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!

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!
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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?

Review of Camelot at The Ordway in St. Paul

Quote of the Day: Ready my knights for battle. They will ride with their king once more. I have lived through others for far too long. Lancelot carried my honor, and Guenevere, my guilt. Mordred bears my sins. My knights have fought my causes. Now, my brother, I shall be king.

I must ride with my knights to defend what was, and the dream of what could be. from Le Morte d’Arthur by Thomas Malory

camelot

My sister Joy and I attended the National Tour of Camelot at theOrdway Performing Arts Center in St. Paul, MN. It is a magnificent show – lovely, heroic, and a little Renfesty. They cast it perfectly, and everyone has a tremendous singing voice (I particularly loved Mary McNulty’s as Guenevere). You feel love and sympathy for King Arthur. You see Guenevere’s internal conflict as she tries to remain loyal to her husband and king even though she loves the noble Lancelot. And, Lancelot, who enters the stage with a song about how he’s the perfect man for the job, discovers that he, too, has flaws and isn’t stronger that the passions of the heart. It’s a sad story, really, the love triangle, the egos of men, the revenge and mischief making of Mordred – Arthur’s illegitimate son, and the ultimate fall of the kingdom. But, the songs are great. The music is lovely and haunting, and at times humorous. The costumes were gorgeous. Joy and I wanted to get backstage and see and touch them in person. Some of the gowns were silky and smooth while others were velvety and soft looking. The men wore coats and the armor looked shiny, but not heavy and clunky. I think it was mock-armour. Joy said of the show, “It has so much visual texture.” What a great way to describe it! From the gowns to the set that is both hard and metallic as well as mystic by use of scrims, lighting and smoke. If most people are like me, they came for the songs that they know and love and to see how this company puts it all together. They cut at least one song from the original, and shortened a few, which is good, because it is a long musical. Thus, creating a faster pace. The actors did well in creating tension, and we left wishing to rewrite the ending. (Personally, I’d prefer seeing Arthur die a hero’s death on stage, Mordred getting his just deserts, and Lancelot and Guenevere living happily ever after, but that’s not how the story goes.)

CAMELOT-21-Tim-Rogan-as-Lancelot-Adam-Grabau-as-Arthur-and-Mary-McNulty-as-Guenevere-Photo-by-Scott-Suchman-2014-280x187Experience the majesty and splendor of the enchanting fable of King Arthur, Guenevere, Lancelot, and the Knights of the Round Table in this four-time Tony Award®-winning show. The celebrated score includes “If Ever I Would Leave You,” “The Simple Joys of Maidenhood,” and the title song, “Camelot.” Tickets are available by calling 651-224-4222 or by visiting the Ordway. Visit the Ordway media page for an article by Rohan Preston on the remake of the this legendary musical. (Photo by Scott Suchman)

*A word of caution if you go. The road construction on Hwy 94 to and from downtown St. Paul goes down to one lane of traffic and is very slow going. Use an alternate route if you know one, and plan for extra travel time!

Visit the National Tour site for Camelot Tour to learn more about the cast and schedule. You can also see more production photos and watch a few video interviews with the cast members. Next stop, Kansas City, MO.

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt: Do you enjoy the stories of King Arthur and Camelot? Ever want to rewrite an ending? Do you like the music from the musical? What version of this King’s tale do you like?

I like the lesser known Warner Brothers animated movie called Quest for Camelot. It also has great music by Celine Dion, Bryan White, and others, and features The Prayer. In this version, a girl wishes to follow her father and become a knight at the Round Table.

Peter Pan, Flying off the Stage at The Children’s Theatre in Minneapolis

I couldn’t help myself with that title! I have more details of our gorgeous May Day in the big city on my website Play off the Page! Come visit after reading this review.

DSC_0134Now, on to the main event. Everyone asks if Peter Pan can really fly, and the answer is Yes! With the aid of acrobatic wires, and a skilled handler behind the scenes, not only can Tyler Michaels(Peter Pan) fly, he soars and glides, does acrobatic moves, and sings – all at the same time. I was out of breath just watching him, and the girls were on the edge of their seats (sometimes even standing up). Wow. Just wow. I remember Tyler telling the audience members at the Guthrie who stayed back for the discussion after the show of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, that he had gone to Dell’Arte School of Physical Theatre, where, I believe, he got training in “flying.” He was clearly self-assured soaring through the air above the stage at The Children’s Theatre, landing on set pieces, gracefully lighting down and always maintaining that impish grin. He had the boyish glint in his eye that says, “Life is just one big game. Let’s play!” And, play they did, at the Darling home, in the treehouse, and secret hideout below, in the forest with Tiger Lily and her Pounce troupe (a much improved change to the original script), and even in a duel with Captain Hook. And, yes, they sing “I don’t wanna grow up,” and yes, I sang along (quietly, so as not to disturb the folks around me). And, yes, I heard many people humming and singing it on their way out to their cars!

Tyler Michaels as Peter Pan sprinkling fairy dust on John (Christian Tesch), Michael (Gavin Nienaber), and Wendy (Alanna Saunders) Photo by Dan Norman, Children's Theater Company, Minneapolis, MN

Peter Pan is a delightful show for all ages. It particularly appeals to those of us who stay young at heart and see the fun in visits to the zoo, lunch at diner counters, walks on lovely spring days, Art in Bloom, and of course, let your imagination take off while watching productions like Peter Pan. (You can read about the above listed activities on my website Play off the Page.)The Children’s Theatre went all out for this one. The set is so amazing, it almost distracts. The costumes enhance the characters, and the music…well, you know it is spectacular whenever Victor Zupanc is in charge.

Peter Pan, Dance with Tiger Lily, Pounce, and the Lost Boys. Photo by Dan Norman

 

Tiger Lily (played by Meghan Kreidler) and Pounce. Photo by Dan Norman

Peter Pan is playing at the Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis, MN now through June 12, 2015. (For a complete list of cast and crew, visit the Children’s Theatre website.)

Peter Pan the Musical
A musical based on the play by Sir J.M. Barrie
Lyrics by Carolyn Leigh
Music by Morris (Moose) Charlap
Additional Lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green
Additional Music by Jule Styne
Originally Directed, Choreographed, Adapted by Jerome Robbins
Directed by Peter Rothstein
Music Directed by Denise Prosek
Choreographed by Joe Chvala
Flying Effects provided by ZFX, Inc.
Recommended for all ages (two hours with one 15 min. intermission)

Whatever show is playing there, whether it is a gentle story like Snowflake, an original production like Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, or a blockbuster hit like Cinderella, you will feel the love and inspiration that goes into each production and take a little bit of it home in your heart.

Children's Theatre Company. Reed Sigmund and Captain Hook. Photo by Dan Norman

If I could ask the cast and crew one question, it would be, “Which of you contributed your used socks for the set?”

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt: What activities, or places, bring out the kid in you? Can you fly?

Spring Theatre 2015

Quote of the Day: Tell me again, George, about the rabbits. Lenny, in John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, playing now at AAAA theatre in Alexandria, MN.

miceandmenflyerMy sister Joy and I took a lovely Sunday drive over to our old haunt in Alexandria, MN to watch our friends put on a community theatre production of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. This script is heavy, emotional, controversial, a classic, a treasure, and a moment in time captured by the great author. I think it’s the relationship between George and Lenny that keeps pulling us back to this tragic story. It’s the plight of man trying to eek out an existence in this dark world, and it’s the hope that springs eternal in the simplistic mind of Lennie, “Tell me the story one more time, George.” George tells him, some guys just go from job to job, never caring about anybody. They get their paycheck at the end of the week, blow it all at the cat house and saloon, then beat it to the next place and do it all over again. “But not us, George.” “Not us, Lennie. Because I miceandmenlengot you. ” “And, I got you, George.” “That’s what makes us different.” AAAA theatre cast and crew do a wonderful job of portraying this difficult piece of theatrical literature. Chuck Grussing, who plays Lennie, says he is emotionally drained after each performance. I think that’s a sign of a true actor, one who is in touch with his emotions, and those of the character he portrays. Our friend Pete Woit plays George with true heart and compassion. The entire cast is very talented, and I applaud Claudia Bursch for directing such a fine show. You can still take it in this weekend in Alexandria, MN. Merlin Petersen designed this amazing set. He is a gifted artist. He used real Birch trees and saplings to create these two pieces, which are movable and beautiful. The front of the house was also staged nicely with artifacts from the 1930’s and original photography by Kirsta Anderson. She framed the rural photos in barnwood to a wonderful effect. You can see more photos on the Alexandria Area Arts facebook page, and website.

 

miceandmenset

Starting this weekend in Brainerd, MN is Servant of Two Masters at Central Lakes College, Challberg Theatre. (My troupe of young actors will be on the Dryden stage Thursday evening, 5:00 for elementary students, and 7:oo for the middle school group.) This is a comedy for audiences throughout the ages. A servant sees dollar signs and adventure in working for two masters, a perfect set up for mishaps, mistakes, and much laughter. Director Patrick Spradlin wants audiences to know that, although the play was written over 350 years ago, it’s still a highly entertaining piece. “This play is part of the commedia dell’arte style of plays,” notes Spradlin. “Commedia was full of improvisation, topical and local references, and physical comedy. It’s some of the best comedy written.” You can read more of that interview on the Visit Brainerd website. The play opens on Thursday, April 30 with performances continuing May 1-2 and 7-9. All shows are at 7:30 p.m. in the Chalberg Theatre on the Brainerd campus. Tickets for ‘Servant of Two Masters’ are available through the CLC Theatre Box Office at (218) 855-8199or online at www.clcmn.edu/arts. Love this promo photo!

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Stage North is in rehearsals for Neil Simon’s classic comedy The Odd Couple. Two friends suddenly find themselves single and rooming together. Of course, they’re polar opposites. Felix is a neat freak, perhaps a bit OCD, while Oscar is a slob. This sets the stage for much frustration and mayhem. Add in some whacky neighbors and a couple guys trying to adjust to being single, and you have a classic comedy. Come see the show in Brainerd, MN, May 14, 15, 16.

Cream of the Crop Theater in Randall, MN is holding auditions for it’s upcoming summer play The Cemetery Club. Parts for three older women, one younger woman, and one man. Sounds like a fun cast, right? I’d audish, but I’ll be with family at a camp on a lovely lake the week of final production. But, you can bet I’ll be in the front row to watch it opening weekend! Auditions are at the theater upstairs from the Old Quilt Shop in Randall, MN, May 8 & 9. Please visit theirfacebook page or the website for Cream of the Crop Theater for more details. Performances are July 10, 11, 12, and 17,18, 19. You can also read a lovely article about founder Beth Selinger and her wonderful theater in Her Voice, Spring 2015 edition, p. 32.

This weekend I’ll be in the audience for Peter Pan at the Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis, MN. Stop back for a review. I’ve already heard that it is a spectacular show. I’ve been admiring the talents of Tyler Michaels who is playing Peter Pan. He was amazing as Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Guthrie, and as Freddie inMy Fair Lady, also at the Guthrie last summer. And, I see that Art in Bloom is at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. I’ll be there with my camera. It is a gorgeous pairing of floral artists and the institute’s amazing collection.

 

Christian Tesch, Gavin Nienbauer, Alanna Saunders, and Tyler Michaels in CTC Peter Pan.  Photo by Dan Norman

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt: Have you seen any of these shows? Have a great weekend!

Romeo and Juliet at Park Square

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 #858. 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.)

R is for Romeo and Juliet, playing now at the Park Square Theatre in St. Paul, MN. I rode along with the 9th grade class on their field trip to the theatre in the big city. Except for one screamer on the bus, we had a great day. The kids seemed to enjoy the show. They responded with laughter, oohs, ahhs, nervous shuffling, and a little bit of uncomfortable giggling at the sexy scenes. I didn’t see anyone wipe away tears, but I felt anger and fear during a few scenes. They are performing Romeo and Juliet in the new Andy Boss Thrust Stage at Park Square, which is downstairs from the main theatre. With seating for about 200 on three sides of the stage, the English teachers told us, that is how people in Shakespeare’s time would have experienced the play. You feel like you’re right in the action, even more so when the actors come up the aisles and are in the audience. The more 20150417_120415intimate setting also gives the play more intensity. What a wonderful first experience for some of the students. I know only a few have been to live theatre performances, and even fewer still to a professional theatre. I applaud the English teachers for making the extra effort to bring their classes to this performance. It is a way to make those stories come alive and spark imagination in their students. I love being a field trip mom!

I visited with Connie the marketing director for Park Square. I asked if it was part of the mission of Park Square to provide performances/theatre experience for students. She said, “Yes, for the past 20 years, Park Square has done productions with students in mind.” They do some of the classics like Diary of Anne FrankTo Kill a Mockingbird, Shakespeare plays, and contemporary plays as well. This year, they included performances of The Color PurpleNow, that would be an incredible performance to experience your first time at a theatre, or a musical. Thank you, Park Square, for opening your doors to students. I know they can be both a harder, and more honest, audience, but you never know how you might have changed someone’s life, or the way they think about the world.

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Millie and Willie discussed it on the bus ride home.

Millie: So, Willie, what were some of your favorite parts about the play?
Willie: The sword fights, Millie. They were so exciting. I felt my heart rate go up a little.
Millie: The costumes were lovely, flowing garments for the ladies, coats and interesting head gear for the men.
Willie: The actors were all so polished. I felt like they were really those people, the fiery Tibult, the bawdy Mercutio, the wise Friar, the angry and controlling father.
Millie: Juliet and her romantic ideas of love.
Willie: Romeo and his foolish mistakes.
Millie: A pair of star-crossed lovers.
Willie: A family feud that that goes on and on, even though no one remembers how it started, and no one has the courage to end.
Millie: Did the families ever learn?
Willie: Does the world ever stop feuding?
Millie: I think it’s time to sing the Peace Train song, Willie.
Willie: That’s my second favorite song.20150419_092828

(Lillie and Billie, who were also attending the play, listened to the discussion and song.)

Lillie: Ooh, Willie. That’s a great train song. I’d like to learn to play it and have a whole group of different people sing it together.

Billie: I’d even do that one with you, Lillie, if I can play the drums.

Millie: Peace starts at home.

Lillie and Billie: Amen, sista.

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt: Who’s riding your Peace Train? What do you think of the story of Romeo and Juliet?

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

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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