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Kathryn Fumie, The Essential Elizas

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 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

 

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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!

“Macbeth” and Other Unmentionables

The world of theatre is one filled with words, but some words should never be uttered.

Vanessa Wasche (Lady Macbeth) and Michael Ooms (Macbeth) (Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma)

Vanessa Wasche (Lady Macbeth) and Michael Ooms (Macbeth) on Park Square Theatre’s Boss Thrust Stage until April 9
(Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma)

DON’T SAY “MACBETH”!

One of the most famous superstitions in theatre is the belief that saying the actual name of “The Scottish Play” or quoting lines from it in the theatre where it is being performed will bring bad luck to the speaker and/or the production itself. One counter curse to its utterance requires the transgressor to, in front of the play’s entire cast, spin around seven times while saying “I am sorry” to Dionysus, the Greek god of the theatre. Another way to remove the curse is to leave the theatre, spin around three times, swear, spit over one’s shoulder, then knock on the theater door to humbly ask for readmittance (or some variation of these steps). One can also break the curse by reciting other Shakespearian quotations, such as lines from Hamlet or “If we shadows have offended” from A Midsummer Night’s Dream; or one can recite the incantation, “Thrice around the circle bound, evil sink into the ground.”

“GOOD LUCK” IS BAD LUCK

A well-known superstition is that wishing a performer “good luck” is extremely bad luck. One must not tempt the Fates or Evil Spirits to do the opposite of the true wish. So, instead, curse one of the actor’s most important attributes; tell an actor to “break a leg.” In Shakespearian days, “break” meant “bend” and, hence, taking lots of bows. In actuality, your curse translates to something like, “Take some well-deserved bows after your awesome performance.”

SKIP THE ENDING 

It is considered bad luck to say the last line of a play before opening night. To leave the “tag line” unrehearsed creates an element of worry during the first performance, thus lending a natural tension to inspire a good performance.

MIND THE TITLE

Thirteen is very bad luck in theatres, but plays with thirteen-letter titles are considered to be very lucky. So are plays with “green” in the title. However, having “peacock” in the title is unlucky (the eye of the peacock feather is associated with the evil eye) as well as–but only in America–including the words “bomb” or “turkey.”

SWEAR BY IT

The best way to get rid of bad luck is to swear. Banish evil spirits with obscene words.

THE CURSE IS IN THE PLAY

Some believe that Shakespeare deliberately included real witches’ spells in Macbeth. This angered the actual practitioners of the sacred black magic ritual depicted in the play, causing them to curse it. “Double, double, toil and trouble,” indeed!

 

from Macbeth by William Shakespeare

. . . . Eye of newt and toe of frog,

Wool of bat and tongue of dog,

Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting,

Lizard’s leg and howlet’s wing,

For a charm of powerful trouble,

Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

 

 

Sources:

Macbeth Study Guide, Park Square Theatre

http://sites.lib.byu.edu/worldhistory/folklore-william-a-wilson-folklore-archives/popular-search-topics/performance-lore/superstitions/

http://www.classacttutu.com/blog/superstition-and-the-dancer-from-hauntings-to-good-luck-charms.html

http://www.stagedoormemphis.org/sdpfamily-blog/2015/3/12/13-theatrical-superstitions-and-myths

Carry on a Coffee Sleeve Conversation

 

Ting Ting Cheng recently had an in-depth discussion with artist Dan Choma at a local coffee shop about his pen-and-ink drawing "I Prefer Rudeness Over Casual Racism" (www.danchoma.com)

Ting Ting Cheng and artist Dan Choma talked about his pen-and-ink drawing “I Prefer Rudeness Over Casual Racism” at a local coffee shop.
(Visit www.danchoma.com to view more art and music)

In October 2015, Coffee House Press (CHP), an internationally renowned independent book publisher and arts nonprofit based in Minneapolis, was awarded a St. Paul Knights Arts Challenge grant to launch its Coffee Sleeve Conversation project. By producing and distributing coffee cup sleeves featuring the words of St. Paul writers of color, CHP hopes to foster community conversations on race and the arts. While these sleeves will be distributed to several St. Paul coffee shops, Park Square Theatre is also proud to be selected to participate in the Coffee Sleeve Conversation project.

CHP has an established history of community involvement through Books in Action programming, which produced the Coffee Sleeve Conversation project. Books in Action projects came about because CHP “has long recognized that there are many possibilities for reader/writer exchange beyond (and even without) the page. . . . Our vision for the future is one where a publisher is more than a company that packages books. We strive to be a catalyst and connector–between authors and readers, ideas and resources, creativity and community, inspiration and action.” Other innovative Books in Action projects have included Ring Ring Poetry, a poetry installation featuring local poets “broadcasting” poems linked to specific Twin Cities sites; CHP in the Stacks, a library residency program placing writers, artists and readers in public and private collections/libraries to creatively engage with community members; and much more. Be sure to visit coffeehousepress.org to learn more about their publications and programs.

For the Coffee Sleeve Conversation project, poet and activist Tish Jones solicited and selected work from writers of color in St. Paul. The process included an open call for submissions, and the words of 20 writers were printed on approximately 10,000 sleeves. Park Square employee and local writer Ting Ting Cheng is very excited that an excerpt of her poem was chosen as a conversation starter. It reads “May Kuan Yin, / goddess of mercy, / protect / all who / enter here.”

On each CHP sleeve is a poem excerpt by a local writer of color. (Photo by Connie Shaver)

On each Coffee House Press sleeve is a poem excerpt by a local writer of color.
(Photo by Connie Shaver)

In CHP’s words, “By focusing on local writers of color, the series will point to the depth and excellence of writing from people of color that is already available in the community, and catalyze and enlarge the conversation in diversity, media, activism, and art both locally and nationally.”

Equity, access, public engagement: these are values that CHP live by; these are values that Park Square Theatre shares. Be sure to look out for the coffee sleeves at our Proscenium and Boss stages for the rest of this season.

“Most of what people are hesitant to speak out about is an ugly truth. Art helps make it more appealing.” — Tish Jones in an interview with Intermedia Arts

 

This is a Man’s World…

March 8th was International Women’s Day, and in that spirit, I wanted to dedicate this post to a particular group of unsung heroes across the ages: Women who were partners to men in positions of power. One such woman is Lady Macbeth (but more on her in a moment).

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5 living former FLOTUSes

Since America has not yet had a female head of state (unlike these countries), we’re well acquainted with women who were partners to men in positions of power. Throughout America’s history, we’ve seen the office of FLOTUS (First Lady of the United States) take many forms depending on the personality of the First Lady herself. A leader in her own right, FLOTUS is arguably the highest profile person in US government that is unelected. And she is capable of doing something that few, if any, others can do: She can remind the President that he is human. When you’re repeatedly called the Leader of the Free World, that kind of power is likely to go to anyone’s head. Enter FLOTUS; she was around before POTUS got the nuclear launch codes, she’s one of the few people who can call him by his first name, and she can point out his flaws and tell him he’s wrong without fear of losing her job. She exemplifies the kind of woman described in the immortal words of the great poet James Brown: “This is a man’s world, but it wouldn’t be nothin’, nothin’ without a woman or a girl.

My favorite fictional FLOTUS is Abbey Bartlet (played by Stockard Channing) from the TV series The West Wing. When the show began they hadn’t cast a First Lady (if that isn’t a testament to how women are regarded in our culture, I don’t know what is). She doesn’t appear in the series until the 7th episode of the first season, in which they explain her absence by suggesting she’d been away visiting a foreign country. Near the end of the episode, she says:

“I shouldn’t have stayed away so long… You know, one of things that happens when I stay away too long is that you forget that you don’t have the power to fix everything. You have a big brain, and a good heart, and an ego the size of Montana… You don’t have the power to fix everything.”

FLOTUS Abbey Bartlet getting real with the President

And with that, you see President Jed Bartlet (played by Martin Sheen) go from having the gravitas of POTUS to the vulnerability of a schoolboy. That is the effect that these women can have on men in positions of power.

The women in Macbeth are likewise influential but in different ways. The three Wayward Sisters (of “Double Double Toil and Trouble” fame) set the story in motion with a prophecy. Lady MacDuff, raising three young children while her husband is off at war, tells the story of the sacrifices some women make while her husband is off increasing his status. A modern touchstone is Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver who left her career in 2004 due to the conflict of interest that had arisen between her work as a journalist and her new role as First Lady of California.

Lady Macbeth by Charles Soubre

Lady Macbeth by Charles Soubre

Lady Macbeth infuses Macbeth himself with her own ambitions, moving him to claim that which he believes is rightfully his. Her level of ambition is quite common for women in our day and age but may have been extraordinary in Shakespeare’s time. She grounds Macbeth in moments when he tends toward a wide array of emotions and is able to be a rock for him when he is unsettled. Their relationship seems to oscillate between stereotypical gender roles; when he is more emotional, she is more pragmatic, and when he becomes more ruthlessly ambitious, she becomes more compassionate.

Shakespeare is not known for having written many strong roles for women, often leaving even the more prominent women in his plays without much of a voice at the play’s conclusion. And while Lady Macbeth is still regarded as one of Shakespeare’s stronger female characters, we still see how often women are defined by the men to whom they are married. Case in point: None of the women in the play have their own names. In modern times, we know that women may have come a long way, but we still have a long way to go.

So here’s to the women out there who continue to be under-appreciated for all the contributions they make to our lives. May we be able to see them for all they do for us, and bring their stories to the stage.

Designing Costumes for the Brutal Period

Macbeth costume

For Sarah Bahr, the costume designer for Park Square Theatre’s production of Macbeth, determining the time period of the play with Director Jef Hall-Flavin was key to nailing down her costume concepts.

“Jef and I discussed creating our own ‘Brutal Period,’ which takes from ancient and modern,” Sarah said.

Lady Macbeth costume design“From the start, I wasn’t interested in an historic representation of ancient Scotland,” Jef explained. “While that’s a fine idea for a film, I find it can remove the audience from the here and now. I want the audience to feel connected to the characters. Historically accurate costumes are also not practical when actors plays multiple roles. My goal was to create an onstage world where swords and daggers don’t feel out of place, but yet we may recognize fabric and garments from our own time.”

Sarah added, “I melded research from couture fashion designers and medieval clothing. Through my research process, I found similarities in the use of leather and heavy woven cloth, draping fabrics and asymmetrical lines.”

Jef further challenged Sarah to create a religious symbol for the prophesying three witches or sisters. It would be the same symbol that Macbeth would wear as well.

“Countless productions have portrayed the witches as supernatural figures,” Jef said, “but I wanted them to be more like nuns. So the challenge I gave to Sarah was to create garments for a religion that doesn’t exist. What she’s been able to cleverly create is an ecclesiastical look for the sisters–complete with symbology and meaning as if it were a major world religion–without being recognizable as historically Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, etc. Ours is a religion without a name.”

Macduff costumes                    Sarah had researched geometric symbols of Alchemy and modern jewelry design to come up with the symbol for the witches and Macbeth, a circle with a triangle inside and a rectangular + shape at the bottom. Then she extended the concept of using geometric symbols to identify characters as Thanes but also differentiate each as coming from a different place, somewhat similar to the idea of family crests. This latter choice also helped to further accentuate the importance of symbols for Macbeth, King Duncan and the sisters.

Because this production has nine actors portraying 24 characters within just 90 minutes, Sarah additionally came up with the idea of color coding characters to wear their related group’s color. For instance, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth wear red tones, while Macduff’s family members are garbed in greens. This not only helps the actors with speedier costume changes but, more importantly, helps the audience track plot lines plus understand who is who and their relationship to each other.

“It’s a great solution to providing the kind of clarity I wanted,” Jef said, “especially since many of our audience members will have never seen the play before.”

Regardless of whether you’ve seen Macbeth performed on stage before, you have decidedly not seen it ever depicted within the Brutal Period, a time reminiscent of both then and now. This tragic Shakespeare play remains pertinent to this day. Don’t miss it on the Andy Boss Thrust Stage March 17 to April 9.

More Macbeth costumes

 

(Note: If you’d missed it, be sure to go back to read the prior post, “SARAH BAHR: Costume Designer for Macbeth.”)

* All costume sketches on this post are by Sarah Bahr; all photos were taken by Connie Shaver.


Ting Ting Cheng joined Park Square Theatre’s Front of House staff in 2014.  Born in Hong Kong and raised in Los Angeles, she became a Minnesotan after graduating from Carleton College with a B.A. in English Literature.  She loves live theatre and has a passion for writing.

SARAH BAHR: Costume Designer for “Macbeth”

(Photo by Christa Haeg)

(Photo by Christa Haeg)

The other day, students from a small town southwest of St. Paul, surrounded by some of Minnesota’s most productive farmland, streamed into Park Square Theatre for their first live professional theatre experience. They’d travelled 130 miles in over two hours one way, dressed up for the special occasion and were absolutely thrilled to be here.

Upon discovering, in the post-show discussion, that the town has no formal theatre opportunities beyond community summer stock, cast members encouraged them to create their own projects and, just as importantly, try on as many roles as possible, both in front of and behind the stage.

It was against this backdrop that I received answers from Sarah Bahr, the costume designer for Park Square’s production of Macbeth from March 17 to April 9, regarding her background in design. At this moment, we introduce Sarah herself, perchance to inspire explorers into someday realizing their own dreams.

Sarah Bahr prepares Vanessa Wasche (Lady Macbeth) and Michael Ooms (Macbeth) for a photoshoot (Photo by Connie Shaver)

Sarah Bahr prepares Vanessa Wasche (Lady Macbeth) and Michael Ooms (Macbeth) for a photoshoot
(Photo by Connie Shaver)

The following is an excerpt from our interview:

Sarah, how did you come to become a costume designer? What was your journey to hone in on that as your passion?

I grew up in rural Minnesota, which started my journey as an artist. My mother taught me to sew, my father taught me to work with my hands and my grandmothers taught me to paint. I was always creating and using my imagination, though I didn’t fully understand I could choose a career in the arts until I was in high school. 

I attended the University of Minnesota Duluth to study costume design. I was drawn to the field because of my love for fabric, sewing, sculpting, defining characters through clothes and the collaborative nature of theater. 

After graduation, I worked as a stitcher for the Minnesota Opera, Santa Fe Opera and Guthrie Theater but soon realized I needed a big change. I moved to New York City to pursue a career in building costumes. After working at one of the many Broadway costume houses, I noticed how removed I was from the collaborative theater-making process and how I liked theater creation more than just making costumes.

My next opportunity came from NYU’s TISCH Graduate Costume Shop, where I worked for the next five years, working with the graduate costume students, building costumes, supervising wardrobe, coordinating craft projects and executing wigs and specialized makeup. On the side, I pursued a MA in Studio Art from NYU and studied fiber arts and sculpture in Venice, Italy, during my summers off.

True to form, I was ready for another change, and Minnesota called me back home. After assisting many seasoned designers at the Minnesota Opera and the Guthrie Theater, I knew my next step would be to hone my skills as a designer and pursue a freelance career. I studied under Mathew Lefebvre at the University of Minnesota and received my MFA in Design and Technical Theater.

The paths my life has taken me prepared me to work as a creative, a maker and a problem solver. I am grateful for the variety of opportunities I’ve had to get me to this point of my career.

What is your favorite part in the costume design process and why?

I love researching. I look for images as inspiration during all steps of my design and production process. I love how unexpected images I find on Pinterest, in books or my daily life can influence a world I am creating on stage. Research images are my favorite tool to use when discussing a project with my director, design team and actors; they help define what is in my head before I start sketching my designs. 

Is there something that you are working on after Macbeth?

I am designing set and costumes for a new comedy, Lone Star Spirits, at the Jungle Theater. I am also designing costumes for One Man Two Guvnors at Yellow Tree Theater as well as the world premiere of The Boy and Robin Hood at Trademark Theater.

As you shall see on stage, Sarah’s costumes for Macbeth will be stunningly thought-provoking to match all other aspects of Shakespeare’s famous tragedy. You can also read more about Sarah Bahr’s work in an upcoming post, “Designing Costumes for the Brutal Period.”

Sarah Bahr with some of her costume designs for Macbeth (Photo by Connie Shaver)

Sarah Bahr with some of her costume designs for Macbeth
(Photo by Connie Shaver)

Sulia Rose Returns

Photo by Emmet Kowler

Photo by Emmet Kowler

Each year, Park Square Theatre presents The Diary of Anne Frank on its Proscenium Stage as one of our most popular Education matinees. Students from 7th to 12th grades witness life in hiding for the Franks in Amsterdam, Holland, until their discovery by the Nazis and subsequent transport to the concentration and death camps. What makes the play particularly poignant for our young audiences is that Anne was a real girl with hopes and dreams just like them.

This season, Sulia Rose Altenberg returns to once again play Anne Frank; she is also the youngest and the first Jewish actor to play her on our stage. On the day when Sulia received the lead role last season, she was still studying abroad in West Amsterdam and felt compelled to visit the Hollansche Schouwberg, the site of a beautiful Jewish theater building that became the Dutch Holocaust Memorial. There she read from a list the names of the Jewish Dutch people killed by the Nazi party: the Franks, the Van Pels and Fritz Pfeffer who’d hidden with the Franks, the Altenbergs, . . . .

Sulia’s connection to the Holocaust definitely helps her identify with Anne but also motivates her to give the most compelling performances possible. She feels a responsibility to both carry on Anne’s legacy as well as to personally and professionally reach for the stars, given the privileges of a blessed life. She notes that “if Anne had been free, then given her personality, she may have very well become an actor or performer” like her.

In her second round as Anne Frank with many returning cast members, Sulia relished going in “knowing what we’re doing this year so able to look at the scenes even more in depth.” This season, she wishes to portray Anne as a maturer 13-year-old with more self-awareness and stronger sense of purpose. She herself has changed within the past year, with stronger boundaries and more assertiveness.

Though Sulia has been acting since she was 11, attended high school at both St. Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists and South High School and became a Park Square Theatre Ambassador in 2012-13, she actually majored in Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature rather than Theatre Arts at the University of Minnesota. She did, however, keep acting for local theatre companies, such as Theatre Unbound, Illusion Theater and Frank Theatre, amongst others.

When not at Park Square, Sulia works for GTC Dramatic Dialogues, an organization that gives presentations and facilitates frank discussions at colleges throughout the nation on issues of racism, sexism, trans- and homophobia, sexual assault and substance abuse. It’s yet another way for Sulia to help make the world a better place.

October 18, 1942, diary entry: This is a photograph of me as I wish I looked all the time. Then I might still have a chance of getting to Hollywood. But at present, I'm afraid, I usually look quite different. (Photo from Anne Frank: Beyond the Diary - A Photographic Remembrance by Ruud van der Rol and Rian Verhoeven for the Anne Frank House)

October 18, 1942, diary entry: This is a photograph of me as I wish I looked all the time. Then I might still have a chance of getting to Hollywood. But at present, I’m afraid, I usually look quite different.
(Photo from Anne Frank: Beyond the Diary – A Photographic Remembrance by Ruud van der Rol and Rian Verhoeven for the Anne Frank House)

 

 

JUDY BARTLETT: January Audience Services Employee of the Month

Judy Bartlett at Park Square Theatre (Photo by Becky Walpole)

Judy Bartlett at Park Square Theatre
(Photo by Becky Walpole)

Mother. Grandmother. Volunteer. Teacher’s aide. Research assistant. Office manager. Legislative assistant. Political campaigner. Grant writer. Indispensable Park Square staff and supporter. These are only some of the roles that Judy Bartlett, our January Audience Services Employee of the Month, has played throughout her lifetime–roles that have honed and utilized her exceptional organizational and people skills from which all of us benefit.

Judy was first introduced to Park Square Theatre in the mid-1990s by a friend who’d recruited her to assist with a mass mailing. She’d continued to volunteer whenever needed, only to become, ten years later, the coordinator of this very group. It came to be called the Friday Morning Club when she streamlined their schedule to meet one or two Fridays per month to assemble mailings (anywhere between 500 to 1200 pieces!) for Development, Marketing and Education. Even now, Judy continues to be the Friday Morning Club Coordinator.

Judy Bartlett with the Friday Morning Club (Photo by Mackenzie Pitterle)

Judy Bartlett with members of the Friday Morning Club
(Photo by Mackenzie Pitterle)

Twice Judy has been hired onto the Park Square staff. In 2009, she was the interim Development Associate, a part-time position that stretched beyond the anticipated two months to a much longer three years.  Her varied tasks included coordinating meetings and events, handling donations, updating records and, most importantly, mastering the newly installed Total Info database, which tracks just about everything needed to run the theatre.

Since 2015, Judy has been on staff as the Usher Coordinator. As such, she oversees the recruitment, retention and scheduling of over 200 volunteer ushers. When she began her job, she had to learn to use a newly installed software program as well as manually input any missing usher volunteer information that had not successfully transferred from the old program. Then with her usual high attention to detail and warm personal touch, Judy further rolled up her sleeves to steadily strengthen and improve operations and, especially crucial to any volunteer program, establish herself as its dependable contact person for both volunteers and staff.

Not originally an avid theatre-goer, working at Park Square eventually, as Judy put it, “opened up theatre for me.” Now she is proud to be the first subscriber every season by filling out her form during the first season mailing. (Judy has even been known to see a favorite play up to three times!) And if you bump into her at a show, more likely than not, her daughter will be by her side. Theatre-going has become a terrific way to bond for this mother-daughter pair.

Beloved mother. Grandmother. Candy Crush aficionado. Loyal friend. Behind-the-scenes lifesaver. Change maker. Beautiful human being. Park Square Theatre is thrilled  for the opportunity to shine a spotlight on Judy Bartlett, January’s Audience Services Employee of the Month.

Judy Bartlett with Executive Director C. Michael-jon Pease (Photo by Mackenzie Pitterle)

Judy Bartlett with Executive Director C. Michael-jon Pease
(Photo by Mackenzie Pitterle)

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