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Posts Tagged Nina Simone

Park Square at the Ivey’s

Here we are, a week later and the 2016 Ivey Awards are already in our rear-view mirror as we hurtle down the highway towards a new and promising season of theatre in the Twin Cities. Park Square certainly has a full lineup including The Liar, The Realistic Joneses, A House on Mango Street, A Raisin in the Sun and The Soul of Gershwin. Who knows if those or any other Park Square shows will be featured at the ceremony next year. All we can talk about for now are the ones we had the pleasure to see from last year’s remarkable season.

Everyone's favorite blogger (on the right).

David Beukema (left) and some blogger (right).

It started with me taking my seat at the beautiful State Theatre in Minneapolis and pulling out my phone to make sure I had everything ready for the tweets to come. I assured those around me that my texting was for the greater good and I was 100% paying attention to the entertainment on stage (those friends, by the way, were the Girl Friday Productions gang whose play, Idiot’s Delights, will be taking over the Boss Stage next summer!).

The evening’s entertainment started off with a bang, with Regina Marie Williams and Mark Benninghofen hosting the show. Benninghofen was in Shooting Star at Park Square in 2015; and Williams, most recently as Nina Simone in the eponymous smash hit. The house rocked later on when Williams, Thomasina Petrus and Aimee K. Bryant came out and performed a number from the show.

Hosts Mark Beninghofen and Regina Marie Williams. Photo credit: Ivey Awards

Hosts Mark Beninghofen and Regina Marie Williams.       Photo credit: Ivey Awards

While all of those performances serve to break up the flow of acceptance speeches, occasionally it seems to work the other way around. One of the best was from Park Square veteran Warren C. Bowles, who won an Ivey Award for his direction of The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife at Minnesota Jewish Theatre (hooray St. Paul!), who was so shocked he was begging the band for his cue-to-exit music.

My personal favorite moment of the night, however, was costume designer Trevor Bowen accepting his award for emerging artist. Having met Trevor in the halls of Park Square (where he designed the costumes for My Children! My Africa! and Nina Simone: Four Women), I can attest to the bright warming light of human being that he is. He had me cracking up through misty eyes as he could barely get through his speech, overcome with emotion on several occasions.

Example of Bowen's costumes in My Children! My Africa! featuring Ivey Recipient Warren C. Bowles.

Example of Bowen’s costumes in My Children! My Africa! featuring Ivey Award recipient Warren C. Bowles (left).   Photo credit: Petronella J. Ytsma

Bowen’s speech was definitely a highlight of a night where everyone deserved their spot in the sun. While Park Square itself wasn’t specifically recognized for any one thing, it was clear that the theatre has a far-reaching influence on the Cities. Even the co-writers of the ceremony, Shanan Custer and Zach Curtis, are frequent performers at Park Square and can currently be seen in The Liar. That to me is just as consequential as any trophy and echoes the spirit of the Ivey Awards. No nominees, no categories, no egos; just a gathering of friends and collaborators to celebrate the miracle of live theatre, because when you consider what it really takes to produce such art… whew, you wouldn’t believe it!

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Well, Park Square and its patrons believe it and we’re all looking forward to a brand new season and getting dressed up for next year’s theatre prom.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Mann!

Richard Mann at Nina Simone

One of the many great moments of Nina Simone: Four Women has to be the appearance of Richard Mann and his family when they came to celebrate his 102 birthday! If you missed this special night you can read about man, the myth, the legend here.

 

Mann, What a Life

This month will mark not only the opening of Park Square’s much anticipated, Nina Simone: Four Women, but also the looooong anticipated birthday celebration of Richard Mann, a 102 year old St. Paul resident. What do the two have in common, you ask? Maybe more than you think. We’ll get to that soon but first we’ll just start by saying that Park Square is honored to be having Mr. Mann and his family attend Nina on March 12th to celebrate his big 1-0-2.

Born in St. Paul in 1914, Mr. Mann has lived his entire life in either St. Paul or Minneapolis, with his family moving back and forth between the two cities throughout his adolescence. He was only 11 when his father died. He went to work, instilling in himself a strong sense of self-determination and activity. In the late 1940s he went into the nightclub business, opening the Treasure Inn in Roseville that became a popular spot for the black community and college students. Prince Rogers, father of… well, Prince, was one famous artist to play there. Needing to support a family of his own, however, led him to change course and in 1953, he started working at the Post Office where he stayed for 30 years.

Mr. Mann’s greatest contribution to the Twin Cities, though, would have to be his community activism. He was a Boy Scout as a kid and then grew up to be president of the Sterling Club, a charitable organization that works with other groups to provide beneficial activities and programs to the African American community. To honor his 90th birthday, the Richard Morris Mann scholarship was established to benefit graduating African American high school seniors attending college.

Even after all that, Mr. Mann continues to make a name for himself and proving his vitality by becoming a recent internet hit when a video of him shoveling a neighbor’s sidewalk went viral this winter. Bound and determined to live an active lifestyle, he continues to shovel walks and loves playing golf.  Surely this must be a “key” to living such a long life. Although, I would add that having such a large family helps. When the Mann family sees Nina on the 12th, there will be no less than 16 representatives in the seats! That’s like, a whole section of the Boss Stage house! So if you can’t get a ticket you know who to thank.
Nah, I’m sure you’ll be fine, and what a performance to see if you really want one of those “special times in the theatre.” Not only will you be basking in the inspiration of Nina Simone’s music but you can look over at Richard Mann, sure to be tapping his foot and smiling, and soak up his own unbridled inspiration.

Also, go ahead and watch him shovel snow. It’s the best.

 

 

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