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General Observations from the PST Generals!

This past weekend I was fortunate enough to be able to volunteer at Park Square for the General Auditions. Remember, I said I’d see you there?

Well, I don’t know you. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t see you! In fact, were you to introduce yourself to me now I would probably go, “Oh! It’s you! You were so nice and punctual!”

In fact, I would probably say a lot of things and to make it easier to read, I will list them in handy dandy bullet points. Therefore, allow me to ruminate on all the things that I happened to notice in my weekend at Park Square.

  • Brush up your Shakespeare! Maybe there was something in the air, or perhaps some specific auditioning, but 99.9% of the monologues I saw this weekend were from the Bard. Which is totally awesome! As an actor myself, I relished the chance to see five different Claudio’s and a handful of Ferdinand’s. Just as every actor is a unique individual, so then do they bring their own uniqueness the the same familiar words.
  • Every one who auditioned was so polite! After the weekend we got plenty of emails from the talent commending the volunteers, but truly, the credit goes to you fellow performers for making the job easy.
  • The people watching the auditions were so polite as well! And definitely patient. My favorite assignment was sitting in the room as the timer and getting to watch the directors as much as the actors. No matter if the computers were slow or the performer a little less than prepared – everyone was gracious and willing to wait.
  • There was no better time to go to the bathroom or scamper off down a hallway than the minutes before it’s your turn to audition. Without fail, I was always hunting down a stray actor.
  • Going back to my intro, I commented once that getting to see my friends audition was like a “greatest hits” of the Twin Cities theatre. Of course when you’re in a show with someone you often only get to know that one side – so how delightful it is to watch them do some Shakespeare or something off the wall.

So there ya have it! After reading all that how could you not be jazzed to attend yourself? You’ve got a whole year after all, so dust off some of your favorite pieces and mark you calendars!


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.


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Welcome to the home of Park Square Theatre’s Blog and News Updates! We have a talented team of writers including Ting Ting Cheng and Vincent Hannam dedicated to digging deep into the content and context of our plays, and introducing you to the many people who make this theatre for you. (yes you.)

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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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