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Abbee Warmboe Cuts It Up

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Raised in Minnetonka, Minnesota, Abbee Warmboe graduated from St. Olaf College in 2010 with a degree in Theater, specifically trained as a scenic designer and painter. She spent a summer as a props designer for the Des Moines Metropolitan Opera in Iowa before relocating to the Twin Cities. While searching for work, she discovered that our theatres had a high need for props designers so, with her experience from the opera, was able to shift her focus to props design. Currently, she designs props for Park Square Theatre’s season-opening production of The Liar, which runs from September 9 to October 2.

The Liar offers Warmboe a unique experience in props design. Normally, a props designer will have already created all the necessary props for use in rehearsals; but since the set of The Liar will be two-dimensional (refer to the previous blog “Flat Land: The World of The Liar“), Warmboe will be able to create props beforehand as well as on demand to try out during rehearsals.

The cast suddenly needs a vintage gramophone? Easy! Just get some cardboard, cut out a silhouette and paint it. Need a new wine glass because one bent? Okay! No problem! How about an instant cat?

Once they know what works well or not, Warmboe will produce the more refined two-dimensional props. These final versions may drastically differ from those used during rehearsals. The beauty of using cardboard, too, is that, if absolutely necessary, Warmboe can even make up to the last minute changes, for instance, if a prop fails to have the intended effect on stage.

This season at Park Square Theatre, Warmboe will not only design props for The Liar, but for The Realistic Joneses and Flower Drum Song as well. She has worked with directors Doug Scholz-Carlson, Joel Sass and Randy Reyes, respectively, in past productions and looks forward to working with them again. For The Liar, she also closely collaborates with good friend and scenic designer Eli Schlatter, together enjoying the challenge of considering “what jokes we can put in them (the set and props).”

Warmboe laughed a lot while describing her work to me. Designing props for The Liar has been super fun.

 

A Play on Words

Leave complications to our evening’s hero,
A lying genius, if a moral zero.
No, my announcement may be even worse:
Tonight our actors will speak in verse!
In case you hadn’t noticed that small fact.
We’ll speak PENTAMETER, to be exact.
And what the blank’s pentameter, you say?
It’s what I’m speaking now! On with the play!

— from the Prologue of The Liar

The wordplay in The Liar on Park Square Theatre’s Proscenium Stage from September 9 to October 2 is so profuse and requires such dexterity to perform that, in no time at all, the actor’s mouths will work up a sweat. The audience will be perched on the edge of their seats, wondering if the actors can pull off all those stunning verbal acrobatics.

The Liar itself is dubbed by playwright David Ives as a “translaptation,” which Ives defines as his “translation with a heavy dose of adaptation” of French dramatist Pierre Corneille’s 1643 play Le Menteur. Corneille himself had lifted the plot about a young gentleman who cannot tell the truth from (and in Ives’ opinion, vastly improved upon) a Spanish play. Ultimately, Ives did to Corneille’s version what Corneille had done to the Spanish play.

Ives made sure to retain the integrity of Corneille’s vision but also tweaked and tightened the characters and plot to fit more modern sensibilities. Where did the play drag?  What seemed outmoded for a 21st-century audience? Snip, snip; tuck, tuck; invent anew. Ives’ The Liar, in fact, has some newly fabricated characters and a totally different ending than Le Menteur.

What Ives emphatically did want to keep, though, was the playfully lavish language on which the comedic tenor of the play depends. In his essay “The Whole Truth About The Liar,” Ives describes how he’d come to that conclusion:

Corneille lived a generation before French classicism hardened into the severity of Racine, and he has the devil-may-care brio of the Baroque. His love of the world and of human life vibrates in every line. . . . My version would have to be in verse, just as it is in Corneille. The Liar is a portrait of a brilliant performer walking a tightrope for the whole length of the action, and it needs language to match.

So throughout the entire course of the play, one encounters what should be the most impossible rhymes.  “Ironic” rhymes with ____?  “Umbrella” with ____?  “Beguiled” and ____?

Well, I simply cannot say
Or give anything else away.
You’ll need to buy a ticket
To hear the wild and wicked wordplay.
(Psst–there’s even a kind of swordplay.)
So be sure not to miss all the fun
Of hearing some truly naughty p—!

— from the musings of Ting

Flat Land: The World of “The Liar”

The Liar Courtyard Sketch

“The scenic designer’s job proper is not to worry so much about real world concerns–whether it’s the reality of physics or any theatre limitations (such as cost)–but to be creative and to serve the story,” says Eli Schlatter, the scenic designer for Park Square Theatre’s The Liar, playing on the Proscenium Stage from September 9 to October 2.

The removal of any perceived barriers freed Schlatter to let loose and come up with a very fun and playful concept for this hilarious romantic comedy featuring a central character who cannot tell the truth: Let’s thrust three-dimensional actors into a two-dimensional world!

The Liar White Model

By doing so, Schlatter not only created an environment that forces inherently silly interactions and moments to occur but also loaded the play full of supporting visual metaphors.

The Liar Set Design

The Liar is based on a 17th-century French play that was modernized by playwright David Ives so Schlatter fittingly drew inspiration from the Italian-influenced Baroque style of set design that became increasingly popular on France’s stages during the mid-1600s.  Scenery was essentially constructed on flat, painted panels creating an angled perspective to give a sense of depth.  Painted structures in the foreground looked larger than those in the background, with an elaborate green courtyard (green was “everywhere” during the 17th-century) inspired by French knot gardens as center stage.

The Liar courtyard set

The location depicted on Schlatter’s stage panels are directly inspired by the Place Royale, where much of the play’s action occurs and which just happens to be a real place in Paris.  Completed in 1612, it became the European prototype of urban residential squares (Schlatter called them “the first urban condos”) with all housefronts bearing the same design.

While the scenic design will be elaborate and gorgeous for The Liar, Schlatter had to take care not to let it upstage the actors. As he put it, “If the audience thinks more about the set than the actors, then I did my job wrong.”

Although Schlatter did let me in on many of the “winks” of his visual fabrications for The Liar, I shall conveniently neglect to reveal them to you, the audience. (Hint: During our talk, Schlatter did mention “Prince” and “1640” in the same breath.)

 

(Note: Future blogs will tell how the props designer plans to  “spin off ” from the set design as well as an insider’s look at Schlatter’s step-by-step process to bring the set for The Liar to fruition.)

 

ELI SCHLATTER: Scenic Designer for “The Liar”

Eli Schlatter

One of the most exciting and uplifting aspects of my job is the opportunity to meet some of the newest and brightest theatre talents in the Twin Cities. They are young, ultra-creative, incredibly hardworking and very committed to their work. One of these up-and-comers is Eli Schlatter, who is tasked with designing a fun but versatile set for Park Square Theatre’s upcoming area premiere of a playful comedy, The Liar, on the Proscenium Stage from September 9 to October 2.

Just three years out of college with a BFA in Theatre Design and Production from the University of Michigan, Schlatter is a freelance scenic designner and technician in the Twin Cities. His University of Michigan training closely mimicked real-life professional theatre work experiences, which allowed him to hit the ground running upon graduation. At one harrowing point in his career, he found himself juggling designs for three different shows with close opening dates.

With parents who’d met in a master’s theatre program, Schlatter described a lifetime “steeped in the theatre community.” As he put it, “I’ve been involved in theatre in different ways ‘forever.’ As a child, I saw more plays than movies.”

Schlatter acted on the Steppingstone Theatre stage in his tweens but got pulled into the technical side of theatre while at South High School. He had actually always been more intrigued with a set’s design–for instance, what would move or change on stage–and watched for, as he described, “how the world will tell the story.”

One of Schlatter’s first professional projects in the Twin Cities was as an intern for The Mystery of Irma Vep, assisting director and designer Joel Sass at the Jungle Theater (Sass will direct Park Square Theatre’s The Realistic Joneses on the Boss Stage from September 23 to October 16). To date, Schlatter has freelance designed for numerous local professional theatres, from Yellow Tree Theatre to Theater in the Round Players, and done technical work for such various venues as The Minnesota Fringe Festival and Circus Juventas. He also works on the run crew of The Children’s Theatre Company.

To be successful in his field, Schlatter must constantly put himself out there, actively and bravely searching for opportunities. He got the gig designing The Liar with what was essentially a designer’s version of auditioning: sending his resume and condensed portfolio to Artistic Director Richard Cook. Cook had obviously liked what he’d seen because Schlatter got a meeting and, two weeks later, the job.

In a future blog post, you can get an inside look at Schlatter’s scenic design process for The Liar. Don’t miss the chance for a glimpse into the making of theatre magic.

Scenic Designer Eli Schlatter (right) shows Director Doug Scholz-Carlson (left) his color set design model

Scenic Designer Eli Schlatter (right) shows Director Doug Scholz-Carlson (left) his set design model during rehearsal

(Notes: A scenic design portfolio website for Schlatter is at www.elischlatter.com; also look for the future blog “Flat Land: The World of The Liar”)

And More Lies!

cast-the-liar-8-11

Cast of The Liar

Park Square Theatre’s 2016-2017 season begins with the area premiere of The Liar from September 9 to October 2.  Playwright David Ives’ laugh-out-loud comedy centers on the escapades of Dorante, a gentleman who cannot tell the truth, and his servant Cliton who cannot tell a lie.

In the spirit of the play’s hilarious premise, we asked people to share their own stories about lies with humorous results. The stories kept coming in:

When I was a kid, my mom bought my dad a smoker for smoking fish as her Christmas gift to him. He fished a lot, and we loved smoked fish. It was (and still is) quite expensive to buy but much cheaper to smoke yourself.

I knew my mom had purchased this smoker. It was a hard gift to wrap and would have been obvious as to what it was if it had been placed under the tree. So my mom hid it in another part of the house. Christmas Eve, after everyone had opened all of their gifts, my mom proclaimed that we were all done opening gifts, which was, of course, a lie. I think she wanted to prolong the secret and heighten the element of surprise!

I turned and looked at her and said, “No we’re not. Dad hasn’t opened his smoker yet!”

Whoops! My poor mom’s face fell, and I instantly knew that I had revealed the lie, and her secret/surprise was blown!

After a moment, however, everyone, including my mom, began to laugh about my faux pas.  My mom brought out the smoker, my dad loved it, and all was well. We still laugh about that event almost every year when we’re with my parents for Christmas!

——-

Here I am, sitting in the house my husband and I built with our own hands (and used to rent out), and it’s been almost 11 years since we lived here last.  All these memories keep popping up from when we were here and the kids were younger.  I also keep remembering funny (or not so funny) stuff my past tenants did.

One tenant, Eileen, was a real character.  I’m convinced she was a born liar because she would bluster her way around the truth to get whatever she wanted.  On the application to rent my house, she agreed to get the utilities in her name, “No problem; no problem.”

Soon after, she did her best to sell me on the idea of installing a wood stove, and it would save her money, keep her warmer, etc. I told her (several times) that I was quite happy with my propane furnace, thank you.  But over the next few weeks before she was supposed to move in, she kept working on me to get a wood stove.

Finally, before we were supposed to move out and she move in, I had the feeling to check on the utilities and found out Eileen had bad credit (oops), and the propane company would not give her an account.  At that point, my daughter and I started laughing. We did a big head smack–that’s why Eileen wanted that wood stove so bad.

——

One summer my niece had gone to the PRIDE parade and given me a glow-in-the-dark sperm keychain that she have gotten there. I attached it to my purse as a zipper pull.  One day an eight-year-old boy spotted it and asked me, “What is this?”

Without thinking, I said, “A glow-in-the-dark sperm.”

“A squirm?” he asked. “What’s a squirm?”

“No,” I said. “A sperm.”

“Squirm? What IS that?”

Then I caught myself and replied, “Oh, I meant a worm. It’s a worm!”

“Oh, okay. I thought you said ‘squirm’ and didn’t know what that is.”

A year later ….

The now nine-year-old boy was looking at the glow-in-the-dark sperm again and said, “I know what this is, and it isn’t a worm.”

“Really?”  I asked. “Then what is it?”

“It’s a tadpole.”

“Are you sure it’s not a worm?”

“I know what tadpoles look like,” he insisted. “And this is definitely a tadpole, NOT a worm.”

——

(If you missed it, go back to see the blog “Lies! Lies!”  And, yes, indeed–still more lies to come in a future blog!)

Can’t Stop Lying!

Park Square Theatre’s 2016-2017 season begins with the area premiere of The Liar from September 9 to October 2.  Playwright David Ives’ laugh-out-loud comedy centers on the escapades of Dorante, a gentleman who cannot tell the truth, and his servant Cliton who cannot tell a lie.

In the spirit of the play’s hilarious premise, we asked people to share their own stories about lies with humorous results. Here are three from an individual who wishes to remain anonymous.  Hmmm . . . wonder why?

Who's lying?

Who’s lying?

When I was 15, I went to see The Graduate with Hoffman and Bancroft. I was standing in line at the box office, and my buddy Ernie showed up. Ernie was twice my size and played lineman on the football team. I let him in line ahead of me. When he got up to the box office, a severe-looking old lady with pointed spectacles snapped, “How old are you?”

“Uh, I’m 15,” stammered Ernie.

“You must be 16 to see this movie,” she said.

And so Ernie was turned away.

I stepped up to the box office window.

“And how old are you?” she barked.

“I’m 16,” I lied boldly.

She narrowed her eyes at me and said, “That’ll be four dollars.”

I paid for my ticket and opened the door to the theater, looking back to see Ernie grinning and shaking his head at me. I waved and went inside. Mrs. Robinson was waiting for me.

——

When I was in high school, I never wore shoes during the summer. It was hot in my home town, and my feet toughened up over the summer.

So you can imagine my disappointment when school started and they passed a “no-bare-feet” rule. I cut the bottoms out of an old pair of sneakers and wore them to school. Hey, I had on shoes of a sort; it looked like I had on shoes, until I crossed my legs in class and flashed my friends with the bottom of a foot.

Hey, we thought it was funny. I could also twirl my reverse-flipflops around an ankle for extra yuks.

——

When I was in the 11th grade, I was buddies with a guy who always got C’s on his English papers. I usually got A’s.

One day, we got the idea to switch names on our papers; and, of course, the paper that I had written, with his name on it, got a C. The paper he wrote, with my name on it, got an A.

When we got our papers back, we compared grades; and he grinned ruefully and said, ” I guess I know what grade I’m getting in English this year.”

——

(If you’d missed them, consider going back to read the blogs “Lies! Lies” and “And More Lies”)

Lies! Lies!

banner-liar-960x480-8-11

Park Square Theatre’s 2016-2017 season begins with the area premiere of The Liar on stage September 9 to October 2.  Playwright David Ives’ laugh-out-loud comedy centers on the escapades of Dorante, a gentleman who cannot tell the truth, and his servant Cliton who cannot tell a lie.

In the spirit of the play’s hilarious premise, we asked people to share their own stories about lies with humorous results. The stories kept coming in:

When my husband plays Scrabble, he will invariably bluff with a nonexistent word.  BLOKY so the word with the high-scoring Y tile can earn double points. DOX with the X! He has gotten away with NEMO against a child opponent.

My husband doesn’t often get away with lying when playing against me, though. I know his tell: it’s in the lips–how he stretches them thin to suppress the truth (or a giggle).

——

I remember the story that my sister and her husband told about him making her pancakes when they were dating. She hates pancakes but lied that she loved them, so he made her pancakes for every breakfast. She finally couldn’t stand it anymore and had to tell him that she does not like  pancakes.

——

When my younger brother was in high school, he was an avid deer hunter. He told my sister he needed to get some Pine-Sol to use while he was out at the deer stand. My sister later asked me what Pine-Sol had to do with deer hunting.

I said, “Oh, there’s this new kind of deer hunting that’s really popular right now. What you do is, you sit in the deer stand with a bottle of Pine-Sol and wait for the deer to walk by. When it’s directly below you, you pour the stuff down into its eyes. While it’s staggering around, blinded, you jump down from the deer stand and slit its throat with a Buck knife.”

I was rather young at the time and assumed that she knew I was joking, but I apparently told her this idiotic story so matter of factly that she completely believed it (I suppose it helped that she was pretty gullible). For several days, she kept angrily coming back to the cruelty of this practice and my apparent indifference to it, and I was really enjoying her righteous outrage until she wrote a letter to the editor of the local paper, objecting to this barbaric practice. I confessed the truth to her before she sent the letter, which no doubt saved her some embarrassment. But I sometimes regret not seeing that letter in print.

For the record, hunters used Pine-Sol to cover up their human scent from the deer’s sensitive noses.

——

(Watch out for yet more lies in upcoming blogs!)

Ben Cook-Feltz: July’s Front of House Employee of the Month

Ben Cook-Feltz

Upon his return from riding his bike across Iowa with Team Roadshow in RAGBRAI, the largest bike touring event in the world (with 17,000 riders this year), Ben Cook-Feltz discovered that he’d not only been named Park Square Theatre’s Front of the House employee of the month for July but also promoted into a newly created position, Ticket Office Supervisor.

Cook-Feltz joined our theatre as a ticket agent in May 2015, steadily working his way up to become Lead Ticket Agent. Before joining Park Square Theatre, he’d been employed for eight years in a deadening full-time job reviewing property inspections for insurance companies while pursuing his music on the side. Following his wife’s advice, Cook-Feltz decided to focus more on building his music career and instead find a part-time job to help pay the bills. A friend turned him on to the ticket agent job opening, and Cook-Feltz got hired on the last day of his full-time job. He had expected his new position to be just another job, only to discover that he really loved working at Park Square Theatre and naturally wanted to take on more responsibilities.

“Ben’s dedication to our patrons and his deep commitment to the work he does has really upped the stakes for the service we provide,” says Amanda Lammert, Audience Services Director. “He will be working a few extra hours every week and taking on greater responsibility in this new role. His attention and focus on the subscription process this season has also been an incredible help to me, and the ownership is obvious to our patrons and his partners in the ticket office.”

You can hear Cook-Feltz’s cheerful voice when you phone into our ticket office or catch him at a gig around town. To find out more about his music, check out his website at www.bencookfeltz.com.

 

 

 

 

The Naming of Things

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Sha Cage and Zach Curtis in The Liar

As I was watching the final plays of last season, I began to wonder what effect would it have on audience draw and expectations if some of those plays had had a different name. For instance, despite its billing as a comedy/drama, did people think Sons of a Prophet would be a heavier drama, considering its title and central theme on suffering? What if the play had instead been called All Is Well, which was the invariably optimistic mantra of the Douaihy family throughout the play?

Coming up from September 9 to October 2 as the first play of the Park Square Theatre 2016-2017 season is the area premiere of The Liar by playwright David Ives. It features Sha Cage in the title role, Dorante, who just cannot tell the truth (as described by another character in the play: “This guy’s so slippery he’s a sea of grease”). In contrast, his servant Cliton, played by Zach Curtis, cannot tell a lie (his self-described “tragic flaw”). This juxtaposition of yin-yang characters and the awkward situations triggered result in an outright, laugh-out-loud comedy.

To me, The Liar seems an apt enough title for a comedy. Straight and to the point, it is devoid of adjectives, kept open with possibilities. It’s not called The Dirty Liar, for instance, with angry overtones, or The Silly Liar to limit its scope of humor. Nor does the play bear any of these other titles that may cause preconceived notions:

  • Untruthful – sounds like a sinister and heavy drama
  • Honestly!?! – too sincere
  • Dorante, The Liar – must be a tragic period piece
  • Liar! Liar! Pants on Fire! – geared toward a young audience
  • Liar! – potential ripoff of the 1997 Jim Carrey movie, Liar! Liar!

Titles do matter to spark initial interest to see a production. The Liar is a misleadingly honest title that denotes a mystery and a truth that you shall experience only if you come to see the play.

I wouldn’t lie about something like that!

 

 

What Will You Do With It?

Joe Chvala

It is a sunny but cool morning when I visited Joe Chvala.  I pass through the wooden gate to enter a green world loosely guarded by two gargoyles. It’s something to do with how the light filters through his yard that makes me expect something magical to happen. The White Rabbit from Wonderland may scamper past in a rush, or the Cheshire Cat may show himself on a tree branch. Calmly seated outside by a table on the porch is Chvala himself, like his garden, kind of otherworldly and timeless.

I have come to interview Chvala about Passing Through Pig’s Eye, a roving performance through historic Saint Paul by his percussive dance company, Flying Foot Forum, and guest performers. The show runs from August 25 to September 11, with its start and end points at Park Square Theatre’s Boss Thrust Stage within the historic Hamm Building. Audiences will divide into smaller groups for an immersive experience of dance and music at key locations in downtown Saint Paul. The audience will be moving around a great deal and sometimes standing so consider wearing comfortable shoes and clothing and not carrying large bags. The show is wheelchair accessible and appropriate for all ages.

For someone who’s on deadline to launch a new production by August 25, Chvala looks like he has all the time in the world, relaxed and still, ironic for a man known for perpetual motion on stage. And can Chvala move! He has done it all: jazz, ballet, tango, tap, folk, . . . you name it! Ultimately, percussive dance won his heart; but unwilling to settle on any one form–no, not simply tap; not just clogging–he draws from them all then adds his own percussive twists, letting loose his creative inventions.

Chvala admits to having lived a charmed life, able to spend much of it creating his own internal and external worlds since childhood. He grew up in Madison, Wisconsin, enjoying languid summers at a cabin by the lake, immersed in nature and his own wild imagination. He first became involved in theatre as a teenager, thrilled to now make believe to live audiences. Getting hooked on musical theatre as a child started him down the path to dance, which he pursued more seriously after moving to New York.

Chvala’s journey has led him to travel widely and even sometimes stay for longer spells. He is a Midwesterner who became a New Yorker (seven years) who then lived and taught dance in Gothenburg, Sweden (two years). Living overseas expanded his worldview and further deepened his artistic development. What finally drew him back full circle to the Midwest are close family ties which ground him. Despite his need for solitude to create, Chvala is, at heart, a connector, which makes it unsurprising that he had created Flying Foot Forum in 1991, a means for artists to share and invent together.

Chvala also feels most grounded when dancing, literally connecting with the earth. While he may have tendrils into other worlds, each of them having their own appeal, this is the world that feels the most immediate. As Chvala continues to uncompromisingly create the life that he wants to live and to gift–and as he sits in the radiant sunlight in the morning–he brings to mind these final lines from poet Mark Doty’s “Long Point Light”:

Here is the world you asked for,
gorgeous and opportune,

here is nine o’clock, harbor-wide,
and a glinting code: promise and warning.
The morning’s the size of heaven.

What will you do with it?

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