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Park Square Will Host Triple Espresso

Beloved “caffeinated comedy” crosses the river to the Boss Stage

logo for Triple Espresso - stylized coffee cup and hand drawn type in black, red, and grey on white background

 

Saint Paul, Minn., June 18, 2018 – Park Square Theatre is partnering with The Daniel Group to bring the 23-year phenomenon TRIPLE ESPRESSO — A HIGHLY CAFFEINATED COMEDY to Park Square’s Andy Boss Thrust Stage November 9, 2018 – January 13, 2019.

 

“This partnership brings together two amazingly loyal audiences to experience downtown Saint Paul’s parks, skating rink, restaurants, music venues and hotels when they are spangled with white lights and good cheer,” says Park Square Executive Director Michael-jon Pease. “Plus, this partnership makes great use of the Boss Stage during a time when we’re otherwise only performing in the mornings for school groups.”

 

Park Square and The Daniel Group had hoped to partner several years ago to present Park Square’s popular production of 2 PIANOS/4 HANDS at the Music Box Theatre in Minneapolis, which was the home to TRIPLE ESPRESSO for 20 years. “We loved working together because as producers, we were on the same page,” said Dennis Babcock, the Executive Producer of TRIPLE ESPRESSO. “Both shows shared the amazing talent that is Michael Pearce Donley, but we couldn’t get the numbers to work. I’ve been a Park Square fan for many years and every time I get their marketing materials I think, ‘Yes, they know how to do it!’ I’m thrilled we could make this partnership work.”

TRIPLE ESPRESSO is a truly homegrown hit show. Early in 1995, while Bill Arnold was having breakfast with Michael Pearce Donley, and Bob Stromberg in Minneapolis, the three local solo performers decided it would be fun to write something they could perform together. As motivation to buckle down and write it, they booked a performance for four weeks later.

Using Arnold’s magic and comedy, Donley’s original music, and Stromberg’s physical humor, the three put together a show with elements of slapstick, vaudeville, and a touch of audience involvement. The next year, Dennis Babcock, former General Manager of the Guthrie Theatre, came on board as Executive Producer.

The show proved to be a hit and went on to become the longest running show at Music Box Theatre (April 3, 1996 – April 27, 2008 continuously; holiday productions 2009-2016); the longest continuously running show in San Diego (January 14, 1998-February 17, 2008); and the longest running show in the history of Iowa. Add productions and tours from Alexandria, Minn. to Dublin, Ireland and Ghent, Belgium and the show has played to more than 2 million people in 60+ cities in 6 countries in 3 languages.

 

Performance Dates:
November 9, 2018 – January 13, 2019

 

Ticket prices:
Preview on November 9: $25.
Regular Run: $39.50-$47.50 for theatre seats. $47.50-$52.50 for exclusive seating at cabaret tables.
Discounts are available for seniors, children, members of the military, groups, and ASL/AD patrons. Tickets go on sale June 21 at the Park Square ticket office, in person at 20 W. Seventh Place or by phone: 651.291.7005 (12 noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday). Purchase online at parksquaretheatre.org.

 

2018-2019 PARK SQUARE THEATRE SEASON TICKETS are on sale now (packages do not include TRIPLE ESPRESSO, which is an add-on event). Season packages range in size from all nine plays in the season to a choose-your-own series of three or more. Subscription package prices begin at $75.

 

PHOTOS By Anna Eveslage, PHOTOS no credit needed

 

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A letter from incoming Artistic Director Flordelino Lagundino

Dear Park Square Fans –

Hello from New York!

I am extremely honored and excited to be the third artistic director of Park Square Theatre following in the very large footsteps of the incredible Richard Cook. He can never be replaced and I am looking forward to building on the accomplishments during his vital tenure; and, with Michael-jon, to lead the theater with adventurous, surprising, transformational, and thrilling productions (from classical to brand new contemporary work) that represent the whole of our community and are built with love.

Park Square Theatre's New Artistic Director Flordelino Lagundino, head and shoulders, wearing a grey jacket, white shirt, and black necktie, outdoor portrait

Flordelino Lagundino. Photo Park Square Theatre, 2018.

We all are part of an amazing theater that produces some of the most vibrant productions in the Twin Cities area and also has a world-class education program led by Mary Finnerty. And as the artistic director, I want you to know that this is your theater and I am looking forward to talking to you about Park Square’s civic role as a leader in creating dialogue and entertainment in St. Paul and Minnesota.

A little about me…I currently live with my wife Jenny and our baby girl Daryl in Brooklyn, NY at the end of the R line in beautiful Bay Ridge – three blocks away from the Verrazano Bridge. This has been my home for the last three years and I have worked with some amazing artists around the country as a freelance theater artist – some of them in the Twin Cities. One of the best experiences in my theatrical career was performing in Vietgone at Mixed Blood last year. It is a play that puts a very important point of view on stage and it was an opportunity for me to perform in an Asian American story. Before I came, I had heard a lot about Jack Reuler and Mixed Blood and their work on inclusion and it was a dream to be able to perform and work in the old firehouse. I then came back and had a wonderful experience as the assistant director on Blithe Spirit at The Guthrie Theatre and attended the The ten Thousand Things theater conference.

David Huynh and Flordelino Lagundino in “Vietgone” at Mixed Blood. Photo by Rich Ryan. 2017.

What I love about St. Paul is that there is a real feeling of community. One of the places that I’ve worked in my past that really shaped the way I think of theater was Perseverance Theatre in Juneau, Alaska. There you would walk down the street and someone would talk to you about your acting, or ask you about the next season while you were getting coffee. I loved that sense of interaction with the audience and the ability to make an impact in people’s lives in a regional community. When I move to Saint Paul, I want to be at a ball game and someone complain to me about a set; walk down the street and have a government official share the joy of falling out of their chair with laughter; or walk into Trader Joe’s and hear about how Park Square Theatre has changed a life.

I’m currently here in tech at Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival and thinking a lot about Park Square and the adventure ahead. I can’t wait to meet all of you – at the theatre or at Trader Joe’s!

Best,

Flordelino

Learn More about Flordelino and the Artistic Director Search

A female duo of Holmes and Watson are on the case!

The premiere of Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville is witty and fast-paced – with women playing the famous sleuthing duo! Park Square Theatre cherishes its summertime tradition of cozying up audiences with a good mystery. This year’s edition for the company’s 43rd season – Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville: a Sherlock Holmes Mystery – offers a fresh take for Holmes devotees AND a special invitation for those who’ve never spent an evening with the iconic sleuth. McKenna Kelly-Eiding (closing a spectacular run in The Wolves at The Jungle) stars as Sherlock Holmes and Sara Richardson* (last seen at Park Square in The Liar) as Dr. Watson. The remaining 40 characters in this smart send-up of The Hound of the Baskervilles are played by just three actors: Eric “Pogi” Sumangil*; Ricardo Beaird; and Marika Proctor*. Cue the lightning-fast costume changes as wealthy Henry Baskerville is threatened by the fable of a bloodthirsty hound on the moors and the dynamic duo sniff out the culprit.

From Left: Sara Richardson (Dr. Watson) and McKenna Kelly-Eiding (Sherlock Holmes).

Women have been winning over Holmes fans in recent years, from Lucy Liu as Watson in the CBS series Elementary, to Christopher Walsh’s new play Miss Holmes, to Carole Nelson Douglas’ eight acclaimed Irene Adler suspense novels – the first to reinvent a woman from the Holmes “canon” as the protagonist. Director Theo Langason, in his Park Square directing debut, admits that “some Sherlockians will be skeptical of a woman in the role. But, all the things we love about the character – intuition, ingenuity, intelligence – aren’t tied to gender. And when I saw McKenna’s audition, her performance was so grounded – which this script needs since the other actors jump from character to character.”

In many ways, Watson takes center stage as the cataloger and helpmate. Like the character of Archie Goodwin in the two Nero Wolfe mysteries Park Square has commissioned, Watson serves as the “investigator on the ground” while the great detective muses in solitude. “Sara Richardson is so wonderful,” says Langason, “and I’m glad we get to spend so much time with her as Watson in this play.”

Langason relishes the challenges of tweaking audience expectations while staying true to the core of the Holmes story that keeps winning fans generation after generation. “Sherlock is a fascinating character,” he says. “He deserves a role in the pantheon of super heroes. I mean, without Sherlock Holmes, is it possible to have Batman? This show clips along with a very atmospheric, cinematic quality that I think will be really satisfying to both the artists and the audience. Peter Morrow (the sound designer) and I are working hard on where the sound comes from in the auditorium, trying to achieve the sensation you get in a surround-sound movie theatre. I want those ‘howls off the moors’ to give us all the heebee jeebees!”

***

The creative team for the production includes Ashawnti Ford (Assistant Director), Eli Sherlock Schlatter (Set Designer), Mandi Johnson (Costume Designer), Peter Morrow (Sound Designer), Michael Kittel (Light Designer), Sadie Ward, Properties Designer, Annie Enneking (Fight Choreographer), and Keely Wolter (Dialect Coach). Laura Topham* will serve as Stage Manager and Sam Diekman* is the Assistant Stage Manager.

Previews begin Friday, June 15, and continue through Thursday, June 20. June 21 is Opening Night, and the run continues through August 5. Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. except for Saturday and Sunday matinees, which begin at 2 p.m. All performances are on the company’s Proscenium Stage in Saint Paul’s historic Hamm Building, 20 W. Seventh Place.

Ticket prices: Previews: $20/$27/$37. Regular Run: $25/$40/$60. Discounts are available for seniors 62+, members of the military, those age 30 and under, groups, and ASL/AD patrons. Tickets are on sale at the Park Square ticket box office, 20 W. Seventh Place, and by phone, 651.291.7005, (12 noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday), or online at parksquaretheatre.org.

*Member, Actors Equity Association

Photo by Petronella J Ytsma.

Cardboard Piano: Park Square Theatre’s Journey to Sharing Space

Breaking Character Magazine, a publication of Samuel French Inc., recently shared a report by Park Square Theatre’s Executive Director, Michael-jon Pease, regarding the company’s experience producing the play, Cardboard Piano, by Hansol Jung.

Our audience engagement with Hansol Jung’s beautiful play Cardboard Piano began with a dozen subscribers seeing the world premiere with us at the Humana Festival of New American Plays at Actor’s Theatre in Louisville, KY. After the blistering first act, set in Uganda at the height of the terror of the Lord’s Resistance Army, they felt that Park Square Theatre had to premiere this play in the Twin Cities. “Our community needs this play,” they said.

As it turned out, we needed to produce it to further our journey toward greater inclusion.

From left: Adelin Phelps, Kiara Jackson, Ansa Akyea in Cardboard Piano. Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma.

The play is indeed a unique offering for this time and for our place. The Twin Cities community is a sanctuary for refugees from many African nations and home to a startling number of nonprofits whose work in Africa encompasses everything from hunger relief and education to peace making and refugee services. Our key community partner for the artistic and engagement journey was The Center for Victims of Torture (CVT), which works around the world healing those fleeing from trauma, including the child soldiers and persecuted LGBT Ugandans depicted in the play. They presented a pre-show talk on their work in Uganda and they promoted the play to their large constituent base of (mostly white, older) social justice champions, many of whom came more than once.

Most importantly, CVT sent two of their psychologists into the rehearsal hall to talk through the script with our artists and staff. They shared their deep knowledge of trauma on the magnitude these characters face. They pointed out what was not true to life, leading to rich discussion about the nature of art, dramatic tension and “truth.” Best of all, they confirmed that while their clients could not handle this play full of traumatic triggers, it needed to be produced. The community needed to see it.

CVT’s insights were woven into the design, direction and acting of the production and their psychologists were impressed and honored to see the result. A combination of light and sound cues, together with true to life physical “tells” from the actors immediately communicated to the audience the realities of trauma (ringing in the ears, hyper vigilance, etc.). The partnership contributed something essential and authentic to the production that it wouldn’t have had if we’d relied only on our own dramaturgical resources.

We all agreed that audiences would need to prepare themselves for the experience of the play. In addition to a deep content analysis on the website, the lobby had comment boards which invited audience members to respond to leading questions such as “What is the role of forgiveness in my life?” and to revisit their responses at intermission and end of play. Some of the post-it notes that stuck with me said,

“Forgiveness is about my personal liberation from the prison of living with resentment.”

“Forgiveness is pointless if the forgiven remains unchanged.”

“I forgive so I can be transformed.”

Wow.

We had conversations with our front of house staff and crew about ways to let audience members know they could leave if they needed to, and how to help them re-ground and rejoin the play.

For Park Square Theatre as a small traditional regional theatre led by white cis-gendered gay men, Cardboard Piano was also an important opportunity to explore how we share space with diverse artists and audiences. The questions of who owns space, who creates sanctuary and who can offer absolution are central to the play.

We chose Signe V. Harriday to lead the production, specifically to bring her world view as a queer artist of color to the process, as well as her mad directing skills. The action opens in a small missionary church in Uganda with the secret wedding of the white daughter of the missionary pastor and her African girlfriend. Harriday choreographed a playful, yet sensual opening scene between the two young women that allowed them to claim the space and unashamedly celebrate their love.

Having queer people of color own the room was amazingly affirming to many audience members, giving us survey comments like:

“I see a lot of theatre and it’s rare that I go to a show twice, but this one I came back to. As a Lesbian, it was wonderful to see myself represented on stage so authentically.”

“Representation is beautiful. Black stories are beautiful. Stories about cultures other than our own are beautiful. It was deeply moving, the performances flawless. Thank you for giving this story space. “

“It was a wonderfully well written and eloquent play that was executed very powerfully. It was a truth-telling and fully immersive experience, emotionally. This play was raw, and it was real. I went twice. Park Square should stage more works like this.”

Make no mistake, that ownership of spaceby someone other than the dominant culture, especially one as intimate as our 200-seat Andy Boss Thrust Stage, was also a big turn off for some members of the mainstream audience who responded with comments like “I am growing weary of theatres thinking they need to keep presenting productions with gay/lesbian themes” to “Sexual scenes did not add to the play and may have demeaned it.” Many who saw the postcard with two women of different races embracing on the cover simply opted out from the start.

Our world premiere commission of Christina Ham’s Nina Simone: Four Women was another powerful experience of asking women of color to own the space. The show resonated with all audiences, but the affirmation about black resilience and black beauty for black audiences of all ages was palpable.

Our goal in building an additional stage was to expand our play selection and the range of artists and audiences who not only call Park Square home but think of it as “their” theatre. Aside from enabling our own productions to become a haven for diverse communities (new owners), another strategy we use to achieve this is to literally give the space over to diverse companies and artists for their own work through our Theatre in Residence program, “friendly rentals,” collaborations and co-productions with companies as diverse as Mu Performing Arts, New Native Theatre and Urban Spectrum. Along the way, we keep becoming more aware of who can and should “own” the room – from hiring professionals of color to moderate discussions with artists of color, to color conscious casting for our literary classics and having the welcome speech for our student matinees delivered by a person of color as often as possible for our teen audience of 32,000.

As a veteran executive director, it is a joy to recede from what can be the endless spotlight of organizational leadership to see the community take the stage in so many ways. Park Square – and the field – has much to learn about creating and sharing brave spaces. Plays like Cardboard Piano open us to exciting artistic and human lessons.

 

Originally Published in Breaking Character Magazine, April 16, 2018.

Urban Spectrum presents: Warm Dark Dusk

You are like a warm dark dusk

In the middle of June-time

When the first violets

Have almost forgotten their names

And the deep red roses bloom.

 

You are like a warm dark dusk

In the middle of June-time

Before the hot nights of summer

Burn white with stars.

 

Young Negro Girl by Langston Hughes

 

In October 2016, the Urban Spectrum Theatre Company’s original production, Warm Dark Dusk, premiered at Minneapolis’ Phoenix Theater, playing to packed houses throughout its run. This spring, from April 12 to 22, Warm Dark Dusk is being restaged on Park Square Theatre’s Andy Boss Thrust Stage.

Warm Dark Dusk is a jazz dance and music interpretation of the poetry of Langston Hughes from the 1920s to 1940s. The production unfolds in four themed segments: Dance, The Blues, Love & Sex and the Night Life which Langston experienced throughout his travels. It features vignettes, monologues and vocal and dance numbers which will appeal to all audiences.

Penny Masuku and Tazz Germaine Lindsey performing, in dance, “Juke Box Love Song.”
(Photo by Christopher Lyle)

“I dreamed of doing this show for years,” said Judy Cooper Lyle, the producer/director of Warm Dark Dusk as well as founder and artistic director of the Urban Spectrum Theatre Company. Acquiring a grant allowed her to fulfill that dream. She researched and chose specific poems to build a cohesive story and brought on board choreographer Florence Lyle and music director Joe Shad. Florence, who is Judy’s cousin, has worked in Hollywood for over two decades and toured with such notable singers as Marvin Gaye, Tammi Terrell, Lionel Richie and Lou Rawls. Joe is a freelance pianist, singer and songwriter who has been passionate about music since the age of five.

For the title of this unique show, Judy chose the phrase “warm dark dusk” from the first line of the poem A Young Negro Girl. She did so, Judy said, “For the beauty of the dark skin and the pride of black people as they have fought, so hard and so long, for equality.”

Judy’s choice to feature Langston Hughes rather than another poet is also personal: “I think he was one of America’s greatest poets. He wrote of the lives of his people realistically, politically and with passion.”

In creating the Urban Spectrum Theatre Company in 1974, Judy was fulfilling an earlier dream and passion to provide quality, multi-cultural and accessible theatre to the inner city and to give community residents, especially young people, the chance to work with more experienced performers. The company is now 44 years old and has produced over 75 plays.

We are proud to present the Urban Spectrum Theatre Company as a guest performing company at Park Square Theatre this April. Come see for yourself why Warm Dark Dusk earned such raves the first time around.

 

More information here.

Purchase tickets here.

 

 

What if Anne Frank was Muslim?

Ten years ago, a 26-year-old Turkish Muslim woman, Asli Bayram, portrayed Anne Frank on stage in Frankfurt, Germany.

When Asli was 14, a neo-Nazi neighbor broke into the family’s apartment in Germany and shot Asli’s father right in front of her. The neighbor also shot and injured Asli.

Asli recovered from her injuries. She went on to study law and, later on, acting. She starred in movies, television, and in 2008, she performed in a one-woman show about Anne Frank.

Asli Bayram as Anne Frank

She said that she read The Diary of Anne Frank in high school. To prepare for the role, she visited the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam and studied the Holocaust and World War II in depth. “I want to prevent such horrible deeds and combat this radical, destructive ideology through my work as an actress,” she said to a reporter ten years ago.

Today, unlike in 2008, Muslims are widely vilified in Germany. And Anne Frank’s experience could easily be the experience of Muslims today in Germany, France, the Netherlands, Sweden – or here in the United States.

From travel bans on people from Muslim-majority countries to outright vilification of people of Muslim faith and of Islam itself, this is a terrible time to be a Muslim in the United States or, in fact, in most of the Western world.

It’s just like being a Jew during the 1930s in Europe.

Through Asli’s brave performance, Anne Frank became a Muslim in Frankfurt. Actually, Anne Frank is here, today, in our own communities. Reach out. Stand up for Asli. Stand up for Anne Frank.


Ellen J. Kennedy, Ph.D., is the executive director of World Without Genocide at Mitchell Hamline School of Law in St. Paul.  In 2009 she received the Outstanding Citizen Award from the Anne Frank Center in New York.

Don’t miss a special lecture this Wednesday, the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day. Dr. Kennedy will be joined by Fred Amram, speaking about how the Nazi movement changed laws at every level to make their actions legal and Germany and highlight recent and proposed law changes that pave the way to legal discrimination. Fred is a Holocaust survivor and will share part of his story. Click here for More Information.

Jane Froiland Knows No Bounds!

For many actors, simply living by your stage chops alone isn’t enough to keep the bills paid. Not in the Twin Cities and definitely not in the other single cities out there. Even in New York, the actors fortunate enough to do it “full time” do most of their work outside of the city, in the regional centers of the country. Despite this, however, actors constantly prove that they are a flexible and hardened group of people; where there’s a will, you can bet they’ll find a way!

Jane Froiland studies hard for the part. (Photo by Connie Shaver)

One mark of a smart artist, like anyone in charge of their own business, is to diversify one’s talent. “Oh, you don’t need an actor this time? That’s fine. How about director? I can offer my services as an experienced stage director! Or manager! Or playwright. Or costumer. Lighting designer? Ok, ok… seriously, can I just sell concessions or help the actors learn their lines?”

This sort of resourcefulness is almost the only viable way *most* actors truly make a “living” in the theatre. Jane Froiland is one such multi-talented artist who is often balancing her performance schedule with her gigs as a stage director. She can currently be seen in Park Square Theatre’s The Diary of Anne Frank while gearing up for a run of You Can’t Take it With You at Woodbury High School. Performing in the mornings and directing in the afternoons? Sounds like a full time job to me! Of her days this spring, Froiland states: “… what a dream to be able to be a part of telling such an important story and be able to foster the next generation of artists all in the same day.”

More than that, it “legitimizes” her standing as a director in the eyes of her students. When they are able to work with a creator who “walks the walk” and is able to express her knowledge from a very real and first-hand professional experience. Not only does this create a high bar from those student-performers to meet, but helps Froiland in her own lifelong education as an actor/director. After all, who knows if some of those Woodbury students are in the audience at Park Square watching their esteemed director perform?

You can watch Jane Froiland yourself in The Diary of Anne Frank, playing select dates in April at Park Square Theatre. More information and tickets can be found here at parksquaretheatre.org!

How Nate Stanger Nurtures Amy’s View

With the closing of The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence, Park Square is eagerly anticipating the opening of Amy’s View! Of course we all know that the show begins  much earlier than the May 12th opening, with rehearsals already under way. This period is often the most rewarding for any talent involved with a play. It is the time where cast and crew can let forth their creativity and where, perhaps, the true art occurs. Naturally, this process can quickly turn into a intangible conglomeration of ideas and impulses so it’s vital to have strong hands at the wheel to shape, form and nurture- typically your director and stage manager.The stage manager of Amy’s View, Nate Stanger, believes in this vitality and approaches his job (and own craft) with his own unique perspective. He was gracious enough to share this views with me and reveal that every good stage manager is really just a whiskey-drinking muggle. Who knew?

Nate Stanger, left with Director Gary Gisselman in the Proscenium Rehearsal Hall. Photo by Connie Shaver.

A long time ago… What is the origin story of Nate Stanger? 
I grew up in Bloomington, Indiana doing theatre in high school and at the community theaters and like most people, I started in theatre as an actor. I decided I wanted to go to school for theatre to become an actor, so I looked for theatre programs that would allow me to move to a city and study a broad range of topics. I ended up getting accepted into the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and started school in Minneapolis in 2009. During those first years I met professional actors and I saw the resilience and determination it took to pursue that life; while I enjoyed acting a lot, it didn’t drive me in the way I thought it needed to in order to have a career.
Around that same time I was taking a stage management class. I had registered for the class on a whim and I quickly realized that stage management would be a good fit for me as I had found a way to utilize all of my skills and interests in theatre. Stage management still allowed me to be in rehearsal like I had as an actor but it opened up a whole other world of technical theatre and production. So I ended up picking up stage management jobs slowly and began to build my resume.
My journey to Park Square was a simple example of right place, right time. The first time I ever worked for Park Square, I was asked to come in and take line notes for a show (this is where you follow along in the script and take notes on any missed or paraphrased lines). After taking line notes for about a week, I got an email from Megan West, the Production Manager at the time. She was going on maternity leave and was looking for a replacement while she was gone. I eagerly accepted the offer and began to work in the office at Park Square.
This was the season right before the Andy Boss Thrust Stage was completed, so the offices were extremely busy prepping for the new stage and the larger season. There was an exiting energy in the building as we all looked ahead to the completion of the second stage. Naturally, because of the addition, there was a lot more work around the office. Right place, right time. While covering Megan’s maternity leave I ended up getting hired in the education department as well to help organize the education season, which was almost twice the size of previous seasons. After a few more weeks, I was eventually hired in the accounting department as an accounting assistant where I helped process payroll and did a lot of bookkeeping. As if that wasn’t enough, I was hired as the assistant stage manager on the first production of Romeo and Juliet! For about a year and half, I stretched myself across just about every department at Park Square. I grew from a wide-eyed, recent college grad desperate for experience to a integral part of a professional theatre company. There’s no doubt in my mind that had the people of Park Square not believed in me and given me those opportunities I would not have had the success I have had.

Integral sounds about right! How do approach all that work, specifically as a stage manager? 

I always say I became a stage manager because I was too nosey and I wanted to know what all of the departments were doing. Stage management not only allowed me to see into those worlds but it gave me a way to help support that artistic process. A mentor of mine, Jenny Friend at the Children’s Theatre, once told me that it’s our job as stage managers to nurture the production. I often think about that word “nurture” when I’m in rehearsal. As stage managers, we are there to help hold these artists up in any way we can. Whether that be making schedules so people know where to be, or sending rehearsal notes to the production team to facilitate problem solving; it’s always my goal to help the director, actors and design team to achieve their visions.
The way in which we nurture the show the most is actually after the show has opened. What a lot of people don’t realize is that the director typically leaves the production after opening night. At that point, the stage manager is responsible for maintaining the artistic vision of the director and designers while still allowing room for the actors to grow and breath as they discover new things over the run. The stage manager is the only person besides the actors who is there from first rehearsal to the final curtain call so it’s only fitting that this person help guide the show through the last leg of the process.
A relationship has to form between the actors and the stage manager. There has to be tremendous trust and respect for each other because, while the audience may not see the stage manager, he or she is just as much a part of each performance as the performers onstage. Just in the way the actors trust each other onstage, the actors and stage managers must trust each other on and off stage. That aspect of being able to help a show grow and develop is a huge draw of the profession for me.

With a philosophy like that, you must be in pretty high demand. What other work do you do? 

I have been fortunate to never have to have a non-theatre job (or as theatre people lovingly call them: a muggle job). Right after graduating, I worked as a free-lance carpenter and electrician during the day and then took stage management work at night. So, I would build a set or hang lights at one theatre in the morning and then head to a different theatre for rehearsals in the evening. It was thrilling for a while; bopping all over the cities, meeting lots of people and making new friends. Every day was something new. Then I started working at Park Square where I stayed for about a year and a half. I ended up leaving Park Square to pursue a full-time stage management career. I have been very fortunate that since leaving Park Square in 2015, I have had regular work between several theatres in the cities including the Guthrie, the Children’s Theatre Company and the Ordway. I just joined the union of stage managers and actors (Actors Equity) this past fall and I couldn’t be more proud.

With all that work, tell me you have a way to live a more “muggle” life.

My biggest hobby when I’m not working is playing the piano. I finally bought a tall upright piano a few years ago and now I can’t imagine how I lived without it. Before I would play on just about every piano in any rehearsal room I could find. It’s a great way for me to decompress after a long day. I find the first thing I do when I get home from rehearsal is pour a glass of whiskey and station myself at the piano for an hour. It helps keep me sane.

Nate Stanger, ladies and gentlemen. A classy dude who knows the value of hard work and being able to unwind. You can bet that the team of Amy’s View is happy to have him! For the rest of us, we can bet on that sense of stewardship to reflect in the show itself. Amy’s View runs May 12 through June 4 on the Proscenium Stage at Park Square Theatre.

Kathy Kohl: On Creating the Costumes for “Watson Intelligence”

THE (curious case of the) WATSON INTELLIGENCE, on the Park Square Proscenium Stage until April 30, jumps in and out of three time periods notable for intense technical and industrial advances: the Victorian era, early 20th century and present time. This time-jumping aspect created unique challenges for its costume designer, Kathy Kohl, but they were successfully met by going with Director Leah Cooper’s proposal to create in Steampunk style.

“It was a great idea,” Kathy said, “as this look can layer all of the periods simultaneously, which makes costume changes from one time to another a matter of adding period-appropriate pieces rather than trying to effect a full costume change. It’s a really fun style to do, too, and interesting for an audience to puzzle out what piece belongs to which period, plus it’s flattering to every actor shape–and kinda sexy!”

Merrick CostumeMost of my challenges for this play came with the quick changes that happen with each character change,” Kathy continued. “These I achieved with the usual tricks: a little Velcro, a lot of snaps, some elastic laces for shoes. For instance, Merrick asked to try a shirt collar that could snap up instantly for his monologue with ties, so I stitched in a one-inch belt stay product onto the under-collar. Also, Watson the Android needed a special look when he hooked up to his battery chair. For this, I hand-stitched strings of tiny LED lights into a layer of his vest. In fact, all the hardware is hand-stitched.”

With all the hardware in the costumes, Kathy had to also consider how they could be safely laundered.

“Pants are turned inside out to protect them and other costumes from snagging in the wash,” Kathy explained. “Watson’s vest front panels are Velcroed and fully removable so the vest itself can be laundered. I did have to remove some little gears from Eliza’s jeans because she scraped her hand on one in a quick change in dress rehearsal.”

Watson CostumeKathy’s finished costumes stayed close to her initial renderings, but some details–namely having to do with fabric choice and trim–were adjusted as needed. For example, Eliza’s striped leggings were no longer available, and Merrick’s boxy plaid jacket just didn’t look right on him.

“Watson is very active onstage and has lots of quick changes,” Kathy added, “so I needed to rethink the industrial trim placement on his pants so he wouldn’t get caught on a belt buckle or get scratched by the snap tape that I used.”

Because the play has a small cast of three, Kathy could think through the costume plot carefully and hand off the tracking list, which tells what each actor wears in each scene and what they change into, to stage management early in the process. This allowed Stage Manager Amanda Bowman to plan change timings and where they would happen backstage.

Eliza CostumeThe actors were also given rehearsal clothes to wear (e.g., for when Merrick must change from modern to Victorian in a half sentence during his monologue), which helped to establish a useful muscle memory for them early on.

“This show required a combination of shopping thrift stores, some retail, a bit of building–Eliza’s 1890s coat and some smaller pieces–and rental,” Kathy said. “Leah was present for fittings–always an efficient way to make sure everyone’s okay, including the actors, with how things look and feel.”

Come see for yourself how Kathy’s work impacts the overall production during its final week on stage. Then have some fun pondering what costuming decisions you may have made if you’d been in her shoes.

 

(NOTE: Don’t miss reading the prior blogs “Kathy Kohl: Doing What She Loves” and “What the Heck is Steampunk Anyway?”)

What the Heck is Steampunk Anyway?

Playing the boards right now at Park Square Theatre is the play, The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence, and one thing you might have noticed about the design of the show is the use of steampunk as a choice. Basically, it’s when you saw the modern costumes blended with Victorian garb and the computers infused with copper pipes and steam-powered devices. If you thought this was just a cool choice by the design team, you are just scratching the surface. It’s actually a much larger aesthetic known as “steampunk” and it has a much richer history and more widespread use than you might have first imagined.

Typical steampunk attire. Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe

Typical steampunk attire. Photo by Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe

While the term steampunk was only coined in 1987, it has since been applied to much earlier works of art such as those by Jules Verne and H.G. Wells. Yes, it is a science-fiction thing and describes the genre where the Victorian era is re-imagined with modern technology that runs on steam power. The reverse is also true where an alternate future is imagined with society having to reacquaint itself with the use of steam (usually following an apocalyptic event).  You are actually probably very familiar with the look of the genre if you’ve seen TV shows and movies such as The Wild West West and any adaptation of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. 

Beyond it’s use as a design in various works of fiction, steampunk has become it’s own subculture of living. Whole festivals and conventions are dedicated to people donning the Victorian/mechanical clothes and really giving into the conceit of living in such a world. Such events are hosted in Seattle, New Zealand and, of course, Comic-Con in San Diego. You will also most definitely run into a steampunk or two at just about any Renaissance festival, including the big one in Shakopee. Even if a city may not host a major steampunk gathering, as the genre becomes more mainstream, elements are trickling into just about every facet of art, including real-life architecture. This metro station in Paris, is a wonderful example, instantly making you feel as if you’re on board Captain Nemo’s Nautilus.

Arts et Metiers

The Arts et Metiers Metro Station in Paris. ontheluce.com

As a whole steampunk has proven to be more than just a fad or something limited to the pages of science fiction novels. As evidenced by the design of The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence, the look and feel of steampunk has become rather commonplace. Some critics will even lambaste this move to the mainstream as the death knell for the genre. Critics always have to criticize don’t they? The fact is that the anachronistic use of clothes and gadgets  is fun and seems to have captured the imagination of the general populace, and while it isn’t to be taken too seriously, hopefully it can be used to support the themes of a play. For a story such as The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence, where times melds and the lines are blurred between two distinctly unique eras, steampunk seems like just right aesthetic to drive home some timely ideas.

 

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