Tickets: 651.291.7005

News

Two Words

H. Adam Harris as Thomas A. Watson & Kathryn Fumie as Eliza, the radio interviewer (Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma)

H. Adam Harris as Thomas A. Watson & Kathryn Fumie as Eliza, the radio interviewer
(Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma)

The lines that stay with me in THE (curious case of the) WATSON INTELLIGENCE are delivered by Thomas A. Watson, Alexander Graham Bell’s laboratory assistant, played by H. Adam Harris:

“If I may, this is significant. What my friend and mentor called out to me in that famous first sentence ever conveyed by wire was “Mr. Watson, come here, I want you.’ It is often misquoted.” (Click here to listen to the account of the real  Thomas A. Watson.)

Watson tries hard to set the story straight for his radio interviewer, who has it incorrectly in her notes that Bell had said, “Mr. Watson, come here, I want to see you.” However, she considers the misquote “a minor difference”; whereas Watson sees it as “a crucial one” for the following reason:

“The two words that seem to you a minor difference, to me spell the difference between a man calling out to an acquaintance for generalized assistance, and a man calling out to his intimate friend for a service only he can render.”

Watson had dedicated his life to helping Bell, an extraordinary act that could easily be judged by others as too unfairly selfless. After all, Bell got the fame as Watson fell into obscurity. But Watson sees that interpretation as “a gross mischaracterization. If I opened myself to my friend, he opened himself to me no less profoundly.” They’d developed a strong friendship built on shared vulnerability, commitment, respect and trust. They’d both gone into the relationship with eyes and hearts wide open; they both had each other’s backs.

I found myself pondering their powerful bond the other day as I monitored school groups during the intermission for The Diary of Anne Frank. Friendship is also a strong theme that runs through that play, and here I was watching hundreds of young people coming together to take it in.

It was in this uplifted mindset that I suddenly witnessed this scene: A small group of white girls standing by the stage and one girl a few steps above them. The apparent leader of the group yelled out to the lone girl, “Angela, come down here with us!”

I smiled at these welcoming words.

When Angela had not yet moved, the leader repeated more forcefully, “Hey, Stupid! Come down here with us!”

Two words added.  A crucial difference–the difference between friend and foe, invitation and threat.

Angela chose to return to her seat rather than join the girls, who were now giggling hysterically but also nervously, realizing that an usher had been a witness. Then the leader started a frenzied dance to shake off the moment, with some of her friends following suit.

THE (curious case of the) WATSON INTELLIGENCE, playing on Park Square’s Proscenium Stage until April 30, is, as described by Director Leah Cooper, “really a play about making yourself vulnerable to love.” It is about opening ourselves to help and hurt as we navigate our way around forming mutually beneficial and meaningful human connections.

Very heartening to me is what Adam Whisner, who plays Merrick in curious case, had said about himself during our interview (see the April 2 post “Adam Whisner: The Two Merricks”): With age, he steadily becomes more of a Watson–that genuinely kinder, less self-interested and guarded person who lets more expansive and truer human bonds form.

I think about the girls and how they will choose to relate to others in the near future and as they continue to grow up. I hope for them to steadily develop the Watson intelligence, too. And I hope in doing so they will add two more words omitted from their vocabulary: “I’m sorry.”  The crucial difference between relationship and disconnection.

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.

H is for Human

harris-h.adam-color

 In THE (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence, H. Adam Harris plays four Watsons. What they all have in common is the propensity to put others before themselves, always being one of the–as Alexander Graham Bell’s dedicated assistant, Thomas A. Watson, describes in the play–“halo of shadowy figures around the hero”; one of the “other less extraordinary people whose role it has been to help the extraordinary person make his mark.” They are the ones often left in obscurity though “they were there,” their unwavering support making the big outcome possible.

But don’t think for a second that H. Adam’s Watsons are one-dimensional pushovers following a blind allegiance to some misguided concept of complete self-sacrifice to another.

“Nice people are vulnerable people, but we don’t allow them to be fully dimensional,” says H. Adam. “We perceive kind, compassionate people to be weak. But in vulnerability lies strength. It takes more work to be compassionate.”

His Watsons are tough roles to nail, requiring just the right balance between emotional vulnerability and healthy pushback. In this world of the play where non-Watsons seem fearful of being controlled by things bigger than themselves, especially love, H. Adam must embody in each of his roles “the Watson intelligence.” This is, as H. Adam describes, “an emotional intelligence” in understanding what people need from each other and the willingness to open up to that interdependency.

In short, H. Adam gets the biggest challenge of all: to show us how to be most fully human.

 

H. Adam Harris plays Watson to Kathryn Fumie's Eliza on Park Square's Proscenium Stage from April 7 to 30 (Photo by Connie Shaver)

H. Adam Harris plays Watson to Kathryn Fumie’s Eliza on Park Square’s Proscenium Stage from April 7 to 30
(Rehearsal Hall photo by Connie Shaver)

H. Adam Harris’ cast background:

Park Square A Midsummer Night’s Dream Representative Theatre Seattle Children’s Theatre: The Snowy Day; Children’s Theatre Company: The Jungle Book; Penumbra Theatre: Dutchman and The Owl Answers; History Theatre: Complicated Fun; Ten Thousand Things: The Unsinkable Molly Brown Training University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater B.F.A. Actor Training Program Other Faculty at St. Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists; Resident Teaching Artist with Guthrie Theater and Children’s Theatre Company; Associate Director of Programming & Lead Teaching Artist of Penumbra Theatre Company

 

 

Meet Laura Leffler, the Newest Member of the Team

Park Square Theatre is excited to welcome Laura Leffler to downtown Saint Paul as she assumes the duties of the Company and Contract Manager. With a wealth of experience, she is stoked and ready to embrace all the challenges to come her way, including carving out time in her eventful day to connect with this blogger and answer a few questions!

What’s your background? What brought you to the Twin Cities and how did you get involved with Park Square?

I’m from Kansas City. I moved to the Twin Cities for an internship with Theatre de la Jeune Lune after graduating with my M.A. in Theatre History with an emphasis in Direction from the University of Kansas. I went to undergrad at a teeny tiny liberal arts college called Baker University, where I majored in English Literature and Theatre with an emphasis in performance. After moving to the Twin Cities, I co-founded the theatre company Savage Umbrella, for which I serve as the Artistic Director.

image003

Laura Leffler in her spiffy new office. Photo by Connie Shaver.

I met Megan West, the former Production Manager, at the Minnesota Theatre Alliance’s Performing Arts Human Resource Training series in 2015. I admired her work and tenacity for striving for diversity and inclusion, so when she went on maternity leave last fall, I covered for her while she was having a really cute baby. That time last fall allowed me to meet a lot of the staff, and get a small taste of the culture at Park Square.

What is the nature of your new role? What is your favorite part about it and what can be a challenge?

As the Company and Contract Manager, I feel a little like I’m learning to drive the car while I’m actually driving the car (which is a fun metaphor that helps me feel less overwhelmed). It’s a slightly different job than I had while I was covering for Megan, as some staffing changes and responsibilities shifted around. My favorite part is to get to be in the room where it happens (thanks, Hamilton) and have big picture conversations with Artistic Director Richard Cook and Executive Director Michael-jon Pease. Also, having a hand in casting is great. I think I’m good at putting together a team to work together in the room, and I’m excited that gets to be a part of my every day work. Everything that involves spreadsheets is a challenge, because I’m “Queen of the Right Brains”. But, every challenge is an opportunity, and I’m always excited to jump at an opportunity for growth.

Have you always done theatre-related work?

What theatre artist ever does all theatre-related work? No, most recently I was covering a few shifts at a local co-op deli. Love me some organic veggies, but they put an inordinate amount of lettuce on their sandwiches, so I’m glad to be back in a theatre setting!

What do you like to do when you’re not working hard?

I have wanderlust like nobody’s business, so I’m always looking forward to the next trip. Camping and tromping around Europe are my favorites. I have a goal to visit all of the national parks, and I’m about 40 short still, so I gotta get moving on that. I’m an avid cook and foodie, so if you ever want to talk Michael Pollan or the latest season of Top Chef, I’m your gal. I like high-brow theatre and dumb movies, rooting for Minnesota United and the Kansas City Royals (sorry, Twins, I bleed blue), and making my 4-year old daughter laugh.

12122480_10206829287425165_1082255475215209213_n

Now that you know all about Laura, it won’t be awkward to randomly talk to her about your favorite episode of Top Chef or your last trip to a national park. As for that Royals and Twins rivalry… well… we’ll just let that play out on the field.

Welcome to our team at Park Square!

Finding Your “Airness”

Ah, the beauty of theater camp.

After Friday night’s production — dealing with issues of privilege and parenting — we started our three play Saturday with Airness, a play by Chelsea Marcantel about air guitar competition.  The author is quoted in the program saying “People find out that air guitar exists and they’re like ‘Holy crap, you can do that?’ It’s a fun reminder that humans are endlessly inventive.”

Airness at the Humana Play Festival 2017

And fun and inventive it was. Characters included Shreddy Eddy, Golden Thunder, Cannibal Queen, D Vicious and Facebender (pictured), as well as the initially reluctant participant The Nina.

While our Park Square contingent seemed to agree that the author perhaps tried to include too many story lines (revenge for a broken heart, impressing a long lost daughter, the role of a public guardian in settling the affairs of people who die alone — and the role that air guitar might play in dealing with all these issues), we all agreed that we had a lot of fun watching these talented actors attempt to transcend everyday reality in their attempt to become rock stars.

The author intended her play to be about people who build each other up instead of tearing each other down — a reminder that you become the best version of yourself with the help of those around you. In that, I think she succeeded.

 

P.S. It didn’t hurt that, at the end, on this April Fool’s Day, we learned that the young man playing the amazingly and inventively clad competition announcer was actually the 2016 World Air Guitar Champion, and four time reigning Air Guitar Champion. His closing “concert” brought the audience to its feet.

Adam Whisner: The Two Merricks

whisner-adam-color

 From April 7 to 30, Park Square Theatre features the area premiere of THE (curious case of the) WATSON INTELLIGENCE on its Proscenium Stage. A 2014 finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, playwright Madeleine George’s play is described by Park Square as a “brilliantly witty, time-jumping, loving tribute . . . to the people—and machines—upon which we depend.”

The following is an interview with actor Adam Whisner, who plays two passionate men–both named Merrick and both experiencing women troubles, but each in different time periods:

Kathryn Fumie (Eliza) and Adam Whisner (Merrick) in a rehearsal (Photo by Connie Shaver)

Kathryn Fumie (Eliza) and Adam Whisner (Merrick) in a rehearsal
(Photo by Connie Shaver)

On the cover of the script, under the title, includes the descriptor, “a play about others.” What does that mean to you?

 There’s the person who gets the credit, and the other person who has their back. The other person made them coffee so they could keep working through the night. The other person held them as they sobbed after failed experiment #486. The other person loved them no matter what. We’re not all wired to be that person.

 In the context of this play, I think “the others” are the selfless, generous, compassionate companions. They’re the people we all want in our lives, and hopefully strive to be, when and if we’re ready to set ego aside and move from getting to giving. I think the kind of others this play highlights are evolved people, whether they know it or not. You’re either born as one, or you learn how to let go and become one. I think most “Watsons” aren’t entirely consciously aware that they are one. Similarly, the Elizas and Merricks of the world are barely conscious of their need for the Watsons, but it’s a desperate need. In my mid-40s, I’m pretty sure I’m an Eliza/Merrick, minus the brilliant scientist part, who is just starting to learn how to be a Watson.

 What is the biggest challenge for you in playing Merrick?

The lines! The Merricks have a lot to say, and I’ve always been a slow memorizer. The more complex challenge is making sure the Merricks are assholes for whom the audience has some compassion. The Merricks’ need for the Watsons is part of what humanizes them. The genius inventor who doesn’t know how to find love is still just a person who needs love. The divorcee running for office who wants to make the whole world a better place is still just a man suffering heartbreak in his little world. Assholes need love, too.

What led you to become an actor?

I was a precocious, sensitive, creative little kid, but always felt pressure to be something else, especially from stronger, tougher, sportier boys. My version of “I’ll show them” was acting in comedic lead roles in junior high school plays. After one of my first performances, I was in the lobby getting a drink from a water fountain as parents were milling about. I overheard one mother tell another that she hated school plays, that her daughter was terrible in them, and that she wished she’d stop doing them. My spirits sank. Then she said, “But that Adam Whisner kid should be on TV. He was hilarious.” I think I went up four hat sizes in that moment. My fate was sealed. Sometimes I think the only reason I’ve been able to make a full-time living as an actor is that I’ve believed I could since 1982.

What are you working on next?

I’m a company member of Wonderlust Productions, a theatre company that gathers personal stories from various communities in Minnesota and then invites those communities’ members to participate in creating plays based on their own stories. Participation includes being an actor or musician in the final production of the play alongside professional theatre artists. It’s not community theatre; it’s theatre for and by a community. We’ve done two full productions: The Veterans Play Project and The Adoption Play Project. Our next play, The Capitol Play Project, will focus on the folks who work at the Minnesota State Capitol who aren’t politicians and will be performed in the state capitol building itself in early 2018. I may wind up in another production before then if it falls in my lap. I don’t audition often enough. 

Photo by Connie Shaver

Photo by Connie Shaver

Adam’s cast background:

Park Square Wonderlust Productions’ Six Characters in Search of an Author Representative Theatre Guthrie Theater/Workhaus Collective: Little Eyes; Wonderlust Productions: Veteran’s Play Project, Adoption Play Project; Walking Shadow Theatre Company: The Crowd You’re in With, An Ideal Husband; Theatre Pro Rata: The Woodsman; Loudmouth Collective: A Bright New Boise, Gruesome Playground Injuries; Gremlin Theatre: Burn This; Commonweal Theatre: The Rainmaker; Alan Berks & Company: #Ringtone; Hidden Theatre: This Is Our Youth Training B.A., Theatre Arts, University of Iowa; Actors Theatre of Louisville Acting Apprentice Co. Accolades City Pages Best Actor 2016; Lavender Magazine Crème de la Crème Performances 2015

Bringing Up Baby

Humana Play Festival 2017 - Tickets and ProgramOur first show of the Humana Play Festival was Cry it Out by Molly Smith Metzler, directed by Davis McCallum. Twin Cities audiences had the chance to see Metzler’s Elemenopea at Mixed Blood a few years ago (the same season Park Square Theatre produced Lydia Diamond’s Stick Fly and we first worked with the amazing Jamil Jude).

Almost the whole Park Square gang heading into the first show of the festival.

Metzler’s new show features the same well realized characters — this time all young parents — crisp dialogue and “finger on the pulse”  relevance. Just read a few mommy blogs and you’ll see how deep the divide can be between moms who choose to continue their careers after having their first child, and those who choose (and can afford) to make the financial sacrifice to stay home. Metzler turns what could be an online bitch fest into a riveting and very funny play.

Jessie and Lena, each with newborns, start meeting in their shared back yard to get some adult conversation. From the woes of breast feeding to the choice to let a newborn “cry it out” at night to dealing with the expectations of in-laws, this show reveals these women sharply and tenderly. Hilariously. Movingly.

The class issues (Lena lives with her drunk mother-in-law to save money; Jessie is on leave from a law career in the city) ramp up when the rich couple on the cliff enters the scene (“we look down on you…Wait, that didn’t sound right”). From people who have to work third shift to be home when their baby is awake to couples who hire nannies with masters degrees in early childhood development, we see how much one’s resources can shape every moment of a baby’s life.

I was disappointed in how this show ended (like many new shows, it felt more like it stopped than ended), but the journey was so worthwhile, I can forgive that.

Park Square Group at the Humana Play Festival 2017

Almost the whole Park Square gang heading into the first show of the festival.

Even if you’ve never had a baby, you can recognize the human moments we’ve all experienced. Sharing too much with a stranger because somehow you can’t talk to the people you love. The funny, joyous realization that you’re not crazy — other people feel like that too. And the wonderful chance to let your hair down about the things “no one” talks about. And who can resist lines like “am I the crazy neighbor? Oh, no, I’m somebody’s crazy neighbor!” or “men think they’re in charge and then you have a baby. Then the vaginas are in charge!”

I’d love to see this show on the Boss Stage, where you can literally be in the back yard and smell the endless cups of coffee these neighbors share. And it was delicious to imagine all the casting choices for the three compelling, richly drawn young women.

So far, we’re off to a great start!

Kathryn Fumie, The Essential Elizas

fumie-kathryn-color

 I was reading the script for THE (curious case of the ) WATSON INTELLIGENCE after having learned about the hidden history of NASA’s female “human computers” and read about the social challenges for women in technological fields (The Atlantic magazine has literally just come out with its latest issue covering “Why is Silicon Valley So Awful to Women?”).

So it was to my delight that Watson Intelligence immediately introduces us to Eliza, a brilliant female artificial intelligence expert who is not a one-dimensional character. We get to meet this Eliza (there are three Elizas in this time-bending production) in all her fully human glory, whip smart but ultimately not invulnerable to the risks of human connection.

Despite the title and references to all the Watsons, the Elizas in the play are absolutely crucial to the plot. I now hand you over to Kathryn Fumie, who plays the essential Elizas, as she answers questions about her role:

Kathryn Fumie as Eliza and H. Adam Harris as Watson in rehearsal (photo by Connie Shaver)

Kathryn Fumie as Eliza and H. Adam Harris as Watson in rehearsal
(photo by Connie Shaver)

Playwright Madeleine George claims that “Watson” is “a play about others.” What does that mean to you?

 In rehearsal, we talk a lot about sidekicks. The term “sidekick” sounds dismissive to me, but I think perhaps there is a lesson to be learned in the Curious Case–in our lives, we only become ourselves through the energy and presence of other people playing supporting roles.

 Also, my character is so very opposed to letting “others” into her heart and soul. The play shows the great struggle people have to be vulnerable and to actually need people.

 What drew you to want to play Eliza?

 To be honest, I was first and foremost drawn to working with Leah Cooper. I have wanted to work with her since I saw a show that she’d directed in 2010 at Theatre in the Round. I would have said “yes” to any show that she asked me to be in.

 What challenges are you experiencing in playing Eliza?

 I want her flaws–her inability to be vulnerable, her utter/unshakeable belief in the idea of herself–to be as genuine and relatable as her search for connection and her frustration with other humans. 

 Also, making the common thread followable for the audience through three different characters in three different time periods is an interesting challenge.

Kathryn Fumie as Eliza in rehearsal (photo by Connie Shaver)

Kathryn Fumie as Eliza in rehearsal
(photo by Connie Shaver)

 What is your relationship to your technology? 

 I like it. It’s pretty useful….

 I’m better at using technology than a lot of people who are my parents’ age, but I definitely don’t know how to use technology the way young people do. I’m scared to fall behind. Truly. But I’m trying to stay on top of it. 

 What else are you working on?

 I recently helped develop new diversity programming for GTC Dramatic Dialogues. We go to colleges and universities to provide honest dialogue about difficult topics. I look forward to proliferating the new material this year. 

 Kathryn’s cast background:

 Park Square Debut Representative Theatre Theatre Unbound: Hamlet; Savage Umbrella: June; Swandive Theatre: An Outopia for Pigeons; History Theatre: Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story Training B.F.A., Performance, Rutgers University, Mason Gross School of the Arts Other Company member of GTC Dramatic Dialogues Accolades 2016 Ivey recognition for June at Savage

 

banner-watson-960x356-2-22

The Shattered Mirror

Joseph Stanley, the set designer for Park Square Theatre’s production of Macbeth, first became involved in theatre, both onstage and behind the scenes, during junior high. He decided to give it a try because his older sister had so much fun performing in high school plays. Then well-timed mentors kept popping up to broaden and guide his interest, from an enthusiastic fresh-out-of-college ninth grade English & Theatre teacher who would even let him into the shop rooms to “build stuff” on snow days to a high school teacher who let him design to his heart’s content.

By college, Joseph knew that he wanted to pursue set designing. He attended Indiana University in Bloomington where, despite being an undergraduate, his professor allowed him to take graduate-level courses. He also worked in summer stock theatre, steadily making connections for more designing opportunities. Joseph, who grew up in Iowa, ultimately landed in the Twin Cities to get his MFA at the University of Minnesota.

Joseph has worked in the Twin Cities since 1993, designing for 12 to 15 shows per year. About half his projects are for theatres with their own construction crew. For clients without their own staff, he both designs and provides set construction at his own studio. Since his first professional set design in 1984, he has been the designer for at least 250 shows.

Joseph had first worked with Macbeth‘s director, Jef Hall-Flavin, in last season’s Sons of the Prophet at Park Square Theatre, and Jef wished to work with Joseph again in Macbeth. Jef brought to Joseph the concept of using a shattered mirror as the central metaphor in the set design, and Joseph ran with it.

Macbeth set construction on the Boss Thrust stage

Macbeth set construction on the Boss Thrust stage

“Jef spoke about the timeliness of Macbeth,” Joseph said, “and how holding a mirror in front of ourselves would reflect ourselves back, especially given current events.”

Joseph, a self-professed pragmatist, also saw the practicality of using mirrors to give the illusion of having more people on stage.

Macbeth has just a cast of nine people,” he pointed out. “But there are a number of times when an army must be on stage. The mirrors make it seem like more than nine.”

The mirror, too, lends itself to practical use to highlight the mystical, other-worldly moments in the play. For instance, the mirrors at center stage act like two-way mirrors for a nifty visual effect when apparitions appear.

And, of course, the shattered mirror reflects the shattered story itself as, in Joseph’s words, “Macbeth becomes a shattered man who breaks down throughout the play.”

Macbeth set design realized on stage

Macbeth set completed on stage

I asked him, too, if he and Jef were not purposely tempting Fate, given that Macbeth already has the reputation of a cursed play (see my previous blog on theatre superstitions, “‘Macbeth’ and Other Unmentionables”). After all, breaking a mirror guarantees seven years of bad luck.

Turns out that Joseph is not particularly superstitious but thinks that “one of the neat things as a scenic designer is that people see things in my designs that I don’t consciously think about.”

You will see another Joseph Stanley set design this spring on Amy’s View, which runs from May 12 to June 4, on Park Square’s Proscenium Stage. Meanwhile, don’t miss seeing Joseph’s stunning set on the Boss Thrust Stage for our World Premiere Commission of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, adapted and directed by Jef Flavin-Hall, ending on April 9.

Park Square: It’s a Family Affair

If you have been to Park Square Theatre then you have probably met or seen our indefatigable House Manager, Jiffy Kunik, who runs a tight ship while being just the darn coolest.  I’m here now to let you know where she gets all that pluck, grit and charm – her father, John Kunik.

Kunik is currently an understudy in The Diary of Anne Frank, serving as back up for the roles of Mr. Van Daan and Mr. Dussel. He hasn’t had to go on yet, but you can bet he’s ready at a moment’s notice thanks to a lifetime in the theatre. This isn’t his first gig at Park Square but you would have to go back in time a bit to discover his previous credits…

… It was 1975 and America was preparing to celebrate the bicentennial while trying to figure out just where it was going. While the nation was coping with the end of war, Watergate and a crippling gas shortage, Saint Paul was ushering in the beginning of a new theatre called Park Square. This is where John Kunik got his start in Twin Cities theatre, working with founder Paul Mathey. They collaborated on shows such as The Roar of the Greasepaint—the Smell of the Crowd (1978), A Delicate Balance (1979) and even Kunik’s original one-act play When You Get in Trouble, Call Time Out, based on two characters who appear in Young Bucks, a full-length play he wrote in graduate school.

Young Bucks was the SIU-Carbondale entry into the American College Theatre Festival and was produced professionally in Chicago and Off-Off Broadway. A favorite memory of his in recounting the old days when the theatre  was in the Park Square Court Building across the street from Mears Park, was when a deer jumped through the window of the ground-level bar, completely destroying the glass. It was a Dixieland Bar and patrons had to wait two weeks for it to be repaired!

Photo by Stephanie K. Kunik

The father-daughter duo of John Kunik and Jiffy Kunik. Photo by Stephanie K. Kunik

Not only is Kunik a veteran of the stage, but a Viet Nam era vet as well. Right before he was set to begin graduate school, he was drafted and following basic training was sent to Seattle to await orders to go to what was surely Vietnam. Fate decided to have some fun, however, and Kunik was surprised to learn that he was headed to Anchorage, Alaska with the special services unit. His duties included being in charge of the entertainment division. As a private he was in charge of lieutenants and sergeants, directing them in various shows. One awesome story was when Kunik was directing Come Blow Your Horn with the father in the play was being acted by the head of the Criminal Investigation Division of the Alaskan Command who he was apparently investigating the guy playing his son, for drugs. What happened? Well he waited until after closing to bust him, of course!

Kunik spent a couple years in Alaska doing important work and gathering some incredible stories. When he was discharged he went back to school at Southern Illinois University and moved to Chicago to pursue a career in theatre. What brought him to the Twin Cities was a friend who came to visit and inspired him to move on a dime. Since then he has acted, directed and written shows for a plethora of companies including The Children’s Theater Company, Theatre in the Round, Lakeshore Players, Hey City Theater (home of the long running Tony ‘n Tina’s Wedding). He recently performed in The Gin Game at Pioneer Players in St. Cloud and directed The Sunshine Boys for Buffalo Community Theater. Perhaps the coolest credit on his resume is performing in a show at the Amsterdam Bar that was produced by his daughter Jiffy and entitled “Metal Not Metal” where, fully regaled in his tuxedo, he performed heavy metal lyrics as poetry….

It’s all pretty incredible and unfortunately we’ll have to wait for the autobiography to hear more. Park Square certainly loves both John and Jiffy and is happy to have them on the team!

Page 2 of 2012345...1020...Last »
    tagline-color

Theatre News for you!

Sign up to get the latest Park Square news