Avatar 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!

A Christmas Story coming to The Ordway in St. Paul, MN

I’ll be sharing press releases from time to time about shows coming up in the area and in the metro. This is from The Ordway in St. Paul, MN.

“You’ll shoot your eye out, kid!”

“Fra-gee-lay. It must be Italian!”

“Oh, fudge!”

The Ordway Center for the Performing Arts Presents

A Christmas Story, the Musical

Nov. 29–Dec. 28, 2014

Your favorite holiday movie is now your favorite holiday musical

We triple-dog-dare you not to miss it!

ST. PAUL, Minn. (Oct. 28, 2014) — The Ordway Center for the Performing Arts is excited to present its 2014 holiday show, A Christmas Story, the Musical. The Ordway-produced musical comedy will run Nov. 29–Dec. 28, 2014, for a total of 36 performances. Tickets are available now and can be purchased online at www.ordway.org, by phone at 651-224-4222 or in person at the Ordway ticket office.


The cast features Gary Briggle as Jean Shepherd, Billie Wildrick as Mother, Jake Goodman as Ralphie, James Ciccarelle as Randy, Dieter Bierbrauer as The Old Man and Erin Schwab as Miss Shields.


The ensemble includes Jack Ahern, Carter Bannwarth, Lisa Bartholemew-Given, Olivia Lyn Coon, Jennifer Eckes, Mario Esteb, Joshua Feldman, Larissa Gritti, Amasia Gordon, Michael Gruber, Reid Harmsen, Annie Hoffman, Lillie Horton, Olivia Huber, Sophia Huber, Suzie Juul, Nike Kadri, Gavin Kimmel, Brad Madison, Julianne Mundale, Hope Nordquist, Aja Parham, Kersten Rodau, Jack Romans, Randy Schmelling, Carl Schoenborn, Rudolph Searles III, Jay Soulen, Madeline Sundheim, Linda Talcott Lee, Brent Teclaw, Austene Van and Tony Vierling. The production also features Oliver and Argyle, two rescue dogs and acting veterans trained by legendary animal trainer, William Berloni.


A Christmas Story, the Musical is the hilarious account of Ralphie Parker’s desperate quest to ensure that the most perfect of gifts, an Official Red Ryder® Carbine-Action 200-Shot Range Model Air Rifle, ends up under his tree this Christmas. Filled with nostalgia, quirky childhood innocence and all the best-loved scenes from the movie, this Ordway holiday production is a heartwarming event for the entire family.


“We couldn’t be more thrilled to be able to bring A Christmas Story, the Musical to life on the Ordway stage. The script is funny, charming and stays true to the classic movie that everyone knows and loves,” said James A. Rocco, Ordway’s vice president of programming/producing artistic director. “Fans of the movie will recognize all their favorite scenes, including the pink bunny pajamas, the leg lamp award, Ralphie’s Wild West fantasy, and of course, the infamous tongue stuck to the flagpole moment. The story has become a part of American culture, and the stage version builds on that with amazing music and extravagant dance numbers.”


Directed and choreographed by award-winning duo James A. Rocco and Sharon Halley, this uproarious holiday musical features a book by Joseph Robinette based on the classic 1983 holiday film and the writings of Jean Shepherd. The show also features music and lyrics by Tony-nominated team Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, one of Broadway’s hottest young songwriting duos known for their work on James and the Giant Peach and the hit television show Smash.


The production’s creative team includes Jeff Rizzo (musical director), Raymond Berg (associate musical director), J Branson (scenic design), Wm. P. Healey (lighting design), Lynda L. Salsbury (costume design), Zach Williamson (sound design) and Robert A. Dunn (hair and make-up design).


A Christmas Story, the Musical opened on Broadway in November 2012, receiving three Tony Award nominations (Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical and Best Original Score). The show was also nominated for two Outer Critics Circle Awards and six Drama Desk Awards.


For tickets and more information, visit www.ordway.org.



The Ordway is widely recognized as one of the nation’s leading nonprofit performing arts centers and Saint Paul’s most elegant and inviting performance space. The Ordway’s Music Theater and soon-to-be completed Concert Hall attract diverse audiences with an array of productions showcasing the finest in American musical theater, world music, dance and vocal performance. Education and community engagement are integral to the Ordway’s mission, with major initiatives including the annual Flint Hills International Children’s Festival and Ordway Education programs that serve more than 50,000 students annually. The Ordway also sponsors the Saint Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists, a charter high school with a professionally guided academic and artistic environment that trains aspiring pre-professional performing artists. Together with the Minnesota Opera, The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and The Schubert Club, the Ordway is a member of the Arts Partnership and serves as the principal venue for their performances. For more information, visit www.ordway.org.





Production:                           A Christmas Story, the Musical


Based upon the motion picture, A Christmas Story (distributed by Warner Bros. and written by Jean Shepherd, Leigh Brown and Bob Clark) and upon In God We Trust; All Others Pay Cash (written by Jean Shepherd). Produced with permission of Warner Bros., Theatre Ventures and Dalphie Entertainment.


Dates:                                     Nov. 29 – Dec. 28, 2014


Times:                                    7:30 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 29 – Sunday, Nov. 30

Tuesday, Dec. 2 – Sunday, Dec. 7

Tuesday, Dec. 9 – Sunday, Dec. 14

Tuesday, Dec. 16 – Sunday, Dec. 21

Tuesday, Dec. 23

Friday, Dec. 26 – Sunday, Dec. 28


2:00 p.m.

Sunday, Nov. 30

Saturday, Dec. 6 – Sunday, Dec. 7

Saturday, Dec. 13 – Sunday, Dec. 14

Saturday, Dec. 20 – Sunday, Dec. 21

Tuesday, Dec. 23

Saturday, Dec. 27 – Sunday, Dec. 28


11:00 a.m.

Wednesday, Dec. 24


Accessible Performances

Thursday, Dec. 11, 7:30 p.m. (Open Captioned)

Saturday, Dec. 13, 2:00 p.m. (ASL/AD)


Piano music in the Marzitelli Foyer by Lori Dokken pre-show and during intermission for all performances


Theater Venue                       Ordway Center for the Performing Arts

& Location:                            345 Washington Street
Saint Paul, Minnesota 55102


Tickets:                                  www.ordway.org
Ticket Office: 651-224-4222
Groups: 651-282-3111


Price:                                      $36-$110, subject to change


Book:                                      Joseph Robinette


Music and Lyrics:                 Benj Pasek and Justin Paul


Direction and                        

Choreography:                      James A. Rocco and Sharon Halley


Musical Director:                  Jeff Rizzo


Associate Musical

Director:                                 Raymond Berg


Scenic Design:                      J Branson


Lighting Design:                   Wm. P. Healey


Costume Design:                  Lynda L. Salsbury


Sound Design:                      Zach Williamson


Hair and Make-Up Design:  Robert A. Dunn


Production Manager:           Andy Luft


Technical Director:               Jason Allyn-Schwerin


Casting Director:                  Reid Harmsen


Stage Manager:                     Sharon Bach


Animal Trainer:                     William Berloni


Cast:                                       Gary Briggle, Billie Wildrick, Jake Goodman, James Ciccarelle, Dieter Bierbrauer, Erin Schwab, Jack Ahern, Carter Bannwarth, Lisa Bartholemew-Given, Olivia Lyn Coon, Jennifer Eckes, Mario Esteb, Joshua Feldman, Larissa Gritti, Amasia Gordon, Michael Gruber, Reid Harmsen, Annie Hoffman, Lillie Horton, Olivia Huber, Sophia Huber, Suzie Juul, Nike Kadri, Gavin Kimmel, Brad Madison, Julianne Mundale, Hope Nordquist, Aja Parham, Kersten Rodau, Jack Romans, Randy Schmelling, Carl Schoenborn, Rudolph Searles III, Jay Soulen, Madeline Sundheim, Linda Talcott Lee, Brent Teclaw, Austene Van, Tony Vierling


Producer:                               Ordway Center for the Performing Arts


Media Contact:                      Jessica Petrie



Review of The Addams Family at AAAA

Did you know that the classic TV sitcom has been turned into a musical? Well, it has, and it’s terrific. The songs are filled with kookie lyrics. The kids are growing up. Fester is in love…with the moon. And, Wednesday is in love. Horrors! Imagine that moment when you and your sweetheart were getting serious and thought it would be a “good idea” to get the families together for a dinner. You know how you just want them to act like “normal” people…”For just two hours, could you act like a normal family?” plead the young lovers.


The cast and crew of the AAAA theatre in Alexandria, MN did a spectacular job with the quirky and well-loved show. You have the meshing of the mainstream with the macabre. You have the characters and their quirks, on both sides of the cemetery. And, you have the delight of watching them co-mingle, or not. I thought that director Ben Klipfel had a fantastic cast. Really. The actors fit into those classic roles so well. David Christman who played Gomez was particularly well cast. He never slipped out of character or lost that exotic “Spanish” accent.

If you’re in the Alexandra, MN area, or close enough for a lovely fall drive past rotting fields and cemeteries, venture out and take in a kookie and spookie show! I feel I have a better understanding of the Addams’ after watching this musical. Really! Here they are living life their own way, without apology. To read more of my review, go to my website Play off the Page.

You can find showtimes and ticket information at the AAAA website or AAAA facebook page. You will have a spooktacular experience! Or, read a little more from the AAAA website:

“Like the television series, there is a bit of innuendo,” Klipfel said, “but, there is something in it for everybody, and it’s not scary but rather super fun, and very fast moving.”

The Addams Family features a regional cast, including David Christma (Gomez), Kara Gerdes (Morticia), Mackenzie Webb (Wednesday), Brody Uhlenkamp (Pugsley), Kevin Lee (Uncle Fester), Lindsey Roers (Grandmama), Chuck Grussing (Lurch), Alex Shockley (Lucas Beineke), Bill Dietzler (Mal Beineke), and Becky Byrne (Alice Beineke).  The Addams Family Ancestors are played by Ahndree Brown, Alex Johnson, Carolyn Giannone, Trinessa Spanswick, Holly Wallerich, Cole Mercier, Adam Frankel and Pete Woit.

The production features an original story by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, with music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa.  The Addams Family is based on characters created by Charles Addams.  The production is directed by Benjamin Klipfel with vocal direction by Rachel Capistrant.  Lindsey Roers provided choreography. Quincy Roers designed the set and lighting, and Hilary Ninman designed the props.  Costume, hair and makeup design is by Deb Long with assistance from Jamie Sandberg.  Dedra Zweig is the music technician.  Ailee Velazquez is the stage manager, and Rexford Sweetwater is the assistant stage manager.  Eric DeLong and Scott Giannone are the running crew.

The Addams Family musical runs October 24, 25, 31, and November 1 at 7:30pm, with Sunday matinees at 2:00pm on October 26 and November 2.  Tickets are available now at the box office and can be purchased over the phone with a credit card (320-762-8300) or in person at 618 Broadway Street in Downtown Alexandria.  Tickets are $18 for adults, $16 for students and seniors.  There is a group rate of $13 for parties of 12 or more.

The Addams Family is sponsored by Integrity Title of Alexandria.

Review of The Foreigner at CLC

The Foreigner, playing now through Oct. 11, 2014, at Central Lakes College in Brainerd, MN, is a great comedy of excellent writing, set-up, and physical humor. Even the most novice cast will get laughs from the great lines and scenes that Larry Shue offers us in his play on words, cultures, miss understandings, and revealing of secrets. It’s one of my favorite plays. I’m sure I’ve seen it a half dozen times.

The Top Ten Things I Like about The Foreigner:
1. It’s a great set-up for a comedy: A guy enters a new environment. People believe he can’t understand them. They begin to reveal too much about themselves.
2. Sometimes, it’s just easier to let people believe what they think is true.
3. Knowing a secret puts you in a precarious situation.
4. It’s funny to watch how people treat someone when they think they’re superior and won’t get caught in their own ugliness.
5. That scene at the breakfast table with the language lesson and juice glass cracks me up, everytime!
6. Betty’s a hoot. (Bri Keran does a great job playing her.)
7. As an audience member, we are in on all the secrets and lies, and we feel all “in the know” because of it, which makes most of us giggle.
8. The actor who gets to play Charlie has an opportunity to really use his body, facial expressions, and use of made up words to tell the story. He is always delightful to watch. (Mitchell Dallman plays Charlie with great expression and timing.)
9. Watching The Foreigner is a lovely escape from reality on a cold, October night.
10. Live theatre truly builds community, whether you are creating the show on stage, behind the scenes, or sitting in the audience, you are part of a creative moment that gets people out of the house and experiencing something good together.

For tickets and showtimes, visit the Central Lakes College ticket page, or call their box office, 218-855-8199.

Go. Create. Inspire! (To read more of my reviews, visit my website Play off the Page.)

Some Highlights from the Ivey Awards In Minnesota

This press release was sent to me by Anne Ulseth, PR for the Illusion theater, and several others. We have developed a relationship as I am invited to view and review productions at numerous theatres throughout the metro. Thank you, Anne! You’re dong a fine job. It’s fun to see some of the actors and theatres that I’ve visited received awards for their outstanding work in the performing arts. To read my reviews, visit my website, Play off the Page. Go. Create. Inspire!
Illusion Theater’s Michael Robins and Bonnie Morris receive 
2014 Ivey Lifetime Achievement Award;
 Tyler Michaels recognized as Emerging Artist
Three productions and seven individuals/ensembles also honored
at September 22 celebration
(MINNEAPOLIS; September 23, 2014) — For the first time in the Iveys’ 10-year history, two people will share the Lifetime Achievement Award. Michael Robins and Bonnie Morris, co-producing directors of Illusion Theater, were honored at the celebration of Twin Cities theater on September 22 at the Historic State Theatre in downtown Minneapolis. Versatile actor-singer-dancer-improviser Tyler Michaels received the Emerging Artist Award.
The 10th Anniversary Ivey Awards attracted a sold out audience to the show designed to recognize and showcase the work of professional metro-wide theater companies and artists over the past year.
Based on evaluations completed by the more than 150 volunteer theater evaluators who saw more than 1,000 performances created by 66 professional theaters in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area from September 2013 through August 2014, three productions and seven individuals/ensembles were also recognized with 2014 Iveys:
Productions Recognized
Cabaret (Theater Latté Da & Hennepin Theatre Trust) – Overall Excellence
Ordinary Days (Nautilus Music-Theater) – Overall Excellence
Rose (Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company) – Intellect and Emotional Intensity
Individual Recognition
Sally Wingert – Actor: Rose (Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company), The Receptionist  (Dark & Stormy Productions), Cabaret (Theater Latté Da), Tribes (Guthrie Theater)
Ensemble – Actors: Driving Miss Daisy (Jungle Theater)
Nathan Cousins & Tristan Tifft – Actors: The 39 Steps (Yellow Tree Theatre)
Anne Byrd – Director: The 39 Steps (Yellow Tree Theatre)
Seraphina Nova – Playwright: Dogwood (Candid Theater Company)
Eduardo Sicangco – Set Design & Costumes: Cinderella (Children’s Theatre Company)
Sandra Spieler & Julie Boada – Properties Design: Between the Worlds (In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre)
MICHAEL ROBINS (Lifetime Achievement Award) founded Illusion Theater in 1974. Over the past 40 years, he has guided several hundred plays to production. Robins directs the inimitable Miss Richfield 1981 in her annual holiday show at the Illusion, has directed Allison Moore’s adaptation of Willa Cather’s My Antonia, several of Jeffrey Hatcher’s plays, Caryl Churchill’s A Number, James Still’s Iron KissesThe Velvet Rut and I Love to Eat, and Bill W. & Dr. Bob by Stephen Bergman & Janet Surrey, among others. He directed Illusion’s searing production of The Laramie Project and the Midwest premiere of the Kirsten Childs’ groundbreaking musical The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin. Along with Bonnie Morris, Robins was one of the team members who created Illusion’s Peer Education/Prevention program in 1977, starting with the original groundbreaking work on child sexual abuse prevention, the award-winning play and video Touch, a collaboration with the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office.
BONNIE MORRIS (Lifetime Achievement Award) has been a part of Illusion Theater’s remarkable 40-year history as an actor, writer, educator and producer. Morris is passionate about new work and new artists. She co-authored all of Illusion’s educational plays, including Touch, For Our Daughters, Like Waters Rolling Down, No Laughing Matter, Clear the Air, and Ready Set Action.
Together, Robins and Morris have programmed innovative work since the company’s inception in 1974, from Orlando, Orlando at the Walker Art Center to works by Spaulding Gray, Ping Chong and Karen Finley. Well-regarded new work showcases include the annual Fresh Ink series, which marks 28 years in 2015, and Lights Up!, which soon will celebrate its 10th anniversary.
In its 40 years, Illusion Theater has commissioned or developed more than 350 original mainstage plays that have been seen by more than one million people and have been staged by more than 40 theaters across the US, including major regional theaters such as the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles, Goodman Theater in Chicago and Manhattan Theater Club. Illusion productions have received Ivey Awards, two plays have been made into motion pictures (Miss Evers’ Boys and The Velocity of Gary), and 10 have been published. One was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize (Miss Evers’ Boys) and two plays have been finalists for the American Critics Association Best New Play (Autistic License and Sez She).
TYLER MICHAELS (Emerging Artist Award) was born and raised in Bloomington, Minn., and graduated from Minnesota State University Moorhead (MSUM) with a BA in Theatre Arts with an emphasis in Acting, Directing, and Musical Theater. While studying at MSUM, he competed for the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival’s Irene Ryan acting scholarship. Upon receiving the scholarship, Tyler traveled to the Kennedy Center to claim the Mark Twain Comedic Performance Award as well as a scholarship to study at Dell’Arte School of Physical Theatre.
Since moving back to the Twin Cities in January 2011, Michaels has worked with the Guthrie Theater, Flying Foot Forum, Theatre Latté Da, Chanhassen Dinner Theaters, 7th House Theater Collective, Actors Theater of Minnesota, Circa Productions, NUTS ltd, Newton Theater, Minneapolis Musical Theatre, HUGE Theater, Got It Made Productions, Studio206 and Bloomington Civic Theatre. He is also part of Bearded Men Improv, a long-form experimental improv troupe, performing at HUGE Improv Theater as well as all over the country during various comedy festivals and tours.
About the Iveys
The Iveys are unique among awards events in the country in that they are open to the public and that there are no nominees, set number of awards or pre-determined award categories, with the exception of the Lifetime Achievement and the Emerging Artist Awards. The artists and organizations receiving special recognition are selected from evaluations completed by the general public and the volunteer theater evaluators. Each participating theater receives a vote to determine the Lifetime Achievement and Emerging Artist Awards.
The 10th Anniversary Ivey Awards are presented with the generous support of Carousel Motor Group, BMW of Minnetonka, Porsche of Minneapolis, Porsche of St. Paul, Mercedes Benz of Maplewood, Audi Minneapolis, Audi St. Paul, Target, Best Buy, IATSE, Actors’ Equity Association, Trinchero Family Estates Winery, McKnight Foundation, J.P. Morgan, Dorsey Whitney, Robins Kaplan, martinpatrick3, Spyglass Creative, Risdall Marketing Agency, City Pages, The Hotel Ivy, Solera Restaurant, Summit Brewing Company, Cities 97, Mpls/St. Paul Magazine, MINQ, Clear Channel Outdoor, Palisades Asset Management Company, Thomson Reuters, Disciplined Growth Investors, Western Bank, My Sister, Inc., and UBS.

Review of Busy Town at the Children’s Theatre in Minneapolis

This production of Busy Town, the Musical was adapted for the stage by Kevin Kling, music and lyrics by Kevin Kling and Michael Koerner, directed by Sean Graney, and choreographed by Tommy Rapley. The music is jazzy and bouncy and causes some definite seat wiggling. I’m still humming Busy town, da-da, da da da, de dum. Busy Town, mm. hmm. Add a little bepoppin’ around the stage and you can’t help tapping at least a toe! You can listen to some of the songs at the Children’s Theatre website. (They include the song “Pickle Car.” If you’re having a traffic moment, dial this one up. It’s bound to make you smile, if not make the other non-pickle cars move faster.) Victor Zupanc is a master musician who is truly part of the production in the pit with his floppy ears hat and subtle interaction with the actors and story.

Pickle Car! Kasono Mwanza, Reed Sigmund
Photo by Dan Norman, production at The Children’s Theatre Company, Minneapolis, MN

Busy Town is appealing to kids from preschool through early elementary school, and for any older audience member who likes happy, bouncy musicals with great jazzy music, choreography, enthusiastic actors, and gorgeous staging. The Children’s Theatre always gives the audience surprises that delight kids young and old! Visit the Children’s Theatre website for tickets and showtimes. Up next at The Children’s Theatre is Seedfolk and Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! 

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

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!