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The Liar: Featuring Rex Isom Jr.

As part of our Meet the Cast of The Liar Blog Series, let us introduce you to Rex Isom Jr.:

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ROLE: Geronte, Dorante’s father

DESCRIPTIVE LINES ABOUT GERONTE IN THE PLAY:

(Said by Dorante)

My friends, here’s to my dad, without whose virtue
I’d not have known how fraudulence can hurt you!

CAST QUESTION:

As I understand, you have a strong background in improvisational comedy.  How do you plan (or do you plan) on drawing from that skill as Geronte, even though it is a scripted play?

For a scripted play, I believe that improvisation helps the actor with the technical aspects of presenting the character. Since improv really relies on the actor being a good listener and observer, having those skills during a scripted and blocked performance provides the actor with a sort of “behind the scenes” backbone. You are more aware of the overall construct, and thus you can aid more in those “bump in the road” moments, like when a line might be dropped by another actor or a prop falls on stage. You can help out in a much more natural way and stay in character since improv is also about maintaining your character in every way throughout the scene–emotionally, physically and mentally.

Some might think improv makes it harder to maintain the precision of a scripted work. On the contrary, it helps me fortify that precision by keeping me attuned to the whole play and all its parts, not just my part.

CAST BACKGROUND:

Park Square Debut Representative Theatre Stevie Ray’s Improv Cabaret Show; New Native Theatre: The Meeting; Penumbra Theatre: Black Eagles; History Theatre: To Kill a Mockingbird; Brave New Workshop: Jesse Goes to Hollywood; Guthrie Theater: The Darker Face of the Earth Film Public Domain, Thin Ice Training B.S., Theatre Arts, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Awards/Other Most Outstanding Creative Programming Award, 2009 & 2011, CTV15, Roseville, MN Upcoming Projects History Theatre: The Highwaymen

Rex Isom Jr. with Sha' Cage in a rehearsal. (Photograph by Connie Shaver)

Rex Isom Jr. 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

Park Square at the Ivey’s

Here we are, a week later and the 2016 Ivey Awards are already in our rear-view mirror as we hurtle down the highway towards a new and promising season of theatre in the Twin Cities. Park Square certainly has a full lineup including The Liar, The Realistic Joneses, A House on Mango Street, A Raisin in the Sun and The Soul of Gershwin. Who knows if those or any other Park Square shows will be featured at the ceremony next year. All we can talk about for now are the ones we had the pleasure to see from last year’s remarkable season.

Everyone's favorite blogger (on the right).

David Beukema (left) and some blogger (right).

It started with me taking my seat at the beautiful State Theatre in Minneapolis and pulling out my phone to make sure I had everything ready for the tweets to come. I assured those around me that my texting was for the greater good and I was 100% paying attention to the entertainment on stage (those friends, by the way, were the Girl Friday Productions gang whose play, Idiot’s Delights, will be taking over the Boss Stage next summer!).

The evening’s entertainment started off with a bang, with Regina Marie Williams and Mark Benninghofen hosting the show. Benninghofen was in Shooting Star at Park Square in 2015; and Williams, most recently as Nina Simone in the eponymous smash hit. The house rocked later on when Williams, Thomasina Petrus and Aimee K. Bryant came out and performed a number from the show.

Hosts Mark Beninghofen and Regina Marie Williams. Photo credit: Ivey Awards

Hosts Mark Beninghofen and Regina Marie Williams.       Photo credit: Ivey Awards

While all of those performances serve to break up the flow of acceptance speeches, occasionally it seems to work the other way around. One of the best was from Park Square veteran Warren C. Bowles, who won an Ivey Award for his direction of The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife at Minnesota Jewish Theatre (hooray St. Paul!), who was so shocked he was begging the band for his cue-to-exit music.

My personal favorite moment of the night, however, was costume designer Trevor Bowen accepting his award for emerging artist. Having met Trevor in the halls of Park Square (where he designed the costumes for My Children! My Africa! and Nina Simone: Four Women), I can attest to the bright warming light of human being that he is. He had me cracking up through misty eyes as he could barely get through his speech, overcome with emotion on several occasions.

Example of Bowen's costumes in My Children! My Africa! featuring Ivey Recipient Warren C. Bowles.

Example of Bowen’s costumes in My Children! My Africa! featuring Ivey Award recipient Warren C. Bowles (left).   Photo credit: Petronella J. Ytsma

Bowen’s speech was definitely a highlight of a night where everyone deserved their spot in the sun. While Park Square itself wasn’t specifically recognized for any one thing, it was clear that the theatre has a far-reaching influence on the Cities. Even the co-writers of the ceremony, Shanan Custer and Zach Curtis, are frequent performers at Park Square and can currently be seen in The Liar. That to me is just as consequential as any trophy and echoes the spirit of the Ivey Awards. No nominees, no categories, no egos; just a gathering of friends and collaborators to celebrate the miracle of live theatre, because when you consider what it really takes to produce such art… whew, you wouldn’t believe it!

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Well, Park Square and its patrons believe it and we’re all looking forward to a brand new season and getting dressed up for next year’s theatre prom.

The Realistic Joneses: Featuring JC Cutler

As part of our ongoing Meet the Cast of The Realistic Joneses Blog Series, let us introduce you to JC Cutler:

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ROLE: Bob Jones, husband of Jennifer Jones, 40s

DIRECTOR JOEL SASS’ COMMENT:

I’m so delighted to finally be doing another show with JC.  We had a blast together working on Shining City and Hitchcock Blonde at the Jungle, and I know he’ll bring a depth of humanity and surprising humor to playing the role of Bob Jones.

QUESTION FOR JC:

In what way is Bob a realistic Jones?

I think Bob is realistic in that he’s living in the moment, figuring how to get to the next moment from day to day. All the characters in the play are doing that.

CAST BACKGROUND:

Park Square Cyrano, Red, The Odyssey, Democracy, Copenhagen, Born Yesterday Representative Theatre Guthrie Theater: A Christmas Carol; Guthrie Theatre/Berkeley Repertory Theatre/Tricycle Theatre (London): Tiny Kushner; Jungle Theater: Shining City; La Jolla Playhouse: The Deception; Florida Stage: Pavilion; Mixed Blood Theatre: Pajama Game TV/ Film North Country, Ishtar, All My Children; various commercial and voice work Training B.A., Carleton College; The Juilliard Theatre School (four-year diploma) Awards Friars Foundation Award; Suria and Michel St. Denis award

JC Cutler with Angela Timberman in a rehearsal. Photograph by Connie Shaver

JC Cutler with Angela Timberman at the first read-though of the play. Photo by Connie Shaver

The Realistic Joneses – Area Premiere – Andy Boss Thrust Stage – September 23 to October 16

The Realistic Joneses: Featuring Angela Timberman

As part of our ongoing Meet the Cast of The Realistic Joneses Blog Series, let us introduce you to Angela Timberman:

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ROLE: Jennifer, Bob Jones’ wife, 40s

DIRECTOR JOEL SASS’ COMMENT:

Angie is well-known locally and especially for her memorable turns in musical theater and comedy.  But she has a rich, dramatic dimension as well, which I don’t think gets enough opportunity to show itself on our stages.  A role like Jennifer Jones is perfect for someone like Angie because, while the character is extremely funny, her humor is like a band-aid that covers some deep scars of sadness and anger.

QUESTION FOR ANGELA:

How you see Jennifer Jones now will likely evolve as you go through rehearsals, but do you have an idea of how you may initially approach your role?

I think Jennifer is a natural caregiver. That’s her “super power.” She’s got a good heart. It’s also her “feet of clay.” When duty calls, she’s there; and I think, like all of us, when we’re good at something (especially when a problem arises that requires our “super power”), we can go overboard. She has to learn to let a crisis ride itself out without her help. Or recognize when a person (particularly her husband) doesn’t need her support every moment. When she overdoes it, she loses herself. I want the audience to see her discover who she really is, what her relationship with her husband is, what her fascination with her male neighbor is, as she navigates the fallout from this disease that’s entered their lives. One person can’t fix everything or be everything to another person. We’re taught that about marriage, and it’s a fallacy.

As subtle as the ending seems in this play, I think these characters are very different people in the end. Maybe, even happier. Or at least more content and wiser.

CAST BACKGROUND:

Park Square Sons of the Prophet, The Sisters Rosensweig, Painting Churches, Good People Representative Theatre Guthrie Theater, Jungle Theater, Children’s Theatre Company, Chanhassen Dinner Theatres, History Theatre, Illusion Theater, Ordway Center for the Performing Arts

Angela Timberman with JC Cutler at a rehearsal. Photograph by Connie Shaver

Angela Timberman with JC Cutler at a rehearsal.
Photograph by Connie Shaver

The Realistic Joneses – Area Premiere – Andy Boss Thrust Stage – September 23 to October 16

 

The Liar: Featuring Shanan Custer

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

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ROLES: Sabine, puritanical servant to Clarice; Isabelle, vivacious servant to Lucrece

DESCRIPTIVE LINES ABOUT SABINE IN THE PLAY:

Said by Philiste to his friend Alcippe:

. . . . I love her strictness.
She’s adamant as truth, she’s hard to rattle,
And on a picnic–expert with a paddle.

DESCRIPTIVE LINES ABOUT ISABELLE IN THE PLAY:

Said by Dorante’s servant, Cliton, about Isabelle:

I too submit me to the moon! Ah, Isabelle,
Sweet Isabelle, who really truly is a belle!
I’d find more rhymes if only she were visabelle.
Is it not risibelle how most invisabelle.
The indivisibelle Isabelle … is?

CAST QUESTION:

You have successfully played poignantly funny characters in the past, which takes great skill.  How will you approach the more directly hilarious task of playing twin sisters?

For me, there is very little difference in approaching these two styles of comedy. Trying to be funny has never been my approach because I’m not sure how to do that exactly.

It’s Acting 101 really: be in the moment, listen, be truthful and don’t be afraid to look silly or vulnerable or ugly or ridiculous. Above all, take care of the people around you; otherwise, you have no scene. There’s a great quote in the book Truth in Comedy about how, if you treat everyone around you like a genius, they will be. There are many ways to interpret this piece of advice; but, for me, the most important layer is to stop thinking about myself and just pour that energy into others and the scene. I can’t wait to play with this cast!

CAST BACKGROUND:

Park Square Calendar Girls; 2 Sugars, Room for Cream; Dead Man’s Cell Phone Representative Theatre Interact Theater: Hell is Empty and ALL the Devils are Here; Casting Spells Productions: Frankie and Johnny in the Clair De Lune; Workhaus Collective: The Mill; Theatre Pro Rata: Emilie: Le Marquis du Châtelet Defends Her Life Tonight; 2016 MN Fringe Festival: Sometimes There’s Wine Training M.A., Theater History, Theory and Criticism, University of Maryland, College Park Awards/Other Ivey Award 2013 (Ensemble, 2 Sugars, Room for Cream) Upcoming Projects Park Square: Theatre Pro Rata (at Park Square): Up: The Man in the Flying Chair

Shanan Custer with Zach Curtis in a rehearsal. (Photograph by Connie Shaver)

Shanan Custer with Zach Curtis 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 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:

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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

What’s Realistic?

The Liar Rehearsal

All fabrications?

For the past weeks, I’ve been writing about a play in which everything seems fabricated. The title character is a compulsive liar, but just about every other character is also duping someone else. Of course, I’m referring to the comedy, The Liar, which is on Park Square Theatre’s Proscenium Stage until October 2. Yet, the fact that the play is a farce and, hence, a critique of real-life societal mores, begs the question: To what extent is the play not realistic?

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What will Jennifer and Bob Jones do?

In juxtaposition, on Park Square’s Boss Thrust Stage from September 23 to October 16 will be the play The Realistic Joneses, a comedy/drama in which we watch two couples, both with the last name of Jones and both neighbors to each other, cope with a progressively debilitating illness. Mortality is certainly a sobering notion throughout the production, and how the characters choose to face it is reflected in the play’s title. The term “realistic” suggests a no-nonsense, pragmatic approach to life; but how does this actually play out for those who must face a terminal illness? Well, by relying on a sense of humor, of course; but what more? I’ll let you find out for yourself!

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The talented cast of A Raisin in the Sun

Then from October 28 to November 20 on the Boss Stage, Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun will make us ponder: How possible–how realistic–will it be for each member of the Youngers, a poor African-American family, to obtain his/her dream in a racially oppressive society?

Is the world the way Beneatha Younger claims it is to her beau Asagai: “Don’t you see there isn’t any real progress, Asagai, there is only one large circle that we march in, around and around, each of us with our own little picture in front of us–our own little mirage that we think is the future?”

Or is she mistaken, as Asagi counters: “What you just said–about the circle. It isn’t a circle….it is simply a long line–as in geometry, you know–one that curves into infinity. And because we cannot see the end, we also cannot see how it–changes. And it is very odd, but those who see the changes–who dream, who will not give up–are called idealists… and those who see only the circle–they call each other the ‘realists!'”

What an irony that theatre so often has the power to bring us closer to what is true to life–and that make believe opens the door to real self-discoveries.

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Plus Season Package Pricing:

Any 3 or more shows starting at $25 each

Any 6 shows starting at $142 total

All 13 shows starting at $294 total

(All “starting at” prices based on preview prices, standard seats.  Programs, dates and artists subject to change.)

NOTE:  All photographs in this blog were taken by Petronella J. Ystma.

James Vincent: August’s Front of House Employee of the Month

Ticket Agent Jimmy Vincent (Photograph by Connie Shaver)

Ticket Agent Jimmy Vincent
(Photograph by Connie Shaver)

Our Front of House Employee of the Month is James (“Jimmy”) Vincent. He began working at Park Square Theatre in October 2015 as a bartender, then soon became a ticket agent, house manager and usher as well. Whenever productions are simultaneously running on both the Proscenium and Boss stages during the evening and weekend, Vincent will now also act as Lead House Manager for one of those stages. He has become an all-around invaluable employee.

Bartender Jimmy Vincent (Photograph by Connie Shaver)

Bartender Jimmy Vincent
(Photograph by Connie Shaver)

When not at Park Square Theatre, Vincent is an actor and model. His dad first planted the idea of his pursuing acting during a father-and-son bonding moment of watching the entire first season of The Office. Ironically, Vincent soon after landed a role in his high-school musical, The Music Man. He got–as he put it–“further sucked into” theater by helping with behind-the-scenes work, such as set construction. He later earned a bachelor’s degree in Theatre and Performing Arts (major) and Media Production (minor) through Northern Michigan University, landing many roles in college shows, such as Danny in Grease and, his personal favorite, Kyle the UPS Guy in Legally Blonde.

After college, Vincent lived in Los Angeles before moving to Minnesota. He first worked full time for Northern Brewer Shipping Warehouse in Roseville before finding part-time jobs at both Park Square Theatre and History Theatre. Switching to theatre work has enabled him to focus on his profession of choice, auditioning, continually honing his craft with classes and being amongst his peers.

Model Jimmy Vincent (Photograph by Chris Gault)

Model Jimmy Vincent
(Photograph by Chris Gault)

Modeling has been a newer part of Vincent’s career path. After signing with an agency, he started appearing in print ads and commercials for products such as Hormel Chili. Vincent hopes to eventually become a full-time actor and model.

Audience Services Director Amanda Lammert describes Vincent as an “old soul” who is “a loyal friend and very close with his family.” He recently took a special trip to Decorah, Iowa, to attend the 40th anniversary of Nordic Fest with his grandmother, a ribbon-winning artist in Norwegian rosemaling. He also just attended the wedding of his longtime friend, the owner of Foggy Bottom Boys Dairy, from his past roots in Northern California.

Farmhand Jimmy Vincent

Farmhand Jimmy Vincent

Park Square Theatre is pleased to have the multi-talented Vincent in our midst.  We appreciate his excellent service on behalf of our theatre patrons.

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