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Mina Kobayashi: May’s Front of House Employee of the Month

Mina in the Ticket Office

Mina in the Ticket Office

Mina Kobayashi moved to Minnesota in August 2015 and began working at Park Square Theatre’s ticket office in September.  In May, Kobayashi was named Park Square’s Front of House Employee of the Month in honor of her terrific work.

As Kobayashi’s skills increased, so did her responsibilities as part of the Front of House staff.  She was put on the Subscription Team to serve season package holders as well as sent to promote Park Square at “Hello Saint Paul Welcome Hat” events at the Minnesota History Center.  The latter is a bimonthly gathering to welcome new community members to St. Paul and introduce them to local businesses and organizations.

Kobayashi, whose home is in New York City, graduated from Colby College in Waterville, Maine, in May 2015.  She majored in Anthropology and East Asian Studies.  While looking for work in the event planning or development fields, Kobayashi applied for a one-year AmeriCorps-VISTA positon in the Twin Cities national headquarters of College Possible.  College Possible is a nonprofit organization that helps low-income students get a college education, and she became their Individual Giving VISTA.   Kobayashi herself had gone to college with the support of the Posse Foundation, an organization which helps public high school students gain access to a college education, and saw the opportunity to pay it forward through her work with College Possible.

Kobayashi has enjoyed the opportunity to work for Park Square Theatre and support its mission this past season.  However, her yearlong term at College Possible is about to end, and Kobayashi has decided to rejoin family and friends in New York City.  She retains an interest in pursuing development positions for nonprofit organizations.

Thank you, Mina Kobayashi, for all your hard work on behalf of Park Square Theatre.  You will be missed, and we wish you the best of luck!

Marketing Coordinator Alicia Pedersen and Mina Kobayashi promote Park Square Theatre at Minnesota History Center's "Nine Nights of Music"

Mina with Marketing Coordinator Alicia Pedersen at Minnesota History Center’s “Nine Nights of Music”

 

 

Costumes 101: Before and During the Show

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

              Calendar Girls Costumes          Calendar Girls Costumes

Some Costumes for Calendar Girls

 

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

 

Season Packages for 2016-2017 Now Available!

2016-17 Season Packages at Park Square Theatre

Subscribe to the 2016-17 season and enjoy these benefits:

• Save up to 31% over single ticket prices. Subscribers also save on additional single tickets & get deep discounts for special add-on shows.

• Favorite seats at the best prices! Renewing subscribers go to the top of the queue and receive priority seating when they renew by the deadline.

Flexible and easy exchanges with no exchange fees for tickets in the same price tier.

Purchase convenient pre-paid parking with your order. Read more »

Dear Girls of the Alternative Calendar,

When I saw your story on stage, you made me think of my crucial bonding experiences with women that help me get through life.  These relationships require us women to dig deep within ourselves to be real, be gentle and be tough with each other in order to become better–not perfect–people.

When I was younger, I had moved to a conservative and non-diverse small city of Minnesota.  It was an initially isolating experience, but I slowly made a female friend here and another there, mainly by working as a temp throughout the city.  I doubt that it was an accident that most of us had come from somewhere else–outsiders clinging to each other for understanding and companionship.  We were younger then and talked often about our dreams to be a singer, writer, artist or who knows what.  Most of us ultimately moved away to other parts of the country.  Though we are not as often in contact, I have not lost touch with these women.  We now discuss the important matters in our lives, such as how we are navigating motherhood, experiencing deaths of loved ones and making music, writing or creating, from afar.

This past year, I joined a women’s leadership group that is focused on fostering authentic leadership.  So often in the public and professional sphere, women are required to project a certain facade to be accepted or to advance.  To lead in a less masculine way in our society leaves us so vulnerable to criticism.  However, to support each other’s growth has required each of us women to talk deeply about our self-perceptions and self-doubts, a process that has required much trust as well as built trust amongst us.  We know that we can be world changers (if not already so!).

At the moment, my writers group consists solely of women of color.  Sharing my works and views opens me to devastating judgment or awesome support.  Our initial meetings informed the future tenor and stability of the group.  To my relief, our meetings have surpassed my expectation of support, as we discuss a full range of personal and social as well as writing topics.

And of course, as a mother, I have benefited from a vast network of women to laugh with, to cry on and to get things done–in school volunteerism, coming of age ceremonies, shared childcare, carpooling, play dates, gnome kidnappings….

Girls of the Alternative Calendar, thank you for living a story that inspired the play Calendar Girls, which portrays the truths of womanhood with such candor, empathy, humor and grace.  Congratulations, too, on your successful fundraising.  You’ve helped a lot of people in more ways than you may know.

Sincerely,

Ting, Honorary Calendar Girl

Ting, Honorary Calendar Girl for a Day

Calendar Girls: Featuring Kory LaQuess Pullam

As part of our ongoing Meet the Cast of Calendar Girls Blog Series, let us introduce you to Kory LaQuess Pullam:

pullam_kory_laquess

ROLE:  Liam, late 20s

AS DESCRIBED IN PLAYWRIGHT TIM FIRTH’S SCRIPT:

Liam would like to be directing other things than photoshoots for washing powders.  He’s not so unprofessional as to let it show, but we can sense a slight weariness at having to deal with these women. . . . For Liam, this photoshoot is a job.  And not a job he wanted.

DIRECTOR MARY FINNERTY’S COMMENT:

Kory LaQuess Pullam is a gifted young actor.  I saw his work at Park Square Theatre’s production of Romeo and Juliet.  He has a strong work ethic and a great ear for dialect.

QUESTION FOR KORY:

What characteristic or aspect of Liam seemed most important for you to bring out?

The most important thing to bring out in Liam is that this world is foreign to him.  He’s from the UK, but not the specific region of Yorkshire like almost everyone else.  Also, it’s important that we get the sense that Liam is bigger than all this.  He’s meant for more and doesn’t have a tough time showing it.

CAST BACKGROUND:

Park Square Romeo and Juliet  Representative Theatre Guthrie Theater: Choir Boy; Children’s Theatre Company: Charlotte’s Web; Pillsbury House Theatre: Prep; Walking Shadow Theatre Company: The Christians; Brave New Workshop: The Working Dead; History Theatre: Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story  Training B.F.A., Acting/Directing, Stephen F. Austin State University  Other Founder of Blackout Improv  Upcoming Projects Guthrie Theater: The Parchment Hour; Underdog Theatre: Baltimore is Burning

 

Calendar Girls: Featuring Anna Hickey

As part of our ongoing Meet the Cast of Calendar Girls Blog Series, let us introduce you to Anna Hickey:

Hickey_Anna

ROLE:  Elaine, 20s

AS DESCRIBED IN PLAYWRIGHT TIM FIRTH’S SCRIPT:

Elaine really doesn’t mean to be so patronizing.  But Jessie [see blog featuring Linda Kelsey] seems from another world.  The world of her gran.

DIRECTOR MARY FINNERTY’S COMMENT:

Anna Hickey has a really fresh, sensual inhabitation of the character of Elaine.  She also had great chemistry with Shanan Custer [who plays Ruth].  Anna has good comedic instincts and the ability to create a character with depth, which is important since her character is not on stage long.

QUESTION FOR ANNA:

Elaine is not an especially likeable character.  What did you think of her, and how did that inform your role playing?

I wouldn’t describe Elaine’s character as “not likable.”  She’s actually very charming and genuinely wants to help women feel better about themselves.  To a different group of women, she’d be a hit.  Of course, to the characters in this play she is problematic, but that is only five minutes of Elaine’s life.  It’s important to look at the whole scope of the character and not just the snippet the audience gets to see.  What is her history with male and female relationships?  What are her wants, desires and dreams?  I believe all characters are more than the sum of what we see on stage, and to me, Elaine is a woman who is passionate about beauty treatments, who has high hopes for a make-up career in film, who is greatly comforted by positive attention from others, and who is oblivious to the way her actions affect people.  And that is so much more fun to play than simply being unlikable.

CAST BACKGROUND:

Park Square The School for Lies  Representative Theatre Hennepin Theatre Trust: The Realish Housewives of Edina; Walking Shadow Theatre Company: The Three Musketeers; Illusion Theater: My Antonia; Paul Bunyan Playhouse: Spamalot; Loudmouth Collective: A Bright New Boise; Bloomington Civic Theatre: Singin’ in the Rain  Training B.A., Theatre Arts, University of Minnesota; M.A., London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art  Other Freelance Choreographer and Teaching Artist with Stages Theatre Company

 

Calendar Girls: Featuring Karen Weber

As part of our ongoing Meet the Cast Calendar Girls Blog Series, let us introduce you to Karen Weber:

weber-karen

ROLE:  Lady Cravenshire, 60s; Brenda Hulse

AS DESCRIBED IN PLAYWRIGHT TIM FIRTH’S SCRIPT:

Lady Cravenshire really doesn’t mean to be so patronizing.  But the WI girls seem from another world.  The world of her estate workers.

(Tim Firth does not describe Brenda Hulse in the script.  She is a dull guest speaker at the WI.)

DIRECTOR MARY FINNERTY’S COMMENT:

Karen’s task in the play is to play two upper class characters very differently:  Brenda and Lady Cravenshire, and I wanted someone who could play each as a real person.  Karen possesses a strong upper class bearing; she can play that and is also a director so has lots of ideas to differentiate the two characters.  She is an actor with a clear vision about their differences.  She understands her own context and how to conduct herself.

QUESTION FOR KAREN:

Brenda Hulse and Lady Cravenshire both come from uppercrust, high society.  How did you consciously differentiate the two?

I think the thing that Brenda and Lady Cravenshire have in common is that they are not originally from this tiny little dale.  They are both highly educated women and come from a higher income bracket than the women of Knapely.  As such, they speak with a very proper dialect, project a sense of superiority and are automatically afforded social deference as class differences are more noted in British society.

How that superiority is played, really, is the essential difference in the way I approached these two characters.

Brenda is something of a self-proclaimed, self-made Academic–an essentially insecure woman whose life has a singular focus and insular scope, and her self-esteem revolves around her rank in the national WI organization.  She displays superiority over the women of Knapely with her judgmental approach and thinly veiled condescension.  In her case, “High Class” doesn’t mean she HAS class.

Lady Cravenshire, on the other hand, is far more confident in her rank and right.  She is the only one who is “to the manor born,” and this allows her to come from a place of appreciation and graciousness with the women of Knapely.  Where Brenda finds Chris’ actions grating, Lady Cravenshire finds Chris’ actions creative and worth congratulating.

Together they help to round out the world of the play and point up the social obstacles that the women of Knapely face in choosing to do this calendar.

CAST BACKGROUND:

Park Square Communicating Doors, Becky’s New Car  Representative Theatre Ordway: A Little Night Music; History Theatre: Hiding in the Open, The Grand Excursion, Fireball; Bloomington Civic Theatre: Follies, A Light in the Piazza, Master Class; Theater Latte Da: A Christmas Carol Peterson, Burning Patience; Minneapolis Music Theatre: Bat Boy the Musical, Chess; Plymouth Playhouse: I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change; Illusion Theater: Autistic License

 

Build the Table

banner-palabras-project-6-27-16B

When I first heard about Other Tiger Productions, what I admired most was its intention to cross cultural lines to create a multi-talented, inclusive organization.  In a world where inclusivity often means permission for a seat at the dominant table, Other Tiger Productions proactively built an already diverse table of its own.

What surprised me as I read my program for The Palabras Project while awaiting the start of this past Sunday’s performance was the list of collaborating artists–36 in all–on top of the five featured master artists from the Twin Cities’ Latino/Chicano/Spanish communities.  The first names of the 36 ranged from Akiko to Odin; their last names, Cervantes to Rhomberg.

In their letter to patrons, Other Tiger’s co-founders, Jessica Huang and Ricardo Vazquez, claim to “work to bring artists and audiences together to celebrate a global theater experience.”  In turn, may they be embraced by a global-minded audience, right here in Minnesota.

Come support Other Tiger Productions and the numerous artists who have created The Palabras ProjectThree performances remain from July 15 to 17, including a free public reading of Lorca’s Blood Wedding in English on July 14 at 7:30 pm, at Park Square Theatre’s Andy Boss Thrust Stage.

cast-palabras-project-6-23

Dress for Success

In Calendar Girls, a group of women raise money for a good cause by posing nude for a calendar.  In the process, they end up giving each other invaluable personal support as well.

It is only fitting then that during the run of Calendar Girls, Park Square Theatre has welcomed audience members to donate gently used professional attire or handbags to Dress for Success Twin Cities, an organization devoted to, as their website describes, “empower(ing) women to achieve economic independence by providing a network of support, professional attire and the development tools to help women thrive in work and in life.”  Dress for Success is part of a global movement to help women break out of cycles of poverty.  For a fuller description of this amazing organization, go to www.twincities.dressforsuccess.org.

If you wish to donate any items, Park Square Theatre will collect them through Sunday, July 24.

Many of Dress for Success’ clients go directly to job interviews after “suiting up,” so please be sure that all donations are ready to wear, no more than five years old, and something that you would be proud to put on for an interview.  Handbags are particularly useful to complete the professional look.

The response from Park Square theatre-goers has been terrific, and we extend a BIG thank you to all for your generosity!

 

Dress for Success vehicle filled with Park Square Theatre donations

Dress for Success vehicle filled with Park Square’s donations

Chasing the Tiger

“…We’ll hunt for a third tiger now, but like

The others this one too will be a form

Of what I dream, a structure of words, and not

The flesh and blood tiger that beyond all myths

Paces the earth.  I know these things quite well,

Yet nonetheless some force keeps driving me

In this vague, unreasonable, and ancient quest,

And I go on pursuing through the hours

Another tiger, the beast not found in verse.”

—  From The Other Tiger by Jorge Luis Borges

 

Through July 17, Other Tiger Productions presents The Palabras Project, an immersive musical and theatrical experience at Park Square Theatre’s Andy Boss Thrust Stage.  It will feature some of the Twin Cities’ top Latino talent, co-directed by Other Tiger’s founders, Jessica Huang and Ricardo Vazquez.

Jessica Huang

Jessica Huang

Ricardo Vazquez

Ricardo Vazquez

Huang describes Other Tiger Productions as “a small but mighty company that seeks to pursue other forms, stories and modes of collaboration in order to present an inclusive and global theater experience.”  It was purposely created as a production company–not solely a theatre organization–to be able to fulfill this mission.

Although its inaugural production, The Palabras Project, is Latino-centric, Other Tiger’s overarching goal aims for what Huang and Vazquez describe as “radical inclusion”–types of multicultural, multigenerational and multidisciplinary collaborations unlike what we normally encounter in the Twin Cities.  They state their vision and values as these (see www.othertigerproductions.org):

  • Deliberate collaboration with artists and communities who challenge the assumptions of dominant cultures.
  • A practice that values collaborators’ time and commitment with equitable working conditions, including competitive compensation.
  • A reevaluation of the theatrical canon, common creative practices and traditional use of space.

When asked why they chose to deem their company Other Tiger, Vazquez explained the name’s tie to Borges’ poem, which inspires the notion of ever-chasing an artistic form or vision.  As Vazquez put it, “The artist is always finding another tiger, something that feeds the desire to keep the artist moving forward.  He thinks that he has a product, but then it also informs his search for the next one, then the next and the next….”

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