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It’s a Small World

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve said, “It’s a small world,” I wouldn’t need to buy a Powerball ticket. Every day it seems there is something that brings me to that observation. Whether it’s discovering that What’s-His-Name worked with your friend What’s-Her-Face three summers ago or mysteriously running into that one person at every audition. We all know it’s a small world, but I am truly amazed at what a tiny planet showbiz is.

One such instance occurred recently when Callie Schroer, an actress in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at Lyric Arts just realized she was working with a director who literally changed her life. That director is Zach Curtis and the life changing moment was in 2007 when Zach played “Lennie” in Of Mice and Men at Park Square. You see, Callie had seen that very production and in her own words exclaims what a thrill the experience was for her: “… it was fantastic and one of the most meaningful shows at the time to a young kid who realized what she wanted to do with her life while viewing this show,” she said. “I felt all of the things, and knew if I could make someone feel so much emotion after a performance, that was all that I wanted to do with my life. So. I’m literally in shock that this is a thing, and that I remembered it all by seeing that one picture.”

The Seeds of Queens: Part II

Each year the members of Sandbox Theatre gather to pitch big ideas to one another. It’s part brainstorm, part carnival barking bluster. These big ideas are the early germinations of shows to come. We listen, we challenge, we invest in one another. A luxury of creating all of our work from scratch is that anything and everything subject-wise is on the table. Whatever strikes our interest, whatever one of us is currently obsessed with, we sell it and the group may buy it. Ballet and Beat poetry? A hoarder/sci-fi writer with a 15′ monster made of cardboard boxes in his living room? An 80 year-old unsolved Canadian wilderness mystery? Check, check and check. Last year one of my big ideas hit with everybody; that idea was Queens.

As noted in Part I, I’ve been interested in boxing for years and it’s not uncommon for me to spend an hour or two reading old essays and newspaper reports about Joe Louis v Max Schmeling (I & II), Floyd Patterson v Sonny Liston (I & II), or Muhammad Ali v Joe Frazier (I, II & III), so when in the spring of 2013 I came across this: The 100 Greatest Fighters of All Time, I was surprised to find I wasn’t nearly as versed in boxing history as I’d thought. Not only were there 50-odd fighters I’d never known on this list, but four of the top ten were total mysteries to me. A fifth name was only recalled casually, like yeah, maybe I’ve heard of him … or was he the guy on Quincy, M.D.? I’ve never heard of 50% of the top ten fighters of all time? C’mon. But sure enough… They had names like Harry Greb and Joe Gans, and they had records that were peppered with losses and draws and something called Newspaper Decisions. A guy with a 145-10-16 record is no.8 all time and undefeated Rocky Marciano is no.65? Mike Tyson doesn’t even make the list!? Sitting at Number One is a man named Sam Langford — heralded as the best fighter never to win a title. A subjective list, yes. One man’s opinion, yes. But my interest was peaked.

I began formulating the rough edges of a story about a boxer who lived his whole life without a title shot. A man who fought for something else. But what? A hundred years ago, fights weren’t even broadcast on the radio, let alone $50M PPV events. What would make a person fight for a living if, rather than the promise of riches and glory, the promise was … what? How far will we go to feel belonging, to feel worth, to feel understood, to feel heard?

I pitched it to the company last February. My friends and fellow Sandbox artists Theo Langason and Peter Herringa came on to help dream it all up. The company voted and the show was chosen. The I is gone. This show is now a We. We settled on a world, a framework, a few characters and a title. The rest of Queens will be built from the ground up by our ensemble, featuring three cast members, three ensemble creators, three designers and a creative leadership team. We’re 120 days from opening night and we have no script. This is where the real fun begins.

 

Welcome to the Blog!

Welcome to the newly revived Park Square Theatre blog! We’ve gathered a great team of bloggers, including our new Artistic Programming Associate Jamil Jude, actor/social media maven Vincent Hannam, and Matthew Glover, Sandbox Theatre whiz.

Revival is in the air –what’s old is new served up fresh with an unexpected twist. On the Boss Stage this month, we are proud to host Theatre Pro Rata’s production of The Beauty Queen of Leenane directed by Carin Bratlie Wethern. (Did you know she stage managed the Eye of the Storm production of this show? It’s a script that sticks with you.)

We’re also terribly excited to have the ever-inventive Joel Sass back on the Proscenium stage for another fresh look at the original social justice firebrand, Charles Dickens. Joel’s adaptation of Great Expectations has its world premiere this month.

The New Year always starts with a toast, and in the fine tradition of John Middleton, I have one to recommend: the Bergamot Blazer, a reviving hot toddy that keep even a Wild ticket scalper warm in this weather. With its mid-nineteenth century roots, it harkens back to Dickens’ era, while capitalizing on the current madness for metal drinking cups and bourbon. “The Blazer is a simple drink which just happens to entail rolling flaming whiskey back and forth between two metal mugs…This variation comes from Seattle bartender Andrew Bohrer, who added earl grey tea and elderflower liqueur to the mix (Punchdrink.com).” Of course, the addition of Elderflower and Earl Grey just make it an even more perfect fit for Dickens.

If you attempt this at home, you’ll have to work on your technique to make sure you don’t wind up like Miss Havisham. Please write us if you pull this off (and post your photos!). If you do, you’ll know what it feels like to be in this production with its sharp lines, musical notes, sound effects and simultaneous actions hurled back and forth in a successful blend of memory play, mystery and aching love story. Who among us does not aspire to greatness with each New Year?

Now, I can’t give away trade secrets, but Park Square’s new season to be announced next month includes the return of the elegant and affable Mr. Sass, this time directing on the Boss stage. A world premiere mystery, a major musical co-production, the return of Girl Friday Productions, along with our other Theatres in the Residence, Sandbox Theatre and Theatre Pro Rata, and at least five regional premieres mean you’ll want to stay tuned to this channel.

The Seeds of Queens: Part I

I was five years-old when Muhammad Ali took on Leon Spinks in defense of his Heavyweight title. I remember racing home from a classmate’s birthday party to watch the fight with my dad. Ali, The Greatest, lost. I cried a lot.

A few years later I was squirreled away in my parents’ bedroom, tuned into a 9″ black & white Panasonic television to watch Larry Holmes take on Gerry Cooney in Las Vegas. I kept score. Holmes won. I cheered a lot.

As a kid, boxing was a big deal to me. It wasn’t until I was much older, long after my interest waned, that I realized why; boxing mean time spent with my father. I won the parent lottery with my folks, no question, but dad and me didn’t share a lot in common. I liked basketball, he liked cars. I liked Public Enemy, he liked Marty Robbins. But we both liked boxing. So for a while in the mid-’80s, big matches became our shared ritual. We watched Marvin Hagler, James “Bonecrusher” Smith, Mark Breland, Thomas Hearns. We watched as 19 year-old Mike Tyson went from Kid Dynamite to Heavyweight Champ. I have a crystal clear memory from a 1986 match between Tyson and Marvis Frazier (son of the great Joe Frazier). The phone rang a few moments before the opening bell. Dad got up to answer and rushed through a quick chat with his brother Richard. I could hear the urgency in his voice. Then this happened:

Within the span of a 30-second phone call, Frazier was down, I was euphoric, and dad was incredulous.

The sport of boxing took a big leap in the late ’80s — from network TV to cable to Pay-Per-View. My dad’s job took a big leap from local operations to travelling 200 days of the year. We spent less time together — me, my dad and boxing — and eventually our shared ritual faded into memory.

I stopped following boxing around the same time I began to feel mortal. When you’re a kid, you lose great-grandparents, great-uncles — when you’re an adult, you begin to lose friends, friend’s children. Your eyes are opened to the realities of life, of violence. So my interest now is a nostalgic one; one of popcorn and Pepsi, and my dad fumbling with the antenna on a 19″ console color TV.

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