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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.

 

New from Minneapolis (by way of Louisville): We’re Gonna Be Okay

We’re Gonna Be Okay, the sixth and final production we saw at the 2017 Humana Festival of New American Plays at Actors Theater in Louisville, presents an historical yet utterly contemporary look at anxiety and fear in American culture and society. This show landed in the top position of many of 14 of us from Park Square who attended the festival.

Playwright Basil Kreimendahl

Playwright Basil Kreimendahl

The historical context of We’re Gonna Be Okay is the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, the 13-day confrontation between Russian and the U.S. regarding deployment of nuclear weapons. Many of those who travelled with us from Park Square to Humana discussed the anxiety that the nuclear buildup of the 1950s through the 1980s created, and while I was not yet born when the Cuban Missile Crisis happened, I do remember in grade school and junior high having nuclear war drills where we protected ourselves—preposterously—by getting under our desks. The contemporary context is playing out today as more and more countries seek nuclear capabilities creating new anxieties through possible confrontation with unpredictable foes. We live in an anxious world, articulated well by the festival’s Artist Insight speaker, the incomparably fabulous speaker, actor, and playwright, Taylor Mac, who asked “What’s Gonna Happen?”

We’re Gonna be Okay is about the absurdity of getting under our desk. In this case, two adjoining families and their decision to build a bomb shelter under their homes along their property line. While the play is about fear and protecting one’s self and family, it is a comedy, and a funny one at that, especially in the second act where the well-developed characters’ fears and anxiety manifest in life-changing ways. As the characters deal with their physical closeness, issues of family roles, gender, and sexuality are exposed. As their worlds crack open through this metaphorical bombing, we know they are all gonna be okay.

The play has a Twin Cities connection, as the playwright developed the play with support from the Playwrights’ Center’s Jerome Fellowship Program.

Following the theater, we had dinner at Wiltshire on Market in Louisville’s trendy NuLu (New Louisville), which is walkable from downtown. We reflected on the great theater we had seen at this year’s festival. Many of the plays dealt with confronting fear and anxiety, and characters dramaturgically finding their truer selves. And in these times of not knowing “What’s gonna happen?” it’s important to appreciate theater’s important role as it helps explain, entertain, challenge, and transform us and our society.

The Liar: Featuring Sara Richardson

Sara RichardsonAs part of our Meet the Cast of The Liar Blog Series, let us introduce you to Sara Richardson:

ROLE: Lucrece, Clarice’s best friend

DESCRIPTION LINES OF LUCRECE IN THE PLAY:

I’m deserving of a first-class mate
As other women. Yet I stand and wait.
Because I’m silent–all right, call it nervous–
Most men just never see beneath my surface.

CAST QUESTION:

What aspect of playing Lucrece will most challenge you?

Lucrece is quiet at first, which can be challenging; but David Ives gives us a lot of fun clues about her later in the script to build upon. Fun friendship rivalries, colorful descriptions comparing her unflatteringly to sea creatures, a clear bookish bent and self-professed as ‘nervous,’ we are given a lot to play with in terms of character. These hints allowed us to find ways of showing her more ill at ease qualities in action–always fun in a farce, especially one with such playfully designed elements (thanks designers Eli, Abbee, Rebecca and director Doug!)! A challenge in a farce is also always to find the honesty in the midst of the absurd so finding Lucrece’s real sense of longing and unrequited love deep down, before making it laughable, is important.

It is a gift to get to play someone who experiences such terribly awkward moments and has to live through them in front of everyone–painfully, earnestly and repeatedly. I love it!

CAST BACKGROUND:

Park Square Debut Representative Theatre Jungle Theater: The Night Alive; Mu Performing Arts: You for Me for You; Pillsbury House Theatre: Buzzer; Torch Theater: Boeing Boeing; Theatre Novi Most: Rehearsing Failure; Gremlin Theatre/Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival: A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur Film Rough Tender; Per Bianca (Cannes shorts 2011) Training Ècole Jacques Lecoq Other Sara-Richardson.com

Shanan Custer, Sara Richardson, India Gurley and Sha' Cage in a rehearsal. (Photograph by Connie Shaver)

Shanan Custer, Sara Richardson, India Gurley and Sha’ Cage in a rehearsal.
(Photograph by Connie Shaver)

Area Premiere of The Liar – Park Square Theatre’s Proscenium Stage – September 9 to October 2

 

The Liar: Featuring JuCoby Johnson

As part of our Meet the Cast of The Liar Blog Series, let us introduce you to JuCoby Johnson:

johnson-jucoby-color

ROLES: Alcippe, Clarice’s secret fiancé

DESCRIPTIVE LINES ABOUT ALCIPPE IN THE PLAY:

(Said by Clarice about Alcippe)

So let him spew. My lover’s lava’s nothing new.
Two years now we’ve been secretly engaged–
And he’s the one who’s chronically enraged?
Oh, very well.

CAST QUESTION:

You have done a lot of Shakespeare.  How difficult is the wordplay in The Liar in comparison?  (For example, you have one line that starts with:  “O faithless, fickle, fraudulent play.”)

The wordplay in The Liar is very similar to that used in Shakespeare. I would say that the biggest similarity is the speed in which the language has to go in order for the jokes to land. If you can get the language to be fast and light while still holding onto the clarity, you’ve won half the battle. Within that lies the biggest difficulty. If it’s all fast and light, but lacking in clarity, the audience gets sick of it very quickly. You have to find a way to tell the story clearly and crisply at a faster pace than may seem comfortable. It takes a lot of trust in your fellow actors and a strong familiarity with the text.

CAST BACKGROUND:

Park Square Debut Representative Theatre Ten Thousand Things: Dear World; Mu Performing Arts: You for Me for You; New Epic Theater: The Normal Heart; Great River Shakespeare Festival: As You Like It Training B.F.A., Acting, University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater Actor Training Program Upcoming Projects Ten Thousand Things: Pericles; Theater Latté Da: Six Degrees of Separation

JuCoby Johnson with Sha' Cage in a rehearsal. (Photograph by Connie Shaver)

JuCoby Johnson with Sha’ Cage in a rehearsal.
(Photograph by Connie Shaver)

Area Premiere of The Liar – Park Square Theatre’s Proscenium Stage – September 9 to October 2

The Liar: Featuring India Gurley

As part of the Meet the Cast of The Liar Blog Series, let us introduce you to India Gurley:

India Gurley

ROLE: Clarice, a young lady of Paris

DESCRIPTIVE LINE ABOUT CLARICE IN THE PLAY:

But this Clarice of yours.  Obese, obscene?
Some find her quite the glamorous gamine.

CAST QUESTION:

Clarice’s repartee with Dorante and Alcippe is very funny throughout the play.  As an actor, how do you keep your composure and not laugh out loud in such scenes?

Not laughing at the outrageously funny scenes between Clarice, Dorante and Alcippe is going to be a huge challenge! Especially because I am the type of person to break very easily.

One of the things that is helpful for me is to remember that, when you’re in a comedy, what makes it funny is that these situations are very real for the characters. Their reactions and truthful need to get what they want are what make it so funny and engaging for the audience. It also helps that we rehearse the show for three weeks, so I can prepare myself for something especially funny coming up in the show.

What’s great about doing comedies is that it is always a blast to go to rehearsal everyday and laugh and create hilarious characterizations. Hopefully, I can keep it together on stage!

CAST BACKGROUND:

Park Square Debut Representative Theatre Hudson Valley Shakespeare: A Midsummer Night’s Dream; Victory Gardens Theater: The House That Will Not Stand; Milwaukee Repertory Theater: The Color Purple; Guthrie Theater: Abe Lincoln and Uncle Tom in the White House; Ten Thousand Things: Measure for Measure Training B.F.A., Acting, University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater Actor Training Program Upcoming Projects The Hypocrites (Chicago): Wit

India Gurley with JuCoby Johnson in a rehearsal. (Photograph by Connie Shaver)

India Gurley with JuCoby Johnson in a rehearsal.
(Photograph by Connie Shaver)

Area Premiere of The Liar – Park Square Theatre’s Proscenium Stage – September 9 to October 2

Park Square’s 2016-2017 Casting Announcement

Season Features Area Premieres, New Commissions, and Old Favorites

Saint Paul, Minn., August 10, 2016 — Park Square Theatre is ramping up for its 2016-2017 theatre season, which features two world premiere adaptations, the regional premieres of critically acclaimed comedies and dramas, and the return of audience and family favorites. The season is a showcase of the Twin Cities diversity and talent.

 

The season begins on the Proscenium Stage on September 9 with David Ives’s smash hit comedy The Liar. Cliton (Zach Curtis) can’t tell a lie, but his master Dorante (Sha’ Cage) can’t tell the truth. Dorante is in hot pursuit of one woman, but thinks she is another, which leads to amazing mix-ups and breathtakingly intricate lies. Sharp and saucy modern language adds zest to this sparkling urbane romance. Doug Scholz-Carlson will direct the uproarious comedy, which will also feature India Gurley, Rex Isom Jr., JuCoby Johnson, Michael Ooms, and Sara Richardson, with music performed by Don Livingston. The production team includes Rebecca Bernstein (Costume Designer), Mike P. Kittel (Lighting Designer), Eli Schlatter (Scenic Designer), and Abbee Warmboe (Properties Designer). (Sept 9 – Oct 2, 2016)

 

The opening show on the Andy Boss Thrust Stage, scheduled to start on September 23, 2016, will be the area premiere of Will Eno’s The Realistic Joneses. Meet Bob (JC Cutler) and Jennifer (Angela Timberman) and their new neighbors, John (Eric “Pogi” Sumangil) and Pony (Jane Froiland), two suburban couples who have even more in common than their identical homes and their shared last names. As their relationships begin to irrevocably intertwine, the Joneses must decide between their idyllic fantasies and their imperfect realities. Joel Sass will direct and design the set. The production team includes Cole Bylander (Costume Designer), Mike P. Kittel (Lighting Designer), C Andrew Mayer (Sound Designer), and Abbee Warmboe (Properties Designer). (Sept 23 – 0ct 16, 2016)

 

The season continues on the Boss Stage October 28 – November 20, 2016 with Lorraine Hansberry’s groundbreaking and inspirational A Raisin in the Sun, directed by Warren C. Bowles. This fiercely moving portrait of a family living and struggling on Chicago’s South Side in the 1950s was the first play written by an African-American woman to be produced on Broadway. The Washington Post hails it as “one of a handful of great American plays – it belongs in the inner circle, along with Death of a Salesman, Long Day’s Journey Into Night and The Glass Menagerie.” The play will star Greta Oglesby as the matriarch Lena and Darius Dotch as her son Walter Lee. The cast also includes Aimee K. Bryant, Robert Gardner, Neal Hazard, Theo Langason, and Am’Ber Montgomery. The production team includes Lance Brockman (Set Designer), Mike P. Kittel (Lighting Designer), and Evan Middlesworth (Sound Designer).

 

On the Proscenium Stage, the crowd-pleasing holiday slot in the line-up is the return of The Soul of Gershwin: The Musical Journey of an American Klezmer, created and written by Joseph Vass with music by George Gershwin and lyrics by Ira Gershwin and DuBose Heyward. Back by popular demand, this soulful play takes you back to early 1900s New York City— a creative melding of different cultures that created our distinctive “American Songbook.” George Gershwin himself (Michael Paul Levin), joined by three stunning singers (Maud Hixson, Geoffrey Jones, and Maggie Burton) and a fantastic Klezmer band, reveals the folk songs, blues, jazz, Yiddish theatre, cantor chants, and opera woven into songs like I Got Rhythm and Embraceable You. Peter Moore will direct. The production team includes Dean Holztman (Set Designer), Jacob M. Davis (Sound Designer), Mike P. Kittel (Lighting Designer), and Jason Resler (Costume Designer). (December 2-31, 2016)

 

Rodgers & Hammerstein’s classic musical Flower Drum Song comes to the Proscenium Stage January 20 – February 19, 2017. Set in San Francisco’s Chinatown in the late fifties, Flower Drum Song is a funny and moving story which explores what it means to be an American and touches the history of every person whose forbearers once arrived as strangers to these shores. The new, fully revised version includes David Henry Hwang’s Tony Award-nominated text. The co-production with Mu Performing Arts celebrates Mu’s 25th season anniversary and will be directed by Mu’s Artistic Director Randy Reyes. Flower Drum Song is in auditions at this writing—watch for a special announcement! The production team includes Andrew Fleser (Music Director, Conductor, & Arrangements), Penelope Freeh (Choreographer), Mina Kinukawa (Set Designer), Andrea M. Gross (Costume Designer), Jacob M. Davis (Sound Designer), Mike Kittle (Lighting Designer), Abbee Warmboe (Prop Designer).

 

Last season’s smash hit world premiere Nina Simone: Four Women returns to the Andy Boss Thrust Stage February 7-26, 2017. Back by popular demand and with added music, Christina Ham’s play, directed again by Faye M. Price, stars Regina Marie Williams as the legendary singer. Writing Mississippi Goddam in a bombed Birmingham church, Simone meets three strong women bound by tragic circumstance. Together, they sing their truth and rise triumphant. Aimee K. Bryant and Traci Allen Shannon round out the cast. The production teams include Trevor D. Bowen (Costume Designer), Lance Brockman (Set Designer), Patricia Brown (Choreographer), Jacob Davis (Sound Designer), Sanford Moore (Musical Director), Mike Wangen (Lighting Designer), and Sadie Ward (Properties Designer).

 

The season continues on the Andy Boss Thrust Stage with a world premiere commissioned adaptation of Macbeth by Jef Hall-Flavin. Shakespeare’s great tragedy explores the darkest corners of the human heart as the ambitious Macbeth (Jason Rojas) schemes and murders his way to the throne. Filled with raw ambition and greed that seems ripped from the headlines, the cast also includes Garry Geiken and Gabriele Angieri. The casting and production team assignments continue at this writing. (March 17 – April 9, 2017)

 

The area premiere of The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence will take place on the Proscenium Stage April 7-30, 2017. Madeline George’s comic drama was a finalist for the 2014 Pulitzer Prize. Four Watsons: trusty sidekick to Sherlock Holmes; loyal engineer who built Bell’s first telephone; unstoppable super-computer that became reigning “Jeopardy” champ; amiable techno-dweeb just looking for love. This brilliantly witty, time-jumping, loving tribute is dedicated to the people – and machines – upon which we depend. Leah Cooper will direct the cast which includes H. Adam Harris, Kathryn Fumie, and Paul de Cordova. The production team includes Lance Brockman (Set Designer), Kathy Kohb (Costume Designer), Katharine Horowitz (Sound Designer), and Mike Kittle (Lighting Designer).

 

David Hare’s modern classic Amy’s View continues the season on the Proscenium Stage May 12 – June 4, 2017, directed by Gary Gisselman and starring Linda Kelsey. Everyone has a different view. Amy’s view is that love conquers all. In 1979 Amy (Tracey Maloney) visits her mother, the West End actress Esme Allen, with a big favor to ask and a brash new boyfriend in tow. When the pair meet, Amy will find the views she holds so dear are painfully tested as she has to decide what’s worth fighting for. What none of them can know is that the events of that day will set in motion a chain reaction which will dramatically change their lives forever. The production team includes Joseph Stanley (Set Designer), Aaron Chvatal (Costume Designer), and Mike P. Kittel (Lighting Designer).

 

Park Square’s 42nd season concludes on the Proscenium Stage with Might As Well Be Dead: A Nero Wolfe Mystery by Joseph Goodrich, who penned Park Square’s 2011 Hitchcockian thriller Panic and record-setting The Red Box. Peter Moore will direct the adaptation of the novel by Rex Stout. Eleven years ago, wealthy Nebraska businessman James Herrold unjustly threw his only son, Paul, out of the family business. Now he wants Nero Wolfe to find Paul so he can make amends. But what if the young man doesn’t want to be found? And what if he’s the same Paul Herrold on trial for murder? This case draws the great detective (E.J. Subkoviak) and his devoted sidekick (Sam Pearson) into a web of deceit, one that even the master sleuth may regret taking on. Michael Paul Levin will reprise his characterization of Inspector Cramer. The production team includes Elena Giannetti (Assistant Director), Rick Polenek (Set Designer), Mike P. Kittel (Lighting Designer), A. Emily Heaney (Costume Desigenr), Anita Kelling (Sound Designer), and Abbee Warmboe (Prop Designer). Might As Well Be Dead is a world premiere commission by our Mystery Writers Producers’ Club. (June 16 – July 30, 2017)

 

The full calendar of sixteen projects includes the returns of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The House on Mango Street, expected to play to more than 30,000 students. Signe V. Harriday will be making her Park Square Theatre directing debut with The House on Mango Street, which will offer two public performances October 21 and 22, 2016. The cast includes Atquetzali Quiroz and Hope Cervantes as younger and older Esperanza, respectively, as well as Paulino Brener, Charisma Pruitt, Guillermo Rodriguez, and Pedro R. Bayon. The production team includes Annie Cady (Costume Designer), Christopher Kit Mayer (Set Designer), and Mike P. Kittel (Lighting Designer).

 

All shows will be in Park Square’s two theatre performance spaces in the Historic Hamm Building, 408 St. Peter Street, downtown Saint Paul. Shows, dates and artists are subject to change.

Season tickets are on sale now and available at 651.291.7005 or online at www.parksquaretheatre.org. Packages begin at $99 and can be expanded to include all 15 shows in the season, including productions by our partners Sandbox Theater, Theatre Pro Rata, and Girl Friday Productions, plus the three productions in the education series. Single tickets are on sale now.

 

THE 2016-17 SEASON

The Liar by David Ives (Comedy, Area Premiere), directed by Doug Scholz-Carlson. Sparkling urbane romance with sharp and saucy modern language. (Proscenium Stage, Sep 9 – Oct 2, 2016)

The Realistic Joneses by Will Eno (Comedy/Drama, Area Premiere), directed by Joel Sass. Two suburban couples between idyllic fantasies and imperfect realities. (Andy Boss Thrust Stage, Sept 23 – Oct 16, 2016)

The House on Mango Street (drama) by Sandra Cisneros, adapted by Amy Ludwig, directed by Signe V. Harriday who will be making her Park Square Theatre directing debut. This series of vignettes – sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes deeply joyous – reveal a young Latina growing up in Chicago. (Proscenium Stage, public dates Oct 21 – 22, full run Oct 11 – Nov 4, 2016)

A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry (Drama), directed by Warren C. Bowles. America’s landmark drama about hope, change, and the future. (Andy Boss Thrust Stage, Oct 28 – Nov 20, 2016)

The Soul of Gershwin: The Musical Journey of an American Klezmer, created and written by Joseph Vass. Music and Lyrics by George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin with additional Lyrics from Porgy and Bess by DuBose Heyward, (Musical) directed by Peter Moore. A creative melding of different cultures that created our distinctive “American Songbook.” (Proscenium Stage, Dec 2 – 31, 2016)

Big Money
Produced by Sandbox Theatre
World Premiere Created by the Sandbox Theatre Ensemble; Led by Derek Lee Miller

The ever-innovative ensemble will devise another world premiere story told with imagination and plenty of movement, this time based on the life of Michael Larson, who cracked the code of the 1980s game show “Press Your Luck.” (Andy Boss Thrust Stage, Jan 12 – 28, 2017)

Flower Drum Song, with music by Richard Rodgers; lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, revised book by David Henry Hwang (Comedy Musical), directed by Randy Reyes, co-produced with Mu Performing Arts.

The history of every person whose forbearers once arrived as strangers to these shores. (Proscenium Stage, Jan 20 – Feb 19, 2017)

Nina Simone: Four Women written by Christina Ham (Play with Music), directed by Faye M. Price. Regina Marie Williams returns as the one and only Nina Simone who broke barriers and rules in this honest and heart-filled exploration of life, music and beauty. (Andy Boss Thrust Stage, Feb 7 – 26, 2017)

Macbeth by William Shakespeare (Drama) adapted and directed by Jef Hall-Flavin. The great tragedy explores the darkest corners of the human heart as the ambitious Macbeth schemes and murders his way to the throne. (Andy Boss Thrust Stage, Mar 17 – Apr 9, 2017)

The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence by Madeleine George (Comedy/Drama, Area Premiere), directed by Leah Cooper. Brilliantly witty, time-jumping tribute dedicated to the people – and machines – upon which we depend. (Proscenium Stage, Apr 7 – 30, 2017)

Amy’s View by David Hare (Drama, Regional Premiere) directed by Gary Gisselman. The smallest events can set in motion a chain reaction that can dramatically change lives forever. (Proscenium Stage, May 12 – Jun 4, 2017)

Up: The Man in the Flying Chair
Produced by Theatre Pro Rata

By Bridget Carpenter; Directed by Carin Bratlie Wethern20 years ago Walter Griffin attached 45 helium-filled weather balloons to a lawn chair and found himself 16,000 feet above the world. Today he’s furiously holding onto his dreams and the faded memory of that glorious day, doing everything he can to keep his feet from touching the ground. (Andy Boss Thrust Stage, May 24 – Jun 11, 2017)

Might As Well Be Dead: A Nero Wolfe Mystery by Joseph Goodrich, adapted from the Novel by Rex Stout (Mystery, World Premiere Commission by our Mystery Writers Producers’ Club), directed by Peter Moore. The great detective and his devoted sidekick are drawn into a dangerous web of deceit. (Proscenium Stage, Jun 16 – Jul 30, 2017)

Idiot’s Delight
Produced by Girl Friday Productions
By Robert E. Sherwood; Directed by Craig Johnson

Winner of the 1936 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Idiot’s Delight is a romantic commentary on greed, idealism, love, and the grim realities of war. An eccentric assortment of characters are stranded together in a European mountaintop resort at the outbreak of war, including a munitions magnate, his mysterious Russian mistress, and an American song and dance man with his chorine companions “Les Blondes.” Girl Friday Productions brings its signature large ensemble cast to this dramatic comedy with musical accents, set in a world on the brink. (Andy Boss Thrust Stage, Jun 29 – Jul 23, 2017)

 

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The Program That Mary Built

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Before I’d become an usher for Park Square Theatre’s Education Program in 2014 and even as a season ticket subscriber about a dozen years ago, I had not known that Park Square Theatre has a robust and award-winning education program that now serves up to 32,000 students per year, one of the nation’s largest teen theatre audiences.  Our program not only provides outreach to school communities throughout Minnesota but even into parts of Wisconsin and as far as Iowa and the Dakotas.

Park Square Theatre’s Education Program was founded in 1994 by Mary Finnerty, who has also served as the theatre’s Director of Education for over 20 years.  Its creation story has the stuff of show business legend:  Artistic Director Richard Cook offers Finnerty a plum gig to direct Equus.  She has to decline because she’s having a baby in September and plans to leave Theater to find “a real job.”  A flabbergasted Cook watches Finnerty depart but quickly regains enough composure to stop her with a clearing of his throat, then a return of his capacity to speak.  Hadn’t Finnerty once been a teacher?  (Yes, she’d taught English and Theater for nine years, earned a Master’s degree in Directing, plus started and managed a community theater.)  Would Finnerty consider creating an education program for Park Square Theatre?  One that would impact the lives of so many youths, most certainly exposing some to their first theater experience ever?

Ultimately, Richard moves Equus to the spring so Finnerty can still direct what proves to be an enormously successful production. And she is hired as part-time Education Director.  The rest is history.

Finnerty has built Park Square’s Education Program brick by brick, laying a strong foundation with her organizational know-how, fearless experimentation and wisdom to not go it alone.  During her first year as Director of Education, she reached out to other teachers to help her design programs and study guides to be relevant and effective for teachers as well as students.  The Educator Advisory Board was thus born, initially with four teachers.  Today, the Board has grown to 18.

Just within the second year of its inception, Park Square’s Education Program had already attracted an astonishing 3,100–and by 1999, 18,000–middle and senior high school students.  For over two decades, the program has continued to steadily grow in audience and scope of service, with offerings of Immersion Days filled with workshops as varied as Improv to Stage Makeup, Build A Moment presentations for glimpses into collaborative stagecraft and post-show discussions with directors and actors, excited to spark young audiences.

Park Square’s Education Program also prides itself in offering what we call An Evening of Theatre During the Day, treating our young patrons just like our evening audience but at a lower cost, with ticketed seating by professional ushers, an unabridged playbill and, of course, the exact same production seen by evening audiences.  Teachers are even invited to an annual Teacher’s Night Out, an event designed by teachers for teachers to get a special insider’s look at the Education Program.

Middle and high school teachers bring their students to Park Square Theatre–many year after year–because they find the Education Program’s offerings to be uniquely tailored to their needs.  Because they are created with the help of highly committed teachers, the study guide for each play is so carefully designed to be age-appropriate, thematically relevant and user friendly.  The plays themselves, from such classics as The Diary of Anne Frank and Macbeth to newer offerings like My Children! My Africa! and Flower Drum Song, are also chosen to engage a wide spectrum of audiences.

It literally took my working for Park Square as a daytime usher and personally witnessing the response of school groups to discover and appreciate the priceless jewel of the Education Program that lays within the treasure chest that is Park Square Theatre itself.  Throughout this upcoming season, I look forward to unveiling to you the many facets of this precious gem–a program built by a teacher, with the help of teachers, for both teachers and, most importantly, their students.

TEST: Costumes 101: Before and During the Show

In theatre, as in real life, how one dresses reveals a lot about a person.  This summer, I asked Megan West, Park Square Theatre’s Production Manager, to tell me how costuming is handled from start to finish.  So she did!

Park Square hires a designer to create costumes for each play. Before meeting the cast, the costume designer has already done much character research to consider appropriate wardrobes to help create the characters’ identities.  S/he puts together a “collage book” for each character, consisting of fabric swatches to determine what colors, hues and textures to use, pictures from fashion publications or ads, online images and whatever else may seem indicative of the character.  All the while, s/he is also consulting with the play’s director to discuss what really works.

The costume designer also attends production meetings to collaborate with the set and lighting designers.  For instance, the set designer may know not to get a red sofa if costumes will be in red, or the costume designer may know not to create green costumes if a set will be designed using green tones.  The lighting designer also needs to know about chosen color-schemes to create effective lighting.

The actors will have been measured and had fittings as part of the costuming process, which gives them some idea as to what they will wear.  Not until technical rehearsals happen will the actors start wearing the costumes.  It is the time for them to get a sense of how it feels to move with the costumes on as well as to practice how to quickly change in and out of costumes.  The actors, in fact, have their wardrobe organized and labeled on a rack in the dressing room as well as provided with a list of their costumes.  Everything is organized to help the play run smoothly.

Not all costumes need to be “created from scratch.”  That is actually an expensive process so, more often than not, clothing is purchased from stores, usually on discount or used.  Clothing and accessories can also be rented at low cost–a dollar per week for jewelry, $3 per week for pants, $4 for coats.  Actors may even own personal pieces appropriate for the play, which the theatre pays them rent to use.

The designer’s job is not yet over even after the show has opened.  Audience reactions in the preview performances can influence costume changes.  For instance, if an orange dress causes laughter in a serious scene, then the designer must change the dress.  Or does a tank top on an heiress, for example, look cheap and shabby on stage when it shouldn’t?

Costumes must be kept clean throughout the play’s run, too.  Park Square has a  part-time wardrobe staff member who keeps track of laundering schedules and repair lists so a hired laundress knows what and when to wash in-house or dry-clean and what needs mending.  In general, clothing is washed every other performance, but articles that touch skin, such as underclothing and slips, must be laundered after each performance.  A helpful “trick of the trade” is to spray vodka on clothes as a disinfectant.  Once the play ends, everything gets a final wash.

When I have watched actors in performances, I was unaware of all that is involved in the costuming process.  So much meticulous attention to detail is necessary to design or acquire the right costumes and to maintain and organize them.  So much hidden work goes into creating magic on the stage.

              Calendar Girls Costumes          Calendar Girls Costumes

Some Costumes for Calendar Girls

 

(Look out for the upcoming blog, “Costumes 102: After the Show.”)

 

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