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Elizabeth Hawkinson: A Soprano and “Everything Else”

Elizabeth Hawkinson is part of Park Square Theatre’s energetic nine-member cast of The Pirates of Penzance, playing multiple roles and loving it. Twin Cities critics have also captured its joyful spirit in their reviews, describing this modern spin on Gilbert and Sullivan’s hit musical as “see-worthy” and “arrr worth checking out.”

Yo, ho ho! Here’s Elizabeth to let us in on the fun:

1. What is the best part of being in this show?

My favorite part of our Pirates of Penzance is how free you are to react to any and everything. There is no fourth wall between us players and the audience, which means you can acknowledge they are there! You can look at them, speak to them and laugh with them, all while the action of the play is happening on stage. The story of The Pirates of Penzance is oh so silly and ridiculous, so you are free to ham it up and have fun! Nothing can be taken too seriously! To play such lighthearted, whimsical comedy is a treat.

Cast of Pirates of Penzance at Park Square Theatre in Saint Paul, Minnesota - 2018

Elisa Pluhar, left, Alice McGlave, Victoria Price (seated), Elizabeth Hawkinson, Zach Garcia, Charles Eaton, Max Wojtanowicz and Bradley Greenwald are in “Pirates of Penzance” at Park Square Theatre. (Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma)

2. But behind the fun is a ton of hard work. What’s the biggest challenge for you?

The biggest challenge I have in the show is pacing out my energy and maintaining proper breath support. With only nine actors, we are literally running around to cover all bases of the story. It is fun and definitely lends a silly-ridiculous quality that makes Gilbert and Sullivan enjoyable, but it is a physical challenge! You need to pace yourself through the show so you can have fun with the story rather than the story have fun with you.

3. Can you share something about your background pertaining to your decision and journey to becoming an actor?

L to R: Victoria Price, Elizabeth Hawkinson and Brian Sostek in rehearsal
(Photo by Connie Shaver)

I’ve pursued performing because I love it. To sing and act for people is a privilege and a joy. As you continue to perform, you always want to get better and better at your craft and, at the same time, are constantly meeting and working with new people, a new cast. It is a challenge physically, mentally and spiritually, and I wouldn’t be happy doing anything else.

4. What’s your favorite piratey thing?

Peg legs.

5. What’s coming up next for you after The Pirates of Penzance?

Up next for me is a film with good friend and director, Sam Fiorillo.

 

 

Tickets and information here.

Will Charles Eaton Keep a Straight Face?

Charles Eaton has been having a blast as part of the cast of The Pirates of Penzance on our Proscenium Stage through March 25. It’s been one of those gigs when work is truly play, and the hardest part may well be to keep a straight face on stage. Here he is to tell us about his experience in this hilarious Park Square production:

1. What has it been like for you to be a singing pirate and police officer in this production? Tell me all about the good, the bad and the silly!

It’s been a tricky but mostly hilarious challenge to keep the two straight. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to think, “Okay, are you a policeman here, or a pirate, or just an actor in the troupe?”

The police officers of Penzance!
(Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma)

2. Actors were cast primarily for their singing and acting abilities. How has it been for you to learn the physical moves in the dance sequences?

I, by no means, consider myself a dancer; but it has been a really good experience for me. It’s especially exciting to be constantly thinking about physicality on stage–being a pirate is a totally different persona than being a policeman.

3. What sparked your passion for singing and acting, and how long has this obsession been going on?

I’ve always loved music and always sang in choirs in school. My first musical was in 6th grade (Cornelius in Hello, Dolly!), but it wasn’t until college that I started taking voice lessons. I started music education; but after seeing La Boheme at the Metropolitan Opera, I knew that performing is what I wanted to do.

The pirates of Penzance!
(Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma)

4. What is your favorite “piratey” thing?

I parrot sit a lot and have formed quite the bond with the little guy, so I guess . . . parrots?

5. Why should people come to see The Pirates of Penzance?

There are SO many moments on stage when I have to truly hold back my laughter because of the hilarity that my awesome colleagues create. Anyone who doesn’t see it is missing out on some belly laughs!

 

Tickets and information here.

Presenting Victoria Price

Making her debut at Park Square Theatre in Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance is Victoria Price. As part of the nine-member ensemble, she plays multiple roles–one moment a pirate; another, a daughter; yet another, a police officer–in this wild and zany operetta.

“Everyone involved, are all hilarious,” Victoria said. “It’s been so much fun to see how we come together to make magic with nine people’s ideas. At rehearsal we were doing a lot of improv, in a sense, especially with the choreography. We were constantly thinking on our feet, figuring out how these characters would react.”

With her triple-threat talents of acting, singing and dancing, Movement and Dance Director Brian Sostek made Victoria the dance captain, which required her to know not just her own moves but also those of everyone else. That was a big challenge in a musical that’s already an overall challenge to do, but Victoria embraces all opportunities to grow as an artist.

L to R: Victoria Price, Elizabeth Hawkinson and Brian Sostek in rehearsal
(Photo by Connie Shaver)

“The singing is very difficult,” Victoria reflected. “There are so many words in the songs, and they’re sung so fast. We have to be able to get the words out so as to be intelligible yet sound beautiful. We’re trying to enunciate and get the best sound; and on top of that, memorize choreography. But the music is really beautiful and fun to sing.”

Victoria has loved musicals since early childhood but didn’t realize until later in life that making a career of being in them could be an option. She’d attended one year of high school at the New Orleans Center of Creative Arts before moving to Chicago, where she completed high school. After taking two gap years upon graduation, she eventually came to Minneapolis to train through North Central University and with other instructors outside of school.

Victoria (far right) as part of the police brigade
(Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma)

“A windy road brought me here,” said Victoria, “but I’m enjoying it. There are great opportunities here, and diving into this theatre community is exciting. I am passionate about live theatre and can’t wait for people to see my show. I’m especially looking forward to see young adults in the audience and to spark more interest in them to see live theatre.”

Asked if she’d ever wanted to be a pirate, she replied,” I was in Peter Pan in the fourth grade, playing Tiger Lily as well as a pirate in some instances. I wanted more to  be on the Peter Pan side, flying around. But it’s fun playing a pirate now. What I like is that they’re silly and take one moment at a time. One moment, they’re angry; the next moment, they’re happy again.”

Throw off those winter blues, and join in on the silliness with Vicki and “the gang” through March 25 at Park Square Theatre.

Cast members take their bows
(Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma)

 

Tickets and information here.

A Raisin in the Sun: It Feels Personal

Walter Lee Younger (Darius Dotch) yearns to fulfill his dream.
(Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma)

Watching  Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun feels very personal to me. It reminds me of my own immigrant family’s struggle to get a foothold in America. Survival meant starting over with menial jobs, with the hope of rising to something better. The something better came as a better-paying job for my father and, finally from years of saving every last dime possible, a starter home in a suburb with good schools. Imagine then what it was like to be the first Chinese family on our suburban block and what it meant to stay and stand our ground.

Lena Younger receives the $10,000 life insurance payment after her husband’s death as Ruth and Travis Younger (Ivory Doublette & Calvin Zimmerman) look on.
(Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma)

In the play, three generations of an African American family, the Youngers, live under one roof in a cramped, rundown apartment in 1950s Chicago. When matriarch Lena receives a $10,000 life insurance payment after her husband’s death, the family gets the chance to fulfill some lifelong dreams, including homeownership in a better neighborhood. Imagine then what it will be like for them to be the first black family in the all-white neighborhood of Clybourne Park.

Karl Lindner (Robert Gardner) from the Clybourne Park neighborhood association (aka “The Welcoming Committee”) visits with Ruth and Walter Lee Younger (Ivory Doublette & Darius Dotch).
(Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma)

Watching A Raisin in the Sun feels very personal to me. It reminds me of my own immigrant family’s struggle to get a foothold in America. What do you think that felt like? Try this: Imagine looking out the window to see a group of teenage boys surrounding your father when he comes home from work. Imagine the deep dents in your front door from surprise rock-throwing attacks. Imagine the sound of pebbles skimming across your living room window that may or may not break at any moment. Imagine disgusting objects being tossed into your backyard. Imagine the derogatory remarks from police officers who you know will not protect you.

In the play, three generations of an African American family, the Youngers, plan to finally live under one roof in their very own house, realizing what they will face–how unwelcomed they will be. Imagine what it’s like to fight for dignity as one dreams of something better in a society that devalues you. Can you imagine what it takes to stand your ground?

 

NOTE: Tickets for A Raisin in the Sun are very limited. More information here.

 

Pirates of Penzance: Zach Garcia

Recently, I was able to connect with actor Zach Garcia, who is singing and dancing in The Pirates of Penzance at Park Square through March 25. A lover of serenity, cooking and Jack Sparrow, there’s more to this pirate than meets the eye!

What brought you to the Twin Cities and how did you get involved with Park Square? What other work have you done in your time here? 

It’s hard to answer the question of where I’m from. Most of the time I just say ‘The Midwest, et al’. My family hails from just north of Chicago, but I spent a good majority of my life in the Green Bay, Wisconsin area. I attended high school in a small farm town where my graduating class was 98 students total. It was there that I had a high school music teacher encourage me and foster my interest in music by having me sing in choir, recommend me for music camps, and allow me to perform in our school musicals and plays. I graduated from Lawrence University (also in Wisconsin) with a double major in Theatre and Music. I originally attended Lawrence to study opera, but I found my true home in the theatre department. Fortunately for me, I had mentors and a group of colleagues in the theatre department who guided me and challenged me to do my best work.  I was motivated by the material and learned the value of having a strong work ethic. I was constantly juggling rehearsals, class assignments, lessons, and projects. This is, by far, the most important thing I learned in university… put in the work, you’ll see results.  Being able to maintain the stamina of an actor’s life is not for the faint of heart. Lawrence taught me to be a warrior, and I will be forever grateful for that.

I moved to the Twin Cities after spending a year in Chicago after graduation. I originally moved up here for a theatre education opportunity five years ago, but once I got here, I started booking gigs and haven’t stopped since (thank God!).  The Twin Cities theatre community has been so warm and welcoming to me.  I’ve had some veteran actors take me under their wing and guide me through the ‘business’ side of the industry, which has been incredibly helpful. I also met my beautiful wife through the theatre when I was an essential at the Guthrie five years ago. It’s crazy, because not only do my wife and I own a home here, but my parents, my sister, a few of my cousins, and my in laws all live in the Metro area. I love it here… I think I’ll stay.

Since moving here, I’ve worked with companies like Theatre Latte Da, Children’s Theatre Company, Frank Theatre, The Guthrie, Walking Shadow Theatre, as well as worked on some new work with Keith Hovis, a brilliant young writer and composer. I was fortunate to work at Park Square Theatre in the Andy Boss space for The Palabras Project which was the brain child of Jessica Huang and Ricardo Vazquez exploring and expanding the story of Blood Wedding by Federico Garcia Lorca through a variety of artistic mediums. I’ve never done a show as exploratory and integrated as that!

Cast of The Pirates of Penzance: (photo by Petronella J. Ytsma)

What are you most excited about and what could be a “fun” challenge? 

It has been really fun digging into the material and learning all the ins and outs that Gilbert and Sullivan wrote. They were so clever and so masterful at blending beautiful, fun vocal music with the twisting and turning of the plot.  I’m really excited to tackle the monstrosity that is Pirates with a small cast of nine actors. It’s a daunting task, but Doug and Denise have assembled a brilliant group of versatile artists that are ready to attack this piece with vigor.  We will be busy!

Working as tirelessly as you do, what could you possibly do with your free time

I love being outside! One of the great things about living in the Twin Cities is the ability to have a vibrant city life, but you simply drive 30 minutes north and you’re in the wilderness. My wife and I love the North Shore and have found a lot of solace and serenity up there. After I’m done with a long run of a show, we try to set aside time to take a trip somewhere to disconnect and recharge. This ‘reset’ time is so vital for an artist. I also really love cooking… Mexican food especially! I’m really bad at just ‘relaxing and doing nothing’. Cooking is active enough and has routine, but also allows room for spontaneity. It’s very relaxing when I can go to a farmer’s market or grocery store, plan an entire meal, and spend the entire day cooking.

OK, last question: Do you have a favorite pirate? 

Oooh… that’s a tough one! I’m going to have to say Captain Jack Sparrow. My wife has a mild obsession with Johnny Depp and, by default, have watched the Pirates of the Caribbean series multiple times.  I mean… who doesn’t love a drunk pirate, right?

Tickets and information for Pirates of Penzance can be found here!

Ivory Doublette and Ruth Younger: Two Harmonizers

Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun features three strong female roles, one of which is portrayed by actor Ivory Doublette. Here is Ivory to talk about playing Ruth, the wife of Walter Lee, and her own performance background:

 

1. What has your relationship been to A Raisin in the Sun prior to getting cast as Ruth in Park Square’s production?

I have never had the privilege (until now!) of performing A Raisin in the Sun so this is extra special for me! When I first read the play in high school, I could not believe how real the characters and story was. My family is from Chicago and my dad was born and raised on the South Side so I felt a special connection with the story after reading this play. It is an honor to bring this story to audiences today.

 

2. What do you think about Ruth?

I absolutely adore and understand Ruth Younger. Even though I have never been married, I have years of experience watching black men and women love each other. I truly believe Ruth is a peacemaker and lover, but she is willing to fight for all that she loves! Ruth reminds me so much of all three of my grandmothers. They loved their families through hardships and pain. Because of them, I am able to live a life I love!

 

L to R: Derek “Duck” Washington as Bobo, Darius Dotch as Walter Lee and Ivory Doublette as Ruth
(Photo by Connie Shaver)

3. You have an extensive music background. What made you decide to pursue acting rather than go strictly towards a music focus?

It took me a while to understand that a traditional music education was not for me. I am not a classically trained musician; and because of that, I faced a lot of road blocks when I tried to study music in college. Music has been a large part of my life for my entire life, and I am grateful for the education I received from my mother, grandmother and church. I finally came to understand that it was more important for me to dive into theater training and education because acting was a new addition to my life!

 

4. How did your family singing group, the SeVy Gospel Quartet, form? 

SeVy started while I was growing up in Anchorage, Alaska. My mom, Robin, who is a choir director, tried to figure out a way to keep her three very talkative daughters occupied so she taught us to sing. At first, it was a one-by-one thing; and then when we were all able to speak, she began teaching my sisters and me to sing in harmony. Once she realized we could quickly pick up songs and, in particular, harmonies to songs, we had to start hiding from her. Otherwise, she was constantly making us sing! I am thankful for that training now.

 

Tickets and information on A Raisin in the Sun here

Beware: Bradley the Green!

As you probably know by now, there are pirates running amok at Park Square, but who is leading this band of motley marauders? Who, oh who, is their fearful leader?

When I sally forth to seek my prey
I help myself in a royal way.
I sink a few more ships, it’s true,
Than a well-bred monarch ought to do…

For I am a Pirate King!
And it is, it is a glorious thing
To be a Pirate King!

And playing our incorrigible PK is Bradley Greenwald, or if you were to meet him on the high seas, Bradley the Green!

A well-known face around town, Greenwald has been performing in the Twin Cities for the past 25 years, starting when he landed a touring gig with the Minnesota Opera while in college. While in the midst of majoring in German, he fell into voice lessons and quite literally find his voice. He took time off of school for that tour and never went back.

Fast forward to today and he’s one of the most hard working actors and singers in the community with a mountain of credits at theatres such as Theatre da la Jeune Lune, the Guthrie, 10,000 Things Theatre, Children’s Theatre Company, Jungle Theater, and A Prairie Home Companion. Greenwald doesn’t discriminate either when it comes to choosing projects. In a 2015 interview with the Pioneer Press he said,

If it’s honest and honestly written, I love it… Whether it’s a 1918 novelty song, ‘Impossible Dream’ or Act II from the finale of ‘Figaro.’

Photo by Ann Marsden

No wonder he’s so popular to work with! No wonder, too, that he’s even got his own fan club on Facebook. (Upon further investigation it’s called “The Association of Bradley Greenwald Lovers”. It’s an open group as well. Nice.)

What does Bradley the Green have to say about all this attention? Again in the aforementioned interview, ““a little oodgy”. It’s that sly sense of humor, combined with his voice, that he is able to wield so effectively and highlighting that effectiveness is his treasure chest of accolades that includes a McKnight Fellowship for Theater Artists and a 2006 Ivey Award for the one-man drama, I Am My Own Wife at the Jungle Theater.

The Major General (Christina Baldwin) with the Pirate King (Bradley Greenwald). (Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma)

With all of that, Park Square is happy to share him with audiences in one of the most famous operettas of all time, The Pirates of Penzance, where  those comic skills and sublime voice will be on full display as the lovable and goofy, Pirate King.

 

 

Oh, better far to live and die
Under the brave black flag I fly,
Than play a sanctimonious part,
With a pirate head and a pirate heart…

But I’ll be true to the song I sing,
And live and die a Pirate King!

Tickets and information here. 

 

Imani Vaughn-Jones, A Woman Who Acts

In Park Square’s production of A Raisin in the Sun, Imani Vaughn-Jones plays the spirited and outspoken Beneatha, the middle child and only daughter in the Younger family. Here is Imani to tell us about her role and share a bit about herself: 

I was just reading aloud one of author Grace Lin’s books to my daughter, where a character points out the difference between making resolutions and wishes. The former actively empowers one to do something to reach a goal (“I am going to start a magazine.”); whereas, the latter suggests a passive wait for fulfillment from an external source (“I wish for a million dollars.”). That made me think of Beneatha and you. What went through your mind when you were offered the role of Beneatha?

First of all, I could not believe I was offered the role of Beneatha. I believe I had great auditions, but I felt strange after my final callback and remembered going home that day thinking, “Well, I didn’t get that. And that’s okay.” So my initial response to being offered the role was disbelief. My next response was “Here we go.”

A Raisin in the Sun is such an important show to me. It was the first play I read where I saw my life and my family reflected on the page. The characters said things I’d heard my own family say all my life. The first time I read this play, it felt like home.

As soon as I realized that I was being given the privilege to bring such an important piece of art to life, I was in go mode. I knew that we had a short rehearsal process so preparedness was going to be essential to make everything run smoothly. We had two weeks to put a family together so I did as much as I could beforehand to make sure that our process was as smooth as possible.

 

Imani Vaughn-Jones as Beneatha
(Photo by Connie Shaver)

What is most challenging about playing Beneatha?

Beneatha is so young. It’s funny for me to say that because we’re so close in age; but when it comes to life experience and maturity, there is an age gap between us.

Twenty is such a freaking confusing age! You’re an adult becoming. If you reflect ten years back, you have memories about the thick of your childhood. When you look ten years into the future, you’re a full-fledged adult. There is so much discovery and coming into one’s own that happens at 20.

A big challenge of Beneatha has been playing with that gray area of adulthood that is your 20’s. Honoring her womanhood and her strength, but also playing with her youth, her naiveté and her insecurities as she navigates what the world currently is but also what it could be.

 

What led you to become an actor, and what has that journey been like?

I’ve always been a creative. When I was child, I always knew that I wanted to be an artist when I grew up. Back then, I didn’t know what kind of art; I just knew that I wanted to make art for a living. I acted all through middle school and high school, and I loved it; but I don’t think I really understood the sheer power of the arts.

Imani Vaughn-Jones as Beneatha and Darius Dotch as Walter Lee
(Photo by Connie Shaver)

It was when I was a junior in high school that I realized I actually had to do this for a living. I was in a production of A Piece of My Heart, a show about five women overseas in the Vietnam war. I had also just been rejected from a performing arts high school I’d applied to for my senior year. I was heartbroken and shaken about my capabilities, but the show had to go on.

On opening night, we had so many veterans in the audience. The show ends with the unveiling of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall; and from the stage, we could all hear the audience weeping along with us. After the show, while thanking audience members in the lobby, an elderly woman came up to me and shook my hand. She told me that her husband had left for Vietnam and never made it back. She wanted to thank me for putting his story on stage and giving her a little bit of insight into what he was going through over there.

I wept like a baby that night. Her words, along with the words of so many other veterans and families of veterans who saw that show, have always stuck with me. That was the night I realized I wasn’t just “playing pretend.” I could actually change lives with acting. I could mend hearts, give closure or at least just provide an escape. There was no longer any question. I had to be an actor.

From there, it’s been a fairly direct upshot. When I set a goal, the only thing that can keep me from achieving it is either my depression or the Devil himself. Personally, I’m convinced they’re one and the same.

I decided that my future included training with the Guthrie and the U, so that’s the only school where I applied and auditioned. I got in, I got what I needed, and I jumped head first into the Twin Cities theatre community. This is what I’m meant to do, and I’ll keep doing it until I no longer feel that’s true.

 

4. Why did you decide to leave the University of Minnesota/Guthrie theatre program?

This question has a deeply layered answer; and if I answer it in full, we will be here for quite some time. So for the sake of length, I’ll give one major reason: The way we currently categorize theatre is outdated. What I didn’t realize when I signed up for a classical actor training program was that “classical” is synonymous with “white,” and most of the time, “male.” I think we need to seriously reconsider what we label “classics.” Who wrote them and, more importantly, who said they were the gold standard? As it currently stands, theatre and European art history are basically synonymous; and that’s just incorrect. I believe that we need to very seriously reassess what we call the classical canon.

To me, Raisin is a classic. Playwrights like August Wilson and Suzan Lori-Parks are champions and bricklayers in American theater, yet so many people still don’t know their names or can’t name more than one play by each. I became disenchanted with studying a system that I believe needs serious renovation. So I left.

 

5. You are the Founder and Editor in Chief of the digital magazine Super Dope&Extra Lit. Can you tell me how it all got started or anything else you’re willing to share?

Oh, sweet SDEL. Super Dope&Extra Lit was something I wanted to do for a while. This actually relates to what you mentioned in your first question: the difference between resolutions and wishes.

I’ve always wanted to make a difference in the world, and I’ve always wanted to empower people of color. That’s always been my wish. My life’s work has been figuring out how I was going to do that. SDEL ended up being the answer.

I wanted a new medium for people of color. I grew up reading Ebony and JET, and I loved them. Unfortunately, today they’re outdated. I wanted to create the next generation of those magazines but with an unapologetic tone. As much as I love our predecessors, they had an air of assimilationism to them. SDEL lacks that completely. There is no attempt to censor ourselves so that we’re more palatable to the mainstream. SDEL manages to be both raunchy and educated, and that’s what I love about it.

I crowdfunded some money, spent a lot of my own and grabbed some friends who shared the vision. Within two months, we had launched something that very quickly became a wave.

I think that’s so important. The balance of wishes and resolutions. They need each other. Your wishes need resolutions behind them in order to make them come true. Your resolutions must be motivated by wishes; otherwise, you have nothing you’re working towards. I really do think they’re equals.

When you think about your future, you should be able to answer how you’re going to achieve it. On the same hand, when you look at what you’re doing, you should know what you’re doing it for. Wishes without action are nothing but dreams. Action without passion is aimless. They need each other. And funny enough, I think that’s something that this play explores a lot.

 

Learn more about Super Dope& Extra Lit here.

Tickets and information for A Raisin in the Sun here.

Christina Baldwin: The Very Model

A leading face in Park Square’s Pirates of Penzance is actor, Christina Baldwin, who is portraying the famous “Major General”. Of course, in this particular production, everything about the “traditional” staging has been re-interpreted. Not only is Baldwin playing the Major General, but she is playing the real-life, Helen Lenoir, (who is playing the Major General).

The cast of The Pirates of Penzance take their bows. (Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Expanding upon this, Baldwin states; “Doug’s [Scholz-Carlson] knowledge of Gilbert and Sullivan history and trivia is astounding! He has placed Gilbert, Sullivan and many other characters from their circle in our show. I had never heard of Helen Lenoir, and Doug’s idea to incorporate her into the Pirates story is well-placed. By all accounts, she really was a large cog in the machine that kept the G&S machine rolling. It makes sense that she gets to be the Major General!”

Photo by William Clark

Christina Baldwin grew up in Jordan, Minn. where she and her seven siblings were introduced to the arts at an early age. Her parents brought her along to see theater and live music whenever possible. She attended college at Lawrence University Conservatory of Music and after a brief stint in New York, returned to Minnesota to pursue a Masters of Music degree at the U of M. It was then that she began a nearly 10 year collaboration with Theatre de la Jeune Lune. Other credits around town include work with the Minnesota Opera, the Guthrie, History Theater, Nautilus Music-Theater, Minnesota Orchestra, the Schubert Club and the Ordway.

No stranger Park Square either, Baldwin was previously seen in Lisa Kron’s Well, as well as Ragtime, Calendar Girls and the co-production of Grey Gardens with the Ordway. She’s even well acquainted with Pirates of Penzance, having performed in the show at the Guthrie and Kansas City Repertory.

With her first turn as the Major General, what could her inspirations possibly be? “Honestly, my inspiration drifts somewhere between Mary Poppins and Karen from Will & Grace.”
Now that sounds like a major general we can all get behind! You can catch the multi-talented Baldwin at Park Square until March 25 on the proscenium stage at Park Square Theatre. More information and tickets can be had here.

How To Dress A Pirate (and Other Zany Characters)

Park Square Theatre‘s adaptation of The Pirates of Penzance by Doug Scholz-Carlson has Gilbert and Sullivan on a steamer, heading to New York for its opening. But–oops!–they’ve left the score in London! Forced to recreate the show from memory during their voyage, they use their ship mates as the cast and all the costumes they’d packed along in their trunks. In the world outside of the play (and the play within the play), the person who created all those clothes and accessories for our production is Costume Designer Rebecca Bernstein.

Rebecca gave the costumes for The Pirates of Penzance a Victorian-like feel but didn’t make them super-realistic. This stage costume-y aspect to the clothes supports the idea that the passengers on the ship (the real people) are playing parts in a show.

The premise is also that Gilbert and Sullivan have to make do with what’s on the ship, which includes just a small number of available people to play all the roles so Rebecca used color to help audiences more easily identify the characters. For instance, all the pirates have red, black and gold in their costumes, and the police are in blue. This color-coding also helps the actors make fast costume changes.

What I could not help noticing about Rebecca’s design renderings is how beautiful they are–like beautiful children’s storybook illustrations. This turns out to be a common compliment that Rebecca has heard many times before.

Rebecca feels like she’s been designing costumes “forever.”

“I’ve always liked clothes even as a kid,” Rebecca recalled. “My mom taught me to sew when I was five. I was interested in clothes as an art form and liked going to museums with fashion exhibits. I was also always interested in theatre–seeing plays.”

In junior high, Rebecca attended a magnet school that focused on the arts. They offered a costume class that produced the costumes for school plays. When she took the class in eighth grade, as Rebecca put it, “The sky opened; the angels sang. I knew I wanted to be a costume designer.”

Rebecca went on to attend an arts-oriented high school and obtain a BA in General Theatre. She then got her master’s in Costume Design from New York University.

Three years ago, Rebecca and her family moved from New York City to Minneapolis when her husband became the head of the sound department at the Children’s Theatre Company. Rebecca herself has found the Twin Cities to be a great arts community for professional opportunities, which includes her current stint at Park Square Theatre. Be prepared to keep seeing more creative works from this talented New York transplant on our stages for years to come.

 

 

NOTE: All renderings shown are by Rebecca Bernstein

Tickets and information here.

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