizing ads come my way.

My Fair Lady is coming to the Guthrie Theater, June 28 – August 31, 2014. So many favorite songs come from this classic Broadway hit: I Could Have Danced all night, Get me to the Church on Time, and The Rain in Spain (you know the rest). Read more of the press release on my website Play off the Page – My Fair Lady, and come back for the review after opening weekend!

My Antonia will be playing at the Lab at the Lowry Building in St. Paul, MN, June 13-28, 2014, presented by Illusion Theater. Allison Moore has adapted this classic novel by Willa Cather to the stage, winning two Ivey awards. To read more of that press release, visit my website Play off the Page - My Antonia.

Introducing The Cream of the Crop theater in Randall, MN. Beth Selinger, local director and lover of theater and thespians alike, opened a new theater upstairs in the Old Creamery and Quilt Shop in Randall, MN. For their premier production, Beth is directing On Golden Pond. I’m excited to announce that Laura Oldham, one of the actors from my play Coffee Shop Confessions, will be playing Ethel. This endearing tale of a curmudgeon-y old man, his feisty wife, darling daughter, and adventurous grandson is set in the lakes country (both on stage and off) and gives you that summer feel as family dynamics come to life amidst fishing poles and mail delivered via boat. Check out their facebook page for the full cast list. Visit Cream of the Crop Theater website, and look for more stories and reviews on my website, Play off the Page, as we get closer to opening weekend, July 17-20, 2014!

Don’t they have a cute logo!


Drama, Writing, and Art Classes offered in the Brainerd area in June

I am excited to launch my blog on Area Voices. I’ve had a blogspot on the website for The Brainerd Dispatch for a couple years, and I’ve been writing on my own website/blogs for almost five years at Play off the Page. I use my space on this website to promote arts and entertainment, including reviews from theaters like The Guthrie, The Ordway, and the Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis, as well as area performances and events.

This June, The Crossing Arts Alliance is offering classes for kids in Drama, Writing, and Art. Here is the info:

SUMMER ART CAMP for Kids Ages 8 to 12. Supporting & encouraging kids in all their creative endeavors. Enrichment arts opportunities in the visual arts, theater arts, and literary arts. The 3 week camp will be taught by arts education professionals and supported by visiting professional artists. Register for 1, 2, or 3 weeks.
All camps run from 10am to noon at the Franklin Arts Center
A. THE PLAY’S THE THING – Week 1: June 9 to 13. Participate in the entire theater process from start to finish and put on a play. Learn audition techniques, stage presence, memorization skills, interaction and cooperation with fellow participants on and off the stage. Learn acting skills through theater games and improvisation techniques. Show off talents in a showcase performance at the end of the week.
B. KIDS AND THE ART OF WRITING – Week 2: June 16 to 20. Spend the week with two published writers Guy Kelm and Mary Aalgaard (that’s me) will lead the students in writing exercises, offer positive feedback, and provide an opportunity for kids to write, edit, and share their writing. Writers of all genres are welcome: poets, playwrights, and prose.
C. THE ART OF MASK MAKING – Week 3: June 23 to 27. Explore the art of masks from around the world! Featuring mask-making inspired by artists from various cultures. Learn about masks of Mardi Gras, African maskmaking traditions, Venetian Celebration Masks, and animal masks of Mexico. Papercraft, clay, watercolor and paint media will be explored in this hands-on, creative adventure. Join in the fun!
Register through Brainerd area Community Education 218.454.6924, Co-sponsored by ISD 181 Community Education. Class size limit 30, $65 per child per week.

Mary Aalgaard with Kids and the Art of Writing Class, Summer 2013

Go. Create. Inspire!