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Posts Tagged Gilbert and Sullivan

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.

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.

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!

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.

Alice McGlave, the Bride-to-Be

Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance is a fast-paced, zany comedy with a love story at its core. Playing Mabel, the bride-to-be of Frederic, the pirate apprentice, is Alice McGlave. Here she is to tell us about her role and a bit about herself:

1. What do you like about playing Mabel?

I like Mabel’s optimism and vulnerability. She falls in love so quickly with Frederic and remains positive even when the odds are against them and it seems like they won’t make it as a couple.

2. What’s the hardest part about playing Mabel?

I think the hardest part about playing Mabel is her music. She has some demanding vocal lines. It is a challenge to sing through those vocal lines while in character. Throw some choreography on top of that, and it can get pretty tricky.

3. How has your training prepared you for this part?

Alice McGlave in rehearsal
(Photo by Connie Shaver)

The key to playing Mabel is to make sure I am warmed up. Warming up was a crucial part of my training. Every voice lesson begins with a warm up. I compare singing a role like Mabel to that of an athlete. Like athletes warm up before a game or race, singers have to properly warm up to prepare for a performance.

4. What was your aha moment in realizing that you wanted to be an actor?

It was in high school. I began to realize how much joy performing brought me. There is nothing like performing in front of a live audience. It’s exhilarating!

5. What’s your favorite song in this show and why?

I really enjoy When the Foeman Bares His Steel. In the song, I am trying to motivate the police to go and fight the pirates. It’s such a goofy song, and the police are so much fun to watch. There is a lot of physical comedy throughout.

6. What’s your favorite “piratey” thing?

I am a huge fan of the pirate hats. The more feathers the better!

 

L to R: Bradley Greenwald, Alice McGlave and Christina Baldwin
(Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma)

 

Tickets and information here

Max Wojtanowicz, Pirate Apprentice

In Park Square Theatre’s production of The Pirates of Penzance, Max Wojtanowicz plays the rather naïve but lovable pirate apprentice, Frederic. His character’s accidental path to piratehood is a hoot, and so is his path to finding true love. Here’s Max to tell us a bit about playing Frederic and also a few things about himself:

1. What’s your favorite thing about playing Frederic?

I love looking at the world through the eyes of a child, and Frederic has a childlike innocence about him. He’s been on a pirate ship his whole life, and adulthood, women, and dry land are entirely new to him! And even though he’s a little clumsy with his words and his feet (I empathize there!), he still wants so badly to do right. I’m also so glad to be working on this role with our director, Doug Scholz-Carlson, who knows the play and the character so well.

2. This is a really rigorous production for cast members. What is the most difficult thing to do as Frederic and why?

Our production is really demanding, both physically and vocally, but the most difficult part by far is not breaking character by laughing at the comedic genius of Christina Baldwin and Bradley Greenwald. Sharing the stage with both of them, and the rest of this gorgeous cast: Can we talk about a dream come true?

Max being fitted with a mic for an interview
(Photo by Connie Shaver)

3. Frederic could have become a pilot but, due to unexpected circumstances, ended up a pirate. If Max had not gotten hooked on theatre at an early age, he may have become a (fill in the blank) instead.

I think I might have become a writer. I wrote a lot of stories as a kid, and I still do! Maybe I would have ended up in journalism? That might be the best case scenario. Realistically, I probably would have ended up a bit like Frederic: out to sea, singing high Bs, not much direction in life.

4. You have a number of upcoming gigs after The Pirates of Penzance. What are they?

Cab Cabaret at Troubadour on April 16; The Good Person of Szechwan with Ten Thousand Things from May 10 to June 3; Ball ArtSHARE at the Southern Theater from June 20 to 24; and I have an ongoing Musical Mondays at LUSH with The Catalysts.

5. You’ve been a Minnesota Fringe Festival favorite for the past years. Do you plan to put on a show to keep up the tradition this year?

Not this year! We had a good run for five years in a row; and I can’t wait to be back in the Fringe with a really good idea, but that idea hasn’t quite come to me yet. Plus I’m buying a house and getting married this summer, so it’ll be a wee bit busy already!

6. What is fulfilling for you about being in The Pirates of Penzance in 2018?

Gilbert and Sullivan were writing at a time when opera was very popular, and they were really smart guys, so smart that they knew exactly how to make fun of both opera and society. They were keen on world events and satire, and I think the temptation right now is to make sure all of our art reflects the world we live in, like they did. To be frank, that would make for some pretty glum stuff. We need hard-hitting, incisive and relevant stories onstage right now, but there is also room and use in the world for fluff, silliness and frivolity. Hopefully, our show has a little of all of that. Maybe a little more silliness than anything else.

7. Do you have a favorite “piratey” thing?

I like to involve my nephews in whatever play I’m doing. They’re five-year-old twins, and they have huge imaginations, so lately my favorite piratey thing to do is pretend to be pirates and draw costume sketches and making “arrrr” noises with them!

Tickets and information here!

 

 

(In)Famous Pirates of Stage and Screen!

In rehearsal at Park Square now is the ageless musical comedy, The Pirates of Penzance, by W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan. Fans of musical theatre and classic drama will no doubt be familiar with the opera; it has been making people fall in love with dimwitted pirates since it premiered in 1879 in New York City, and it accompanies H.M.S. Pinafore and The Mikado as Gilbert and Sullivan’s most produced works today.

All of my research into this show now, has stirred my latent fascination with pirates – especially those buccaneers we see in film and on TV. Of course, Pirates of Penzance was turned into a movie in 1983 starring Kevin Kline and Angela Lansbury. This film was based on the acclaimed 1980 Broadway production, produced by Joe Papp.

But who else makes up our motley crew of fictionalized swashbucklers? Who did I leave out and who shouldn’t I have included?

1. Let’s go back to the beginning, when pirates made their first big splash on the screen. Errol Flynn as the debonair renegade, Captain Blood, in the 1935 film that launched his stardom. Now that I think about it, why did it take over a hundred years to make a Pirates of Penzance film?

2. Of course, before film there was literature and coming out only a few years after Pirates of Penzance, was the dastardly Long John Silver of Treasure Island. This is absolutely the character that set the template for all the pirate-isms we know and love today. The peg-leg, the eye-patch, even that squawking parrot! Thanks Robert Louis Stevenson…. Naturally there have been dozens of depictions of Captain Long John and even a tasty fast-food joint. Famous actors such as Charlton Heston, Wallace Beery, Orson Welles and Jack Palance have all had a turn with the black spot, but who doesn’t love Tim Curry’s portrayal in Muppet Treasure Island?

3. Another infamous pirate has to be the one and only Captain Hook. While made famous the world-over by Disney’s 1953 animated classic, the character first appeared in the play Peter Pan (1904) by J.M. Barrie and the subsequent novel in 1911. The archenemy of the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up, Captain Hook attributes his name to the sinister iron hook that has replaced his hand (bit off by a very persistent crocodile). I would say that he and Long John Silver would certainly get along well!

4. Well, I think we’ve had enough of villainy for the time being, haven’t we? Let’s get back to the lovable-rogue archetype that Flynn perfected so well. Next up…. that captain of the Black Pearl and scoundrel of the Caribbean, Jack Sparrow! Thanks to Johnny Depp’s chameleon-like transformation in Disney’s 2003 classic, Pirates of the Caribbean, this pirate not only became famous but a world-wide phenomena, launching a multi-billion dollar franchise and four subsequent sequels (for better or for worse…) The only question we have now is – why is the rum gone?

5. Finally, I figured we would end this whole escapade where we started it, with 1983’s The Pirates of Penzance and Kevin Kline’s performance as the Pirate King. Kind-hearted and gentlemanly, the Pirate King is not your typical brand of bloodthirsty buccaneer, and that’s what makes the character so endearing!

(Now we have someone even better stepping into the role for Park Square: the multi-talented Bradley Greenwald.)

Bradley Greenwald (Photo by Petronella J Ytsma)

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