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Posts Tagged Minnesota History Center

Imagine the World with Sarah Brandner

All the action in Hansol Jung’s Cardboard Piano take place at a church in a township of northern Uganda on New Year’s Eve 1999, then again inside the same church on the day of New Year’s Eve 2014. It was Scenic Designer Sarah Brandner’s job to convert the Boss Thrust Stage into this church within the two distinct time periods but without doing two completely separate designs. How would the world of the play look for the actors who must inhabit it and for the audience who must get immersed into it? To determine this required much research, collaboration and creativity.

“When I first get asked to design a show,” Sarah explained, “I read the script and do some preliminary research on such things as the time period and location, but not necessarily on past productions of the same play. Then I have a conversation with the director (Signe V. Harriday for Cardboard Piano) before going deeper. I want to facilitate the director’s vision, plus our conversation also leads to more ideas for exploration. I go off on my own again to let ideas percolate and do more research before putting things together.”

Set model of church in Part 1 by Sarah Brandner

For Cardboard Piano, a big challenge was the low ceiling of the Boss Stage, especially with a key scene in Part I occurring on the church’s rooftop. Sarah, Signe and the other members of the creative team bounced around many ideas on how to solve that problem, always keeping in mind: What’s needed to tell the story? What’s the best way to serve this production in this particular space? Finally figuring out the answer made it possible for Sarah to forge ahead with the rest of her design.

In 1999, the church in the play is still in its humble beginnings; in 2014, it’s a permanent structure. Sarah discovered that many missionary churches in Africa began as “pop up churches.” They’d put up something for shelter, such as tents, and people would bring in blankets, crates or whatever was at hand to create as inviting place of worship as possible. Sarah’s design shows the church as an unfinished structure, definitely still a work in progress.

Adelin Phelps (Chris) and Michael Jemison (Pika) in Part I of Cardboard Piano
(Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma)

In 2014, the church is now a finished building, so the set shows more fully realized architectural elements, such as a stained glass window, pews, an altar and some brick walls. But for creative and practical reasons, Sarah did not need to design a completely new set to switch out for Part II.

“I like to involve the audience so I often provide the essence of an idea to allow them to use their imaginations to fill in the blanks,” said Sarah. “This is a surreal, dreamlike piece so apropos for the audience to use their imagination and become a part of the story.”

Also be sure to look out for symbolic motifs, such as the flowers, in the set design for Part I that simply get repeated in a grander way in Part II. They either mirror something similar or reflect a difference between the two parts of the play.

Set model of church in Part II by Sarah Brandner

Asked why and how she’d come to her profession, Sarah told me her story:

“I have a sister who’s five years older. I looked up to her and wanted to be just like her. She did theatre in high school and attended a summer theatre program that had theatre classes–tech, acting, dance, scene work, and I’d tag along to classes like her little shadow.

When I was old enough, I went to all the summer school classes. I didn’t like the pressures in the auditioning process but just thought I had to do it. Others would be overjoyed or depressed depending on the outcome. It was not my thing.

Kiara Jackson (Ruth), Adelin Phelps (Chris) and Ansa Akyea (Paul) in Part II of Cardboard Piano
(Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma)

But I found another way into theatre by taking design and tech classes. Initially I wanted to be a lighting designer. As an undergrad, I was thinking of doing that; but my advisor also pushed me to try scenic design. I ended up falling in love with it as well. Now I love to do both equally. If I ever had to choose, I’d choose both–not one over the other.”

Sarah holds both MLA and BA degrees in Theatre through Minnesota State University-Moorhead as well as a MFA in Scenic and Lighting Design from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. Since her undergraduate years until just a few years ago, Sarah was a designer for MSU-Moorhead, including its summer theatre company, The Straw Hat Players.

As part of her MFA program at UMN-Twin Cities, Sarah did an internship at a museum. To this day, she continues to do exhibition and lighting design for museums in addition to her work for stage productions. For those who’d caught last year’s Penumbra at 40: Art, Race and a Nation on Stage exhibit at the Minnesota History Center, you’d experienced Sarah’s work.

Through the years, you may have also seen Sarah’s work at Park Square Theatre,  Mu Performing Arts, Penumbra Theatre and many other stages. In Sarah’s words, “With each new production I work on, I get the opportunity to work and know more of the amazingly talented artists around Minnesota and beyond.”

In her profession, Sarah gets to do what she loves: to inspire the imagination and create an environment to tell a story. Of Cardboard Piano, she had this to say: “I love it, and it breaks my heart. I hope that people really embrace the story.”

 

Tickets and information here

 

TEST: Mina Kobayashi: May’s Front of House Employee of the Month

TEST: Mina Kobayashi: May's Front of House Employee of the Month
Mina in the Ticket Office

Mina in the Ticket Office

Mina Kobayashi moved to Minnesota in August 2015 and began working at Park Square Theatre’s ticket office in September.  In May, Kobayashi was named Park Square’s Front of House Employee of the Month in honor of her terrific work.

As Kobayashi’s skills increased, so did her responsibilities as part of the Front of House staff.  She was put on the Subscription Team to serve season package holders as well as sent to promote Park Square at “Hello Saint Paul Welcome Hat” events at the Minnesota History Center.  The latter is a bimonthly gathering to welcome new community members to St. Paul and introduce them to local businesses and organizations.

Kobayashi, whose home is in New York City, graduated from Colby College in Waterville, Maine, in May 2015.  She majored in Anthropology and East Asian Studies.  While looking for work in the event planning or development fields, Kobayashi applied for a one-year AmeriCorps-VISTA positon in the Twin Cities national headquarters of College Possible.  College Possible is a nonprofit organization that helps low-income students get a college education, and she became their Individual Giving VISTA.   Kobayashi herself had gone to college with the support of the Posse Foundation, an organization which helps public high school students gain access to a college education, and saw the opportunity to pay it forward through her work with College Possible.

Kobayashi has enjoyed the opportunity to work for Park Square Theatre and support its mission this past season.  However, her yearlong term at College Possible is about to end, and Kobayashi has decided to rejoin family and friends in New York City.  She retains an interest in pursuing development positions for nonprofit organizations.

Thank you, Mina Kobayashi, for all your hard work on behalf of Park Square Theatre.  You will be missed, and we wish you the best of luck!

Marketing Coordinator Alicia Pedersen and Mina Kobayashi promote Park Square Theatre at Minnesota History Center's "Nine Nights of Music"

Mina with Marketing Coordinator Alicia Pedersen at Minnesota History Center’s “Nine Nights of Music”

 

 

Mina Kobayashi: May’s Front of House Employee of the Month

Mina in the Ticket Office

Mina in the Ticket Office

Mina Kobayashi moved to Minnesota in August 2015 and began working at Park Square Theatre’s ticket office in September.  In May, Kobayashi was named Park Square’s Front of House Employee of the Month in honor of her terrific work.

As Kobayashi’s skills increased, so did her responsibilities as part of the Front of House staff.  She was put on the Subscription Team to serve season package holders as well as sent to promote Park Square at “Hello Saint Paul Welcome Hat” events at the Minnesota History Center.  The latter is a bimonthly gathering to welcome new community members to St. Paul and introduce them to local businesses and organizations.

Kobayashi, whose home is in New York City, graduated from Colby College in Waterville, Maine, in May 2015.  She majored in Anthropology and East Asian Studies.  While looking for work in the event planning or development fields, Kobayashi applied for a one-year AmeriCorps-VISTA positon in the Twin Cities national headquarters of College Possible.  College Possible is a nonprofit organization that helps low-income students get a college education, and she became their Individual Giving VISTA.   Kobayashi herself had gone to college with the support of the Posse Foundation, an organization which helps public high school students gain access to a college education, and saw the opportunity to pay it forward through her work with College Possible.

Kobayashi has enjoyed the opportunity to work for Park Square Theatre and support its mission this past season.  However, her yearlong term at College Possible is about to end, and Kobayashi has decided to rejoin family and friends in New York City.  She retains an interest in pursuing development positions for nonprofit organizations.

Thank you, Mina Kobayashi, for all your hard work on behalf of Park Square Theatre.  You will be missed, and we wish you the best of luck!

Marketing Coordinator Alicia Pedersen and Mina Kobayashi promote Park Square Theatre at Minnesota History Center's "Nine Nights of Music"

Mina with Marketing Coordinator Alicia Pedersen at Minnesota History Center’s “Nine Nights of Music”

 

 

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