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!

Review of The Color Purple musical at Park Square Theatre

Quote of the Day:  I am an expression of the divine, just like a peach is, just like a fish is. I have a right to be this way…I can’t apologize for that, nor can I change it, nor do I want to…We will never have to be other than who we are in order to be successful. We realize that we are as ourselves unlimited and our experiences valid. It is for the rest of the world to recognize this, if they choose. 

The Color Purple starring Aimee K. Bryant as Celie, Parke Square Theatre, photos by Petronella J. Ytsma

The Color Purple starring Aimee K. Bryant as Celie, Parke Square Theatre, photos by Petronella J. Ytsma

The novel The Color Purple by Alice Walker has been adapted for the stage as a musical by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis, and Stephen Bray, book by Marsha Norman. It first appeared on Broadway in 2005. You can now see it performed live at the Park Square Theatre in St. Paul, MN through Feb.15, 2015. The book itself is one that sticks with you, the characters, the story, the images and descriptions. It changed the way I saw the world, including God, men, women, history, who we are and where we came from, and how to persevere. With the addition of music, dance, and superb acting, this show is sure to awaken something inside of you, too.

The Color Purple at Park Square Theatre, Regina Marie Williams is Shug Avery. Photos by Petronella J. Ytsma

The Color Purple at Park Square Theatre, Regina Marie Williams is Shug Avery.
Photos by Petronella J. Ytsma

Aimee K. Bryant who plays the main character Celie must explore an enormous range of emotions, and age, for this role. The story plays out through the life of Celie, from age 14, when she’s giving birth to her second child, to her mature years where she has finally found her own voice and beauty. Wow. Aimee K. Bryant was so convincing, I forgot she was an actor. I believed every emotion, every word. I ached for her and cringed as the abuses were heaped on her. I cheered when she found someone to admire, and my heart soared when she stood right in front of me and sang out, “I’m beautiful, and I’m here.”

The Color Purple at Park Square Theatre. Photos by Petronella J. Ytsma

The Color Purple at Park Square Theatre.
Photos by Petronella J. Ytsma

“I think us here to wonder, myself. To wonder. To ask. And that in wondering bout the big things and asking bout the big things, you learn about the little ones, almost by accident. But you never know nothing more about the big things than you start out with. The more I wonder, the more I love.”
― Alice WalkerThe Color Purple

Regina Marie Williams as Shug Avery, Aimee K. Bryant as Celie. The Color Purple at Park Square Theatre. Photos by Petronella J. Ytsma

Regina Marie Williams as Shug Avery, Aimee K. Bryant as Celie. The Color Purple at Park Square Theatre.
Photos by Petronella J. Ytsma

The Color Purple is the show to see this season in the twin cities. If you have only a few spare evenings or dollars, use them to see The Color Purple. If you have more time and money, buy tickets for all your family and friends, and go to the show as many times as you can before it closes on Feb. 15, 2015. This is a heavy story. I remember reading the book and feeling such strong emotions: fear, worry, anger, love, redemption, the power of forgiveness. I dreaded reading more about the abuses. I was a little apprehensive about how they might portray all of this on the stage. The cast and crew of The Color Purple handled this difficult subject matter remarkably well. We knew just enough about the abuses to understand the fear and emotions and the story line. They included humor, music, and both lovable and hateful characters. “The Church Ladies” are a hoot, and their songs are delicious.You root for Celie from the opening scene. The music and dancing are marvelous. I would go again just to experience that. I was hoping that they’d be selling the CD on my way out the door.

Regina Marie Williams is Shug Avery, and Aimee K. Bryant is Celie in Park Square's production of The Color Purple. Photos by Petronella J. Ytsma

Regina Marie Williams is Shug Avery, and Aimee K. Bryant is Celie in Park Square’s production of The Color Purple.
Photos by Petronella J. Ytsma

Experiencing a story like The Color Purple changes how you view the world, what you will accept, and what you won’t. You see things in a new light, and perhaps it comes in shades of purple. You begin to realize that despite the ugliness of the world, and the darkness in men’s hearts, there is beauty all around us.

Everyone of the cast members did an outstanding job. I was particularly drawn to Aimee K. Bryant, of course, as Celie, and Regina Marie Williams as Shug Avery, who reminded me a little of Whitney Houston, especially in the bathtub scene. Thomasina Petrus plays a spectacular Sofia. Celie, and we, learn to be a strong woman from her words and actions. I think every girl should learn the song, “Hell No!” Mmm hmmn. I even gave a little shout out after that number (and, I’m from stoic Norwegian heritage). Oh, ya, I was tappin’ my toes, hummin’ quietly, and wantin’ to practice my shimmy as I watched this performance!

 

Thomasina Petrus, Sofia, leading the women in a heart pounding chorus of "Hell No!" during Park Square's performance of "The Color Purple." Photos by Petronella J. Ytsma

Thomasina Petrus, Sofia, leading the women in a heart pounding chorus of “Hell No!” during Park Square’s performance of “The Color Purple.”
Photos by Petronella J. Ytsma

Have I convinced you, yet, that The Color Purple is the show to see this season?! Wherever you are in the world, I hope that you have the chance to see this powerful story come to life. Read the book. Then, beg your theatres to produce this musical! Maybe you, like Celie, will see the world in a new color, not just black and white, but many shades of purple.

The Color Purple at Park Square Theatre in St. Paul, MN. Photos by Petronella J. Ytsma

The Color Purple at Park Square Theatre in St. Paul, MN.
Photos by Petronella J. Ytsma

 

THE COLOR PURPLE

Previews: January 16 – 22, 2015

Regular Run: January 23 – February 15, 2015

Based upon the novel written by ALICE WALKER and the Warner Bros./

Amblin Entertainment Motion Picture; Book by MARSHA NORMAN

Music and Lyrics by BRENDA RUSSELL, ALLEE WILLIS and STEPHEN BRAY

Directed and Choreographed by LEWIS WHITLOCK III

Musical Direction by REV. CARL WALKER

First local Twin Cities Production featuring a live orchestra of 20 and some of the finest talent in the Twin Cities!

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

 

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt:  Who or what empowers you to be your authentic self and believe you are beautiful?

Review of Snowflake at The Children’s Theatre in Minneapolis

Quote of the Day:  Gale LaJoye is a master storyteller in the tradition of Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin, legends of the silent film era who could make us laugh, cry, and keep us at the edge of our seats without uttering a single word. Peter Brosius, Artistic Director at The Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis, MN.

Snowflake lives in what appears to be an abandoned lot, full of trash and broken and discarded objects. He, himself, seems to be abandoned, broken and discarded, and yet, he finds ways to create joy and companionship. A crutch in a box and a coat become a “coat friend” who takes care of him, washing his face, combing his hair, giving him a hug when he’s sad. He turns an old suitcase into a dog and a thrown out puppet into a boy, then, he spends the time trying to cheer up his “boy.” You feel his longing for family and his need for companionship, and a bit of cheer of his own.

Actor Gale LaJoye moves with grace and style. His training as a clown is apparent, and his balance is amazing. He can even do ballet on skis! It was breathtaking.dress

Snowflake is a show that is full of surprises. What will Snowflake do with this bit of trash that just flew over the fence? How will he cheer up his little companion? How on earth can he balance on those skis, on a skateboard, on his toes, pirouetting?

 

onskis

With the help of sound effects, music, even a few magic tricks, LaJoye keeps us watching his every move. And, according to the press release, this man was once paralyzed. How does he do it?

Snowflake is a quiet and gentle show, appropriate for any age. LaJoye captures your attention and sparks your imagination. As you watch, you understand that the need for connection, to be part of a family, is at the heart of most people. He does what he can with what he’s given, and it is beautiful. The show is maybe a bit long and quiet for the youngest audience members. They might enjoy The Biggest Little House in the Forest a bit more, performed by the extremely talented Autumn Ness. They did this show two years ago, and you can read my review of this delightful puppet show on my website Play off the Page.

Snowflake is playing at The Children’s Theatre in Minneapolis, Jan. 13 – Feb. 22, 2015. The Biggest Little House in the Forest is playing Feb. 3 – March 15, 2015.

ride

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt:  Can you do ballet? Can you ski? Can you do ballet on skis? What’s the most amazing thing that you can do?


Review of Gertrude Stein and a Companion at the Jungle Theater

From the press release from The Jungle Theater (it really is the best description).

To celebrate 25 years of great theater, the Jungle remounts GERTRUDE STEIN AND A COMPANION, starring two of the Twin Cities most extraordinary actors, Claudia Wilkens and Barbara Kingsley. Directed by Bain Boehlke, this will be the Jungle’s eighth production of the imaginative play by Win Wells, opening the season on January 23. This rich and popular production will be on stage at the Jungle, 2951 Lyndale Av. S. in Minneapolis, through March 8, 2015. In Gertrude Stein and a Companion, Playwright Win Wells captures not only the veritable essence of this famous relationship, but also the magic years when a host of famous people including Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway and Henri Matisse graced the writer’s salon. The compelling drama, spanning the decades between the early 1900s to the 1960s, poignantly portrays the genesis and development of Stein and Toklas’ 40-year bond.

Using text from Stein’s writings, letters and interviews, Wells is able to gradually reveal the inner workings of their relationship. The Jungle first staged Gertrude Stein and a Companion in 1992 at the “old” Lyndale Avenue theater. That production also starred Wilkens and Kingsley, who have been in all subsequent shows. A second staging was part of the Jungle’s 1994-95 season. The production went on to be presented at the Ordway’s McKnight Theater, at the Minneapolis Theater Garage and on tour in the Midwest and West Coast. It was last presented in 2001 at the current Jungle space. “This production is a perfect example of the Jungle’s repertory initiative. Many of the theater’s most celebrated productions – I Am My Own Wife, The Syringa Tree, Shirley Valentine, A Life in the Theater, The Gin Game – can be reprised time and again since the actors and designers all live in the Twin Cities,” says Boehlke. “I love it that a young woman in her 20s who saw the play in the early 90s can now see it again with her 20-year old daughter. It’s like sharing living memories.”

Gertrude Stein and a Companion at The Jungle Theater. Photo by Michal Daniel

Gertrude Stein and a Companion at The Jungle Theater. Photo by Michal Daniel

Indeed, watching a live production with someone is like “watching a living memory” and also making memories together. There is something about that shared experience that is unique to attending theatre. Go, with a companion. This play is for anyone who has ever longed for that one true companion who is always her champion. Alice loves Gertrude unconditionally. Even after her death, she is living out Gertrude’s legacy, making sure her works get published. “It’s easy,” she says, “You write the book. You get it published. You sell a few copies.” Those of us in the writing business know the truth of that. In fact, Gertrude says, “She didn’t know anything about publishing, but did it anyway.” With one of Gertrude’s many paintings from the greats like Picasso and Cezanne, tucked under her arm, Alice set out to make it happen. I couldn’t help but think about my own dear friend who wants nothing but the best for me, the one I could call at any time for a pep talk. I believe that is whyGertrude Stein and a Companion is so popular. They had the kind of relationship that we all long for, and watching them, we have hope that we can have that, too.

The creative team features Artistic Director Boehlke (director and set designer), Barry Browning (lighting designer), Amelia Cheever (costume designer), Bill Healey (lighting designer), Sean Healey (sound designer), John Novak (properties designer) and John Stillwell (technical director). Performances of Gertrude Stein and a Companion are Tuesdays ($25), Wednesdays ($33) and Thursdays ($38) at 7:30 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. ($43); Sundays at 2 p.m. ($38); and Sundays at 7:30 p.m. ($33). Senior, student and group discounts are also available, and rush tickets are available every night of the week 30 minutes prior to the performance for $10 off the regular price. Tickets are available at (612) 822-7063 or online atwww.jungletheater.com.

One more note: The Jungle Theater is in a hip and happening part of Minneapolis. The theater itself is gorgeous, all decked out and ready to greet you. I went with a friend and we had a lovely time.

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt:  Do you have that one true companion? Who is it? Let her know. If not, keep searching, it can happen for you, too.

The Color Purple Coming to Park Square Theatre in St. Paul

The Color Purple, playing at Park Square Theatre in St. Paul, MN. Photo by: Petronella J. Ytsma

I am excited to announce, and help promote, an upcoming production of The Color Purple at Park Square Theatre in St. Paul, MN. I read the book by Alice Walker when I was in my 20’s and it is a story that changed my thinking about many things, including God, and has stuck with me all these years. I have not watched the movie, starring Oprah Winfrey, however. The story is filled with heartache, separation, fear, abuse, soul-searching, relationships, hope, and reconciliation. It is a powerful story. It was set to music and stage in a musical version in 2005. Now, you can watch it unfold at Park Square Theatre in St. Paul, MN. Here is the blurb:

Join us for this celebration of life, resilience and love. All her life, “Po’ chile” Celie has known only hardship and cruelty. She is married off at the age of 14 to a callous local farmer and her sole joy in the world is the letters she receives from her missionary sister Nettie. But when sassy nightclub singer Shug Avery comes to town, Celie’s awakening – emotional and otherwise – promises to lead her to healing and joy. With a jubilant score of roof-raising gospel, jazz and throaty blues,The Color Purple is the tale of an everywoman triumphing over adversity, and a testament to the power of hope.

Why go?  To join a celebration of the spirit — with the best talent in town just a few feet away.
Who Should you bring? Someone who appreciates a powerful story and uplifting music.

tpt-color-purple-3491-cropped

THE COLOR PURPLE

Previews: January 16 – 22, 2015

Regular Run: January 23 – February 15, 2015

Based upon the novel written by ALICE WALKER and the Warner Bros./

Amblin Entertainment Motion Picture; Book by MARSHA NORMAN

Music and Lyrics by BRENDA RUSSELL, ALLEE WILLIS and STEPHEN BRAY

Directed and Choreographed by LEWIS WHITLOCK III

Musical Direction by REV. CARL WALKER

First local Twin Cities Production featuring a live orchestra of 20 and some of the finest talent in the Twin Cities!

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

I’ll be in the audience next weekend. I hope you’ll find your way there, too! Come back for the review!

color-purple-7736

Ticket Giveaway for “Snowflake” at The Children’s Theatre in Minnapolis

I am excited to be able to offer a Family Four Pack of tickets for “Snowflake” at the Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis, MN. The package is a voucher for four tickets for a performance of “Snowflake,” that the family can choose. This is a great option for my readers who don’t live in the metro. Please leave a comment below, on my website Play off the Page, or on my Facebook page for Play off the Page, to be entered into a drawing for the tickets. Deadline is midnight Saturday, January 17, 2015. I will draw and announce the winner on my blog on Sunday, January 18, 2015. “Snowflake” will play at The Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis from January 13 – February 22, 2015. I have included production photos and the press release in this post. Thanks! I look forward to viewing and reviewing this production at the end of this week.

"Snowflake" production photos, courtesy The Children's Theatre Company

“Snowflake” production photos, courtesy The Children’s Theatre Company

25th Anniversary of the Inventive, Tender and Highly Celebrated Performance of Snowflake
Comes to Children’s Theatre Company

MINNEAPOLIS—Children’s Theatre Company (CTC) presents Snowflake, celebrating its 25th Anniversary with a run at CTC, where it was created by master storyteller, Gale LaJoye. Hailed by critics and audiences worldwide as “a must see,” Snowflake opened at the Southern Theater in 1990 and has since toured to Canada, Mexico, Australia, Hong Kong, Scotland, and to 300 cities in Japan.Snowflake runs from January 13 through February 22 on the UnitedHealth Group Stage.

dollSnowflake is a wordless play that uses artful physical humor to tell the story of Snowflake, a goofy, sweet and slightly mad genius who sees renewed life in discarded objects – turning an old box fan into a boomerang and an old suitcase into a friendly dog, revealing the magical world around us waiting to be rediscovered through imagination.
The show began in CTC’s shop in 1989 as a collaboration between Gale LaJoye, Steve Unger, Tom Anderson, and CTC’s Music Director Victor Zupanc. Previous to creating Snowflake, LaJoye performed with the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus and after four years, earned one of the highest honors in the circus tradition of ‘Boss Clown.’ To much surprise of those who see him perform today, LaJoye was
paralyzed in 1979 from a car accident and was told he would never walk again. Driven to be a performer, he rebuilt his body and embarked on creating the now acclaimed snowflake_suitcase_lSnowflake.
“The inspiration for this show came from a man in my hometown affectionately known as Snowflake,” reflects LaJoye. “A simple man of few words, Snowflake radiated decency, kindness and hope. He was – as each snowflake is – like no other. Snowflake was special in the way he celebrated his life – a life many others feared or pitied.”
“Gale LaJoye is a master storyteller in the tradition of Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin,” says CTC Artistic Director Peter C. Brosius. “He can make you laugh, cry and be surprised without uttering a single word. One of the qualities that makes Snowflake so engaging is how it speaks to the human heart in the universal language of gesture, humor, and play. Every one of us possesses a playful, inventive spirit honed in our
childhood that may fade as we grow older but never truly goes away.”

skis
The production is sponsored by Microsoft and Arts Midwest. More about the production can be found at
www.LaJoye.com.

BOX OFFICE: (612) 874-0400
childrenstheatre.org
2400 Third Ave S, Minneapolis

BOX OFFICE:
(612) 874-0400 or www.childrenstheatre.org

Subscriptions:
Three-play A packages for children ages 2-7 start at $42
Three-play B packages for children 8 and up start at $50
Performance Dates
Tuesday, Jan 13 7pm (preview)
Wednesday, Jan 14 7pm (preview)
Thursday, Jan 15 7pm (preview)
Friday, Jan 16 7pm (opening night)
Saturday, Jan 17 2pm & 5pm
Sunday, Jan 18 2pm & 5pm
Thursday, Jan 22 7pm
Friday, Jan 23 7pm
Saturday, Jan 24 11am & 2pm
Sunday, Jan 25 2pm & 5pm
Sunday, Feb 1 2pm & 5pm
Thursday, Feb 5 7pm
Friday, Feb 6 7pm (AD performance)
Saturday, Feb 7 2pm & 5pm
Sunday, Feb 8 2pm & 5pm
Wednesday, Feb 11 7pm
Friday, Feb 13 7pm
Saturday, Feb 14 11am & 2pm
Sunday, Feb 15 2pm & 5pm
Wednesday, Feb 18 7pm
Friday, Feb 20 7pm (Sensory Friendly performance)
Saturday, Feb 21 11am & 2pm
Sunday, Feb 22 2pm & 5pm

Word for the Year 2015

Have you ever chosen a word for the year? Many people do New Year’s Resolutions, which typically turn into regrets. Some people set goals. It’s a way to assess your accomplishments for a year. I learned about choosing a word for the year from other bloggers (including Roxane Salonen who is also a blogger on Area Voices) and have been doing so for a number of years, now. Last year, I had two words, “Prosper” and “Fun.” I feel that I experienced both. This year, the word that is calling to me is “Create.” My signature send-off when I blog here and on my home site Play off the Page is “Go. Create. Inspire!” Last year, I experienced quite a bit of get up and GO, as I lived out my words “Prosper and Fun.” 

I was feeling the strength of this word as I cast off the stitches on my latest knitting project. When you cast off, you free yourself, along with your needles, to start something new. The call to create comes in many forms, in knitting projects, learning a new skill or art form, making or building something, writing. I also bought a book called “Fearless Drawing” along with some art supplies and a shiny new journal. I am working on another play which I plan to share with my community this year. I work with kids in my piano studio and through theatre classes. I am excited to see what they create as I guide them through the lessons and activities. 

As you look ahead to a new year, what words are calling to you? Do you have a word or phrase that motivates you? Are you wishing to do more creative work? You can read more about my word for the year on my writer’s blog. Also, this week was the posting for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. You can read about that on my blog, on the founder’s blog, Alex J. Cavanaugh, or on their website. It’s a terrific group that offers support for people in their creative endeavors, especially in writing.

Casting off the old to make room for starting something new.

Casting off the old to make room for starting something new.

Go. CREATE. Inspire!

Christmas Carolers for Stage North’s A Christmas Carol

Quote of the Day: Here we come a-caroling among the leaves so green. Here we come a wandering, so fair to be seen. Love and joy come to you and to you glad Christmas too. And, God bless you and send you a happy new year!

The Christmas Carolers, looking all "sugar and spice and everything nice" as we warm up for our opening night performance with Stage North's A Christmas Carol

The Christmas Carolers, looking all “sugar and spice and everything nice” as we warm up for our opening night performance with Stage North’s A Christmas Carol.

Here's Joy doing her Maria von Trapp impression as she warms up the Christmas Carolers.

Here’s Brainerd area Voice Teacher Joy Ciaffoni doing her Maria von Trapp impression as she warms up the Christmas Carolers.

My sister Joy and I are directing the children’s choir for a local production of “A Christmas Carol.” Stage North is a brand new theatre company, started by Gary Hirsch and Kevin Yeager. They invited us to lead the music in their debut production, and we’re having a ball working with these girls. They are fun-loving, energetic, creative, kind, and talented. We have a few songs where they can let their personalities shine. For “Some Things for Christmas” and “Nuttin’ for Christmas” many of them wrote their own lyrics. We are the pre-show music, entertainment at intermission, and come in for the final number “We wish you a Merry Christmas” and curtain call. I think they’re having fun and getting some good performance experience as well.

During the down time, the entire first act and most of the second act, we hang out in our own space, the old cafeteria. The theatre is located in the former Franklin Junior High School. I brought in three of my theatre boxes and a bag of props for each group. They are in three rows for the performance, and that is their group. They are making up their own plays, inventing games, interacting with each other, making friends, and watching the performance via a dropcam on my laptop. To read more about our antics behind the scenes, go to my website Play off the Page. To see more photos, go to my Play off the Page Facebook page.

If you’re in the area, we perform Friday at 7:30, Saturday at 2:00 and 7:30, and Sunday at 2:00 and 7:30. Call 218-232-6810 for tickets.

 

American Composers Forum Seeks Participants for National Composer Night Out

This is a special press release post for composers and musicians who would like to participate in National Composer Night Out  in May, 2015. I’m including the info that Danielle Cristal sent me on the event with links to apply on their website.

American Composers Forum Seeks Participants for National Composer Night Out Applications Available Now to Participate in National Celebration of New Music

Saint Paul, Minn., Nov. 17, 2014 – Beginning today, composers and community groups can apply to participate in American Composers Forum’s (ACF) National Composer Night Out, a campaign designed to connect composers and communities throughout the United States physically and virtually in a tapestry of new music events. National Composer Night Out, in honor of ACF’s 40th Anniversary, will take place on Thurs., May 14, 2015.

American Composers Forum invites composers, performers, producers and new music fans to participate in National Composer Night Out (NCNO) in two ways: host an event of their choosing in their community and/or submit an audio file with a short sound bite of a new musical piece. The application deadline to host an event is Jan. 9, 2015, and the deadline to submit a sound bite is May 1, 2015. Submissions are accepted via the National Composer Night Out webpage.

National Composer Night Out will have events ranging from professional composers conducting concerts to small gatherings of new music lovers. Spearheaded by ACF, a national organization located in St. Paul that nurtures the creative spirit of and provides opportunities to composers, all NCNO events will take place on the same evening as part of a nationwide initiative.

Also to mark ACF’s 40th Anniversary, a local celebration will take place in St. Paul on May 14, 2015. During the event, participants who submitted sound bites will have their names, sounds and images seen and heard via video projection at the party and will also be shared widely on social media.

“We’re expecting composers and communities nationwide to participate and celebrate National Composer Night Out in honor of our 40th Anniversary,” said John Nuechterlein, president and CEO of American Composers Forum. “After 40 years, America Composers Forum is now, more than ever, providing, nurturing and fostering the creation of new music and the people who create it.”

One of the nation’s premier composer service organizations, the Forum provides composers at all stages of their careers with valuable resources for professional and artistic development. ACF’s 1,800 members include composers and performers, presenters and organizations that share the Forum’s goals, and individuals and institutions with an interest in supporting new music.

Applications are now available online for American Composer Forum’s National Composer Night Out. The NCNO campaign is designed to celebrate ACF’s 40th Anniversary, while raising awareness and fostering a sense of community nationwide for composers and others who create new music. For more information about how to participate, visit the National Composer Night Out page on the American Composer Forum’s website.

About American Composers Forum

The American Composers Forum enriches lives by nurturing the creative spirit of composers and communities. ACF provides new opportunities for composers and their music to flourish, and engage communities in the creation, performance and enjoyment of new music. With a national presence, the Forum fosters the demand for new music and helps develop the next generation of composers, musicians, and music patrons. For more information, visit composersforum.org.

Review of A Christmas Story, the Musical at The Ordway in St. Paul, MN

Quote of the Day:  Either no one will go see this show, or millions of people will. said famous movie reviewers Siskel and Ebert when they first saw the movie A Christmas Story back in 1983. Roger Ebert says, “It’s Norman Rockwell meets Mad Magazine or The National Lampoon…Jean Shepard has a bite to him.” They talk about what makes this show so great, the true emotion that comes from those moments in childhood, the longing for a special gift, despite all the grown-ups saying, “You’ll shoot your eye out!” The brother who won’t eat. The mother who stretches her resources and imagination to get that child to eat, not use cuss words, or dress warm for winter! It is a slice of American life, the regular folks who go about their business, day by day, avoiding the neighborhood dogs and feeling on top of the world for winning a ridiculous leg lamp in a soda pop contest. (You can read more original reviews of the movie, see the review clip from Siskel and Ebert, and learn more fun facts about the show at A Christmas Story House website.)

Jake Goodman in A Christmas Story, the Musical. Photo by Christian Brown

Jake Goodman in A Christmas Story, the Musical. Photo by Christian Brown

A Christmas Story, the Musical sings with warmth, humor, and nostalgia at The Ordway in St. Paul. When you see a beloved movie come to life on stage, you want it to look and feel the way you remember when you watched the movie. And, this production does it. The addition of singing, dancing, and witty lines and choreography add to the experience. My favorite was the leg lamp dance. Oh, my! All the of children singing, dancing, and acting were marvelous. A standing ovation goes to young Jake Goodman who played Ralphie to a T. A capital T which stands for TERRIFIC! Really, he was the Ralphie you’d imagine with his own great talent and spark. All the parts were so well cast. I also loved Miss Shields, a hoot with larger than life personality.

Dieter Bierbrauer and cast in A Christmas Story, the Musical. Photo by Christian Brown

Dieter Bierbrauer and cast in A Christmas Story, the Musical. Photo by Christian Brown

If you want a fun, family night out with a holiday theme, go to A Christmas Story, the Musical at The Ordway in St. Paul, MN. Before the show, you can walk through Rice Park which is all lit up with holiday lights, including a blue tree! So gorgeous. The lobby is decorated in a vintage style to compliment the show, and when we were there, Lori Dokken played jazzy holiday tunes on the grand piano while people sipped drinks and took photos. Kids of all ages were there, some singing along to the music, many laughing and enjoying time together. This really is a terrific show that leaves you with a bounce in your step and a song in your heart. Playing now through December 28, 2014.

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

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt:  What was on the top of your wish list when you were a child? What are some of your holiday memories?

Review of The Cocktail Hour at The Guthrie Theater

Quote of the Day:  Watching this show makes me feel better about my own family, said a fellow audience member during intermission of The Cocktail Hour, playing now at The Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, MN through January 4, 2015. And, yes, you might feel a connection to your own family’s cocktail hour, dynamics, and interactions, for better or worse. It’s all relative.

Peter Thomson (Bradley), Kandis Chappell (Ann) and Rod Brogan (John) in the Guthrie Theater's production of The Cocktail Hour, by A.R. Gurney, directed by Maria Aitken with set design by James Youmans, costume design by Robert Morgan and lighting design by Philip S. Rosenberg. November 22, 2014 - January 4, 2015 on the McGuire Proscenium Stage at the Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis. Photo by Heidi Bohnenkamp.

Peter Thomson (Bradley), Kandis Chappell (Ann) and Rod Brogan (John) in the Guthrie Theater’s production of The Cocktail Hour, by A.R. Gurney, directed by Maria Aitken with set design by James Youmans, costume design by Robert Morgan and lighting design by Philip S. Rosenberg. November 22, 2014 – January 4, 2015 on the McGuire Proscenium Stage at the Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis. Photo by Heidi Bohnenkamp.

This is a nice shot of the set for The Cocktail Hour, by playwright A. R. Gurney, set by James Youmans. A woman who sat down behind me remarked, “Oh, I love plays with settings like this.” I thought, hmm, what are “those plays?” They are the ones where you sit in the audience and feel like you’ve been invited into someone’s living room. You half expect the hosts to turn to you and ask, “What would you like to drink?” (The Chef and I came in with our own cocktails in honor of the show’s title. Drinks are allowed in the theaters at the Guthrie.) We quickly find ourselves listening in on the private conversations of the family. Do you see the red book on the coffee table? It’s John’s new play script. Mm hmm. He’s come home to get his parents’ approval to have it produced. Although the names are change, it is a representation of their own family, it’s private and not so private interactions. The set-up is great, because you have Mom and Dad, older and uncomfortable with their playwright son who might expose too much. You have the favored older brother, who is in the play by name and admiration only. And, you have the dramatic sister who feels that she should have played a more prominent role in the script, and family, instead of always being the supportive cast member. (You will note that in the above picture, she is not included.) The audience burst out in laughter during many of the scenes. They were especially loud when Mom and Dad talk over each other and the kids look on, shaking their heads. We cringe a little as John has those intimate scenes with Mom and Dad, trying to extract the truth behind their behavior. They discuss the difference between T.S. Eliot’s play The Cocktail Party and John’s script The Cocktail Hour. “They’ll get them confused,” they say. No, they’re different. A cocktail party is social. Cocktail Hour is for the family. Ah.

The Cocktail Hour is for anyone who has ever been in a family and wondered where or how they fit in. Some people feel like they are so different that they must be a foundling, adopted, or somehow not the real child. Some feel overlooked. Some are presumed to be the favored one. And, everyone searches for acceptance. The Cocktail Hour is a humorous, and thoughtful, look at how families interact. This is a great show to watch with a sibling, other family members, friends or a significant other because you can’t help but talk about your own family dynamics, whether you had a traditional cocktail hour, or other traditions where you found everyone had a role, whether they wanted it, or not.

Enjoy a cocktail of your choice as you watch this story develop. You can discuss later if this family is more, or less, dysfunctional than your own. And, in the meantime, you’ll have a great night out with someone you care about, and those are the best gifts for the holidays, or anytime.

The Cocktail Hour and A Christmas Carol are both playing at the Guthrie Theater this holiday season. Visit their website for tickets and showtimes. Have a happy holiday season. Watch the eggnog intake, and keep your cool with the in-laws!

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt:  What’s your favorite beverage for cocktail hour, or when you just want to relax? What’s your role in the family dynamics?