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Posts Tagged Ben Cook-Feltz

Hope and Inspiration

One cannot help but be reflective after Election Day, and one thing that I’ve been thinking about is the role of theatre arts in society as a source of hope and inspiration.

In my work at Park Square Theatre, both as blogger and daytime usher, I get to witness firsthand some of the dynamic changes occurring within the Minnesota scene as Elders begin to hand off responsibilities to a younger generation, as organizations soul-search on how to remain relevant to their audiences and as they ever strive to fulfill their missions–all while trying to stay financially afloat to be able to come back to do it all over again season after season. What I have discovered is that a theatre is a place of service, and those who work in one are more likely than not following a calling. The theatre “bug” is not foremost a pursuit of fame and fortune (though the latter would be a welcomed help) but a dedication by those involved to work for the greater social good.

While at Park Square Theatre, I get to brush shoulders with living Minnesota theatre history–the people who have been the shakers-and-movers of Twin Cities theatre for decades, not much in the limelight but still tirelessly dedicated to bringing quality live theatre to you from behind the scenes. To name just a few, there are Artistic Director Richard Cook, who co-founded and built up Park Square’s stature in its Saint Paul community; Education Director Mary Finnerty, who created what is likely the strongest theatre education program for middle- and high-school students in the state; photographer Petronella J. Ytsma, who can tell you photoshoot stories that span the change of photo-technology; and newly hired Group Sales & Community Engagement Manager Linda Twiss, who has likely, unbeknownst to you, already touched some aspect of your theater-going experience in Minnesota through the years.

Then there are our Future–the younger generation who also carry on the vision and mission. In my two seasons at Park Square Theatre, I have watched House Manager Amanda Lammert rise to Audience Services Director and, as such, clear the path for  millennials, such as Jiffy Kunik to become Performance Supervisor, Adrian Larkin to become Lead House Manager and Ben Cook-Feltz to become Ticket Office Supervisor. Our stage managers, such as Jamie Kranz, Megan Dougherty, Laura Topham and Lyndsey Harter, tend to be young female leaders with sure hands on each production that they oversee. My own fellow blogger, Vincent Hannam, is so clearly a Student of Life through Theatre; I get to see him grow not just as a theatre artist but as a wholehearted human being as I blog alongside him. And I have interviewed so many up-and-coming theatre professionals, from actors to designers, working with such intensity and creativity in their chosen fields. To be amongst such passionate young people, committed to theatre as a social cause is a constant source of hope and inspiration.

Park Square's A Raisin in the Sun. Photo by Connie Shaver.

A scene from A Raisin in the Sun (Photo by Connie Shaver)

And this fall I am witnessing the fruits of the prior year’s labor to carefully select this season’s plays, culled from suggestions by theatre professionals, theatre goers and volunteer script readers–all committed to fulfilling Park Square Theatre’s mission. The whole process is a mixture of intentionality and serendipity, resulting in a breathtaking season of anticipation and high hopes that we got it right. This season, we started out with The Liar and The Realistic Joneses, both in their own ways guiding us to what is true and real. Then came The House on Mango Street and currently A Raisin in the Sun, both uplifting the human spirit in the face of adversity. In December, we look forward to The Soul of Gershwin: The Musical Journey of an American Klezmer, a style of music brought to us by Jewish immigrants.

Park Square Theatre’s mission is “to enrich our community by producing and presenting exceptional live theatre that touches the heart, engages the mind, and delights the spirit.” It is theatre in service to the common good and, by extension, a source of hope and inspiration. To all.

Note: We have a very limited number of tickets available for A Raisin in the Sun evening and weekend performances through November 20. But you may now purchase tickets for weekday student matinee performances through December 22. (You would be watching the play with school groups.) Student matinee tickets cost just $25.

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Tickets for The Soul of Gershwin: The Musical Journey of an American Klezmer evening and weekend performances are available through December 31.

To order, call 651.291.7005 or go to parksquaretheatre.org.

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.

 

 

 

 

Artist Spotlight: Ben Cook-Feltz, Musician

Last week I showed off the musical prowess of my Park Square cohort, CJ Pitts, and this week I want to bring another masterful musician to the forefront: Ben Cook-Feltz! By day BCF can be found working in Park Square’s ticket office, so if you’ve ever called in to order tickets you’ve probably already heard his soulful croon and didn’t even know it. I also do want to let everybody know that Cook-Feltz will be playing Vieux Carre this Wednesday, April 6 from 6-7:30. If you’ve never been, it’s  downstairs next to Park Square’s Andy Boss stage and features great music, drinks and food in an intimate setting.

It all began in Iowa where he was born and raised, learning to play and appreciate music from both his parents. Don’t get any false impressions about him being from Iowa, though. As Cook-Feltz will tell you: “I spent the first 23 years of my life in Cedar Falls, doing all your typical Iowan things, which actually aren’t that different from what everyone else was doing in the 80’s and 90’s (for instance, I have no idea how to tip a cow, much less milk one).”

At twenty-four, Cook-Feltz made his way up north to the Twin Cities to study record production at McNally Smith College of Music. From there he discovered just how vibrant the music and arts scene is in Minneapolis-Saint Paul.

Adding an indelible voice to this community through various capacities, he plays music as a “Side Guy”, is a member of two bands, Mother Banjo Band and Art Vandalay, as well as fronting his own band called what else? Ben Cook-Feltz. His eponymous group dropped an album last year called, She Doesn’t Believe Me, and it’s pretty rad. Combining observational and quirky lyrics, his melodies are often reminiscent of the 60s and 70s.

When asked why he does what he does, he states, “What it all comes down to is, I love making music. It makes me feel alive, and it gives me so much joy. I am thrilled by any chance I get to share that joy with other people.”

From one artist to another, I know the feeling.

So now that you know the man-behind-the-box office window you should check out his website and schedule, but don’t forget this Wednesday at Vieux Carre!

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