Tickets: 651.291.7005


Calendar Girls: Featuring Charity Jones

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


ROLE:  Chris, 50s


You want Chris at your party.  She will talk to people she doesn’t know, find things to say to fill silences and generate laughter.  Part of this is because Chris is at home in crowds, holding court, being the centre of attention.  Without Chris in her life, [her best friend] Annie would be better behaved, her life less fun.  The two are like naughty schoolgirls.  Ideal car—who cares, as long as it’s a cabriolet.  Ideal holiday—Algarve.


Charity Jones is one of the most committed and technically and emotionally gifted actors that I have ever worked with.  She establishes the moment and refines it, but each time she performs the moment, it seems like the first time.


Chris is the rebel/ringleader on the group.  I admired that she is a woman of action.  Of course, she also has her flaws.  What was the most difficult part of playing her?

In the words of the playwright, Tim Firth, “Chris is at home in crowds, holding court, being the centre of attention.”  Yikes!  Chris and I are polar opposites!  So I worry a lot that I won’t be believable as the life of the party.  Fortunately, my stellar cast mates really help me sell it by behaving as if my Chris is the most hilarious, magnetic presence in the room.


Park Square Sexy Laundry, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and the Suicide Club, The Sisters Rosensweig  Representative Theatre Guthrie Theater, Shakespeare Theatre Company, American Conservatory Theater, Jungle Theater, History Theatre

Finding Truth and Beauty


Like me, you may have already seen the lighthearted film Calendar Girls from a few years back.  But as with a good book versus its movie, the play is richer in theme and character development than in the film version.  According to Director Mary Finnerty, “the play is actually funnier than the film.  It is also more touching because the characters are more fully drawn in the play.  We get to know each woman better and see her fears and insecurities more.  I think the play is more spiritual and the male characters are stronger as well.  We see them more clearly.”

In fact, the play runs deeper than even its own title suggests. The term “calendar girls” brings up a pin-up image—an emphasis on the shiny surface; whereas, the play depicts a strong community of women who come to recognize that a life well-lived ultimately depends on developing an inner truth and beauty that is then reflected from inside out.

As the play progresses, the emphasis shifts from “girls” to “calendar” as one begins to recognize how the marking of time denotes some of the strong themes running throughout the play: coming of age, coming into self-acceptance, coming to terms with mortality, how love transcends death, and mindfully living in the present.  In a way, the play may be considered a study in the formation of girls into fully realized women through the course of time and life-changing experiences.

Park Square Theatre’s decision to produce the regional premiere of Calendar Girls, according to Finnerty, gave them “a way to feature some of the amazing female talent in the Twin Cities—especially women over 40.”  In Calendar Girls, as described by Finnerty, “a group of women decide to pose nude for a calendar to raise money for cancer research in memory of their friend Annie’s husband, John, who died from cancer at 52.  As the calendar rockets to success and the women are more famous than they imagined, tensions arise and friendships are strained and broken.  It is the reminder of John’s message (how he believes in her and life and love and beauty even as he faces his death) that brings the women home to each other and gives Annie the strength to ‘turn her face to the sun’ and carry on without her mate.”

It is rare to find a play featuring such a large cast of strong female and male characters that are allowed to be revealed in complex layers.  Do not miss this opportunity to see it!


Calendar Girls is ideal for family viewing by teens and older.  It would be a terrific gift to mark a graduation or Father’s Day as well as simply a gift to the ones you love every day.


The Best According to Whom?

There are without a doubt, subjects that can be defined as “best” and . . . “not best.”  For many things, however, the line is distinctly less obvious, and the difference between what’s good and bad often comes down to one person’s opinion.  “Everyone’s a critic” rings painfully true for artists, who often feel as if their entire life’s work can be made or broken depending on whether or not the critic was able to find adequate parking or hasn’t fallen ill from an undercooked fish.

“He abandoned me… and now I have no eyebrows.” – Mona

Artists will devote countless hours on a project, plumbing the depths of the human condition, often at the expense of their own pleasures.  Da Vinci once said that “art is never finished, only abandoned” and, as an actor, I get that.  Weeks go by and you’re still tinkering with the artwork, knowing that at some point you’re going to have to let it fly on opening night.  It’s hard to do that, especially when you know there are people actually getting paid to sit in the dark to critique you on all of that devotion. Exposing yourself like that is, in short, a leap of faith.

Yes, the critic is there to do a job but as for power?  I believe we give critics only as much power as we let them.  The simple question is “Who do we do it for?”  To serve ourselves in the hope that a “good” review will grant us the keys to a sort of acting El Dorado or to show audiences a glimpse of their own forgotten humanity? In my short career, I’ve come to learn that by focusing on the former you lose sight of the latter, leading to a weak foundation that will eventually crumble in on itself.

I ask then:  Who determines what’s “the best” theatre?  The reviewers, the audiences, the artists themselves?  All of them are intrinsic to the welfare of the art and have a voice.  Inevitably those voices clash and no more so than during big “oo-lah-lah” events such as the Tony Awards, where suddenly anyone who has seen a play–any play–speaks out about the nominees and not always in the most positive light.

These are the same people who annually disparage the Oscars for not amounting to a hill of beans.  Why should we care about an awards show that rewards bloated and stale Broadway?  Because I believe, for better or worse, this is the face of the industry–practically the only thing Joe the Plumber may think of when someone says “theatre”; and dang it, if Joe the Plumber thinks anything about theatre at all then we’re off to a good start.  Of course, we artists sticking it out here in the hinterlands know that the American theatre is so much richer than what the Tony’s represent, but it pays to be informed about what’s happening in New York, no matter your position.  So I would recommend not forgetting to take your grain of salt and just appreciate the fact that Theatre gets its day in the mainstream sun for at least one night a year.

“The Best.”  Can we define it?  Can we spot it in a line up?  Sometimes absolutely; but more often than not, we’re just comparing apples to oranges, whether it’s the critics or the Tony Awards.  I say we, the artists, raise our voices a bit more in solidarity and less in sniping at each other.  Then we can enjoy the big oo-lah-lah events as the giant self-celebratory parties that they ought to be.

Totally the Ivey Awards, right? I mean, that’s Craig Johnson in the back, right? They waaaay back?


Remember Us. (yes us)

About seven years ago, Park Square Theatre introduced its tagline, theatre for you. (yes you.).  However, on the first announcement of the 2016-2017 season was a different tagline, a season for us. (all of us.).  Was this to be Park Square Theatre’s new slogan?

According to Executive Director C. Michael-jon Pease, Park Square Theatre has not made an official switch, though we may see both in use throughout next season.  The original tagline was developed with the help of a branding company and involved rigorous testing with focus groups and audience surveys to ensure a good fit.  In contrast, a season for us (all of us.) was proposed by Artistic Director Richard Cook without pre-testing for public reaction.

Surprisingly, theatre for you. (yes you.) was initially unpopular with in-house staff when given a list of brainstormed options.  Yet, it was the one that they kept coming back to again and again as they whittled down their choices.   It defines Park Square Theatre’s belief that, without the audience’s presence, the show would merely be a rehearsal; the audience—you–reacting to the actors is what creates theatre.  Watching the play also becomes a personal journey, an individual experience of interpretation and discovery.

Although all the above is true, a season for us. (all of us.) denotes Park Square Theatre’s forward momentum to become ever more inclusive and expansive in its programming, certainly aided by the opening of the new Boss Thrust Stage and collaborations with diverse artists.  The tagline is a gentle reminder that what is on stage may be experienced simultaneously as specific yet also universal.  A play such as Elliot, A Soldier’s Fugue that features a Puerto Rican family is a play for all of us, with its common theme on the tolls of war on a military family.  Love Person is a play that features a deaf character but is again for all of us, with its common themes on communication, connection, and finding love.

Both Pease and Cook plan on keeping Park Square Theatre relevant to its audiences.   To that end, they proclaim in an open letter to Park Square Patrons within the recent Sons of the Prophet program, “Park Square is New theatre for you. (yes you.).”  As ever, they welcome your feedback regarding its plays, programming, and, yes, taglines.

Contact information:

Michael-jon Pease, Executive Director, CFRE
651.767.8497 |

Richard Cook, Artistic Director
651.767.8482 |

Job Description: The Mentor

Producers, writers, directors, dramaturgs, choreographers, agents, actors, singers, coffee runners.  You name it and it exists in show biz, where just about every facet of the theatre has its designated leader–the one who takes control of that job.  This is done for obvious reasons: No man is an island, and burnout should be avoided.

But what about the mentor?  What function does this title serve?  Is it even a position worth considering when it comes to describing the jobs of the theatre?  I would unequivocally argue:  yes!

More than a teacher, the mentor takes the student-teacher relationship to the next level, instilling not just knowledge but wisdom upon the fortunate.  The lesson does not end when the bell rings or the class is over; the guidance continues after school and throughout life.  Through the mentor you are opened to the fact that the world is your classroom and, if you are of age, even the bar.  I had wonderful acting training in my undergraduate years, but I wouldn’t hesitate to say that I learned more about what drives an actor (life, love, loss, etc.) by grabbing some beers with two or three individuals who truly transcended the role of “teacher.”  They became mentors.  I maintain close friendships with them now, well beyond graduation, still asking for their advice as I navigate the always tricky waters of professional theatre.

Not everyone can attain this lofty mark, however.  Indeed, what makes the role so special is its exclusivity.  Personally I would count only two in my life, and they shepherded me through the trials of high school and college theatre, respectively.  They were men whom I looked up to for being themselves in the face of adversity and completely selfless in their work as well as patiently listening to the seemingly endless problems that can befall a student of the theatre.  Will I have more in my life?  It is hard to say, for while anyone can be a mentor, you can’t find one simply by looking through the classifieds or applying for one.  It just happens.  

While I believe everyone should benefit from a mentor’s guidance, the door swings both ways: You must take some initiative as well to cultivate the relationship in the same way you would with a best friend, faithful dog or trusted lover.  Anything lasting has to be built on a foundation of mutual respect and accountability.

As I grow older with various real-world experiences of my own, I’m learning to “send the elevator back down” and give a hand to those younger than me.  Not that they’re much younger, of course, but age has very little to do with experience.  I’m finding that with even the little amount that I possess, I can share some with kids whom I meet in elementary and high schools.  They’ve got a long way to go so if I can give them just a nugget of insight, it could be the difference in having them reach the next level.  Such was my case so, to all the mentors out there, thank you; and to those of us who have them, appreciate what you have and never let go.



True Gems

I was recently inspired by Matthew Glover’s blogs on June 1 (“When 40 Feels Like a Lot”) and June 3 (“The Finish Line”). Glover was co-Director and Project Lead on Sandbox Theatre’s Queens, which just ended its run on Park Square Theatre’s Andy Boss Thrust Stage. Each of his posts gave us a glimpse of the immense dedication of artists to bring their creations to audiences, regardless of size, and how they feel called to give beyond the best of themselves—in this case, performing through excruciating pain from an injury.

Glover made me recall how I had discovered Sandbox Theatre at Park Square Theatre last season. The ensemble was performing War With the Newts, also on the Boss Stage and as part of Park Square’s Theatres in Residence Series. It was a truly groundbreaking production, described as “a deep exploration of the themes of nationalism, exploitative business practices and human nature’s self-destructive tendencies.” In short, humanity faced extinction at the hands of anthropomorphic newts. Reviewers described the play as “quirky” and “darkly funny.” The utter originality of the production simply blew my mind—in a very good way, leading me to see it twice.


As you can imagine, I could not wait to see Queens this season. But like War With the Newts, Queens also fought for a larger audience, though both garnered good reviews. The sheer quiet beauty of the sure-footed performances made me want to see Queens again as well, though I was unable to do so this time.

In a May 25 review on Queens in City Pages, Jay Gabler wrote, “If you’re willing to set aside your expectations of a conventional narrative, though, you’ll find a show built on trust—trust among the performers, trust in the material, and trust in the audience.” I think that his words would also ring true for War With the Newts a year ago. Sandbox Theatre does excellent but unconventional work that may challenge the audience in new ways; and, often, cutting-edge art takes time to be recognized for the gem that it is—to, essentially, build an audience.

Pondering on the incredible dedication of Sandbox Theatre to its craft made me think about all the other smaller theatres in the Twin Cities that have or will perform at Park Square Theatre this season–Wonderlust Productions, Mu Performing Arts, Other Tiger Productions and Flying Foot Forum–and how they “sweat blood” to inspire us, broaden and challenge our views, and bring us together.

New start-ups, such as Full Circle Theatre (co-founded by Rick Shiomi who was also co-founder of Mu Performing Arts) and Hero Now Theatre (which cast our own Vincent Hannam in its inaugural play), have only cropped up this past year; and you can be sure that others will keep coming, all bent on working to build mutual understanding and inspire a better future.

I encourage you to come and engage with these and other theatres as you discover their existence. Come be challenged. Come to explore. Come to receive their gifts—always with an open mind.


The Finish Line

During the June 2 performance of Queens, Emily Madigan dislocated her patella while performing a stunt. Despite excruciating pain, she managed to finish the performance.

Today, she saw the doctor and was told of the dislocation and some additional complications within her knee. As a result, we made the decision to cancel tonight’s performance (Friday, June 3). This was an elementary decision, and one I hope everyone will understand.

While the mind knows the score, the heart still begs to try. Sense rarely aligns with sensibility. Still, my heart hurts for Emily and for Neal and Theo and deVon and Jaya. Their work, along with Heather, Peter, Derek, Heidi and Samantha has made this show something truly wonderful. Something I could not have dreamed alone. This is why we play the game.

We don’t yet know what the show — one predicated so heavily on Emily’s dancing – will look like tomorrow. We do know we want to try. We began building this show together just eight short weeks ago, and now, in the final weekend, we will carry one another across the finish line.

Our final performance of Queens is tomorrow, June 4 at 7:30p.

Thank you for your understanding,

Sons of the Prophet: A Gift to Our Audiences

Sons of the Prophet was produced with special support from Pat and Paul Sackett and the Park Square Premiere Producers’ Club. Wondering how and why this particular play proved to be such a powerful choice for its producers, I received this response from Pat Sackett:


Pat and Paul Sackett

Pat and Paul Sackett

Paul and I first saw Sons of the Prophet at Roundabout Theater in New York in October of 2011 during a two-week stay for business.  As we were heading back to the hotel that night, we recast it with Twin Cities actors (no easy task, the options are so extensive) and concluded this was A Park Square Play.  When we returned home, we handed over our collection of 15 Playbills to the PST staff and put Sons on top of the heap, saying this was one they definitely needed to explore further.  We enthused over it, we hinted, we suggested, we cajoled, we badgered, we nagged, we forwarded the glowing reviews from the NY Times and The New Yorker, we made sure everyone was aware it was a finalist for the Pulitzer, we got to the point that Artistic Director Richard Cook knew we were going to corner him about Sons every time he saw us and probably avoided us on occasion as a result.  After two and a half years, we gave up and tried a different tactic: we bought the script, handed it to him and pretty much stood over him tapping our feet until he read it.  At that point, he was hooked and suggested we put our money where our mouths were and provide the cash to secure the rights.  So we did, and it finally found a spot in the 2015/2016 season.

Why are we so obsessed with this play?  The tagline is “A comedy about suffering” and, yeah, that sounds like a hard sell.  Everything in Joseph Douaihys’s life is going wrong and he might just as well have been named Job.  Yet the writing is so excellent, you find yourself laughing out loud; the characters are so well drawn and so decidedly human, you find yourself wanting things to work out for each of them.  They are us, just trying to get through life with as much happiness as possible and striving to overcome whatever difficulties they slam into.  It’s a tricky piece to pull off, and I suspect that’s why it’s taken so many years for it to find a place in theaters across the country.  Some plays are immediately forgettable; some you wish you could forget immediately; some you keep returning to for days or weeks or months afterward.  This is one of those works–the ones that bring you somewhere you’ve never been and make you think about how that might fit into your own life.  In short, A Park Square Play.

Any residual fears we might have had about whether we’d totally missed the boat recommending this piece totally dissipated when we were honored to attend the cast’s first read-through in late April.  When we introduced ourselves to the actors as the folks who’d brought the play to Park Square, they couldn’t thank us enough for the juicy roles they’d received; and each of them told us how rich the language was, how much of a challenge the play presented.  Despite this being the very beginning of the process, it seemed to us that even without costumes, sets or movement around the stage, each of them had nailed their roles and were going to produce a truly memorable experience for themselves and their audiences.

Come join us during the final shows—the play ends on Sunday, June 5–and see for yourself!



When 40 Feels Like a Lot

Last Thursday night we were pleased to play hosts to a group of young men from Patrick Henry High School. They were there as a part of Project Success – a terrific organization that helps inspire kids to dream, and motivates them as they plan their futures. This group of five made up over 10% of that night’s audience — now, when you produce in a small venue, 40 people can feel quite full. When you produce in a space like The Boss, where our added bleachers give us a potential for over 200, 40 feels like … well, less than full.

Theo and I went to Henry High this morning to talk with the students who’d seen that performance. They asked us some questions on how and why we made this new show, and we tried to give them answers that inspired them to make shows of their own. It was 50 minutes, so I’m not really sure how well we did, but I know I left with two major takeaways:

One, I love working with kids. Like a lot. I’ve spent the last four years making ensemble shows with kids from De La Salle High School, and it’s been the most rewarding experience of my theatrical life. Talking with the students from Henry got me excited to make things with them. Their voices, their ideas, their talent. It’s the most incredible feeling to see a kid discover the power of their own voice. That what they think and what they have inside them matters. I was sad the talk had to end because I wasn’t ready to leave that energy.

The second major takeaway is in measuring success. One young man, Xavier, asked us this today:
“I’ve seen shows at the Guthrie with a whole lot of people, and I’ve seen yours with 40. Why aren’t you more popular?”
Man, what a question. Budget, that’s one answer. Brand, that’s another. History, familiar plays, a building close to the action … the list goes on. The thing is — and I mean this with all my heart — I don’t know. We just know that we aren’t. Very popular, that is. And though it’s part of my job to make us more so, there are some things I’ve found peace in since the days of me tearing my hair out trying to sell tickets.

The most gratifying of those things, easily, is the effort. The work. There is a line in Queens where the character of Elizabeth says to Raymond, “This is what you do, this is not who you are.” But maybe it’s both. Maybe this is what we do because of who we are, and maybe we are because of what we do. The reach, the risk, the desire to challenge ourselves, constantly, is everything. I start every show I work on with the same thought: we don’t have to make the most beautiful show we’ve ever made, but we have to try to make the most beautiful show we’ve ever made. If that’s all I have, then that’s enough. But there is more…

Forty people came to see Queens that night. That’s 40 people who had never seen this new play, 40 people who left a little bit different than they came. I asked the students today if they’d thought about the show since they’d seen it. They all said yes. Bottle that and sell it. Forty people is a lot.

Our final weekend begins Wednesday, June 1st. Four more shows and it’s gone. This is the labor and love of a dozen wonderful Twin City artists. Their work deserves to be seen. If there are ten, 20, 40 of you in the house, know that I am pleased and grateful that you are sharing this play with us.

But man, I’d really love to see 200 of you.


Running On: Three Marathon Runners Talk More About “Sons of the Prophet”

After seeing Sons of the Prophet at Park Square Theatre’s Proscenium Stage in which the main character, Joseph, is a former marathon champion sidelined by health issues, runners Peter Erickson, Eric Larson, and Jon Thomas met to talk about the play. This is a continuation of that discussion. (You can read the first part of their conversation in the blog, The Run of a Lifetime.)

* * * *

Eric Larson

Eric Larson

Peter Erickson

Peter Erickson

In Sons of the Prophet, the Douaihy family –Joseph, his younger brother Charles, and their uncle Bill—are Lebanese-American. Larson wondered if playwright Stephen Karam had purposely made them Lebanese as a tie-in to a Persian War event that later inspired the first Olympic marathon race in 1896. In that war, the Greek soldier Pheidippides ran over 25 miles from the battlegrounds of Marathon, Greece, to Athens in 490 B.C. to announce the defeat of the Persians. After such a strenuous run to deliver the news of “Niki!” (Victory!), Pheidippides dropped dead. Did this possible link to the Persian War also foreshadow death in the play? And do our lives carry messages that get passed on?

Thomas noticed the connection between the Lebanese to the pervasive theme of suffering in the play. The Douaihy’s are Maronites, an oft-persecuted Lebanese Christian group that migrated to the mountains of Lebanon for refuge. And in the play, a painting of Saint Rafke, born in Hemlaya, Lebanon, in 1832 was cherished by Joseph and Charles’ recently deceased father. She had devoted her life to Christ, asking to share in his suffering. Thereupon, she experienced continual head and eye pain as well as joint deformities, all the while rejoicing in prayer and remaining ever-patient in her suffering. (Perhaps she would also make the perfect Patron Saint of Marathoners, who feel euphoric even while patiently enduring pain to complete the last miles!) Isn’t life also like that–a test of perseverance, of mind over matter?

Erickson brought up more than once the notion of choice—how we can lose choice when trapped by a debilitated body, as we witness with the ailing Bill and Joseph, and how we can gain choice through our outlook on life. With all this suffering, what can one do?

“Try to enjoy what you can in life,” Thomas suggested. “We can dance . . . listen to the music . . . move on . . . .”

Jon Thomas

Jon Thomas

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