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Posts Tagged Shanan Custer

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.

The Liar: Featuring Shanan Custer

As part of our Meet the Cast of The Liar Blog Series, let us introduce you to Shanan Custer:

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ROLES: Sabine, puritanical servant to Clarice; Isabelle, vivacious servant to Lucrece

DESCRIPTIVE LINES ABOUT SABINE IN THE PLAY:

Said by Philiste to his friend Alcippe:

. . . . I love her strictness.
She’s adamant as truth, she’s hard to rattle,
And on a picnic–expert with a paddle.

DESCRIPTIVE LINES ABOUT ISABELLE IN THE PLAY:

Said by Dorante’s servant, Cliton, about Isabelle:

I too submit me to the moon! Ah, Isabelle,
Sweet Isabelle, who really truly is a belle!
I’d find more rhymes if only she were visabelle.
Is it not risibelle how most invisabelle.
The indivisibelle Isabelle … is?

CAST QUESTION:

You have successfully played poignantly funny characters in the past, which takes great skill.  How will you approach the more directly hilarious task of playing twin sisters?

For me, there is very little difference in approaching these two styles of comedy. Trying to be funny has never been my approach because I’m not sure how to do that exactly.

It’s Acting 101 really: be in the moment, listen, be truthful and don’t be afraid to look silly or vulnerable or ugly or ridiculous. Above all, take care of the people around you; otherwise, you have no scene. There’s a great quote in the book Truth in Comedy about how, if you treat everyone around you like a genius, they will be. There are many ways to interpret this piece of advice; but, for me, the most important layer is to stop thinking about myself and just pour that energy into others and the scene. I can’t wait to play with this cast!

CAST BACKGROUND:

Park Square Calendar Girls; 2 Sugars, Room for Cream; Dead Man’s Cell Phone Representative Theatre Interact Theater: Hell is Empty and ALL the Devils are Here; Casting Spells Productions: Frankie and Johnny in the Clair De Lune; Workhaus Collective: The Mill; Theatre Pro Rata: Emilie: Le Marquis du Châtelet Defends Her Life Tonight; 2016 MN Fringe Festival: Sometimes There’s Wine Training M.A., Theater History, Theory and Criticism, University of Maryland, College Park Awards/Other Ivey Award 2013 (Ensemble, 2 Sugars, Room for Cream) Upcoming Projects Park Square: Theatre Pro Rata (at Park Square): Up: The Man in the Flying Chair

Shanan Custer with Zach Curtis in a rehearsal. (Photograph by Connie Shaver)

Shanan Custer with Zach Curtis in a rehearsal.
(Photograph by Connie Shaver)

Area Premiere of The Liar - Park Square Theatre’s Proscenium Stage – September 9 to October 2

The Liar: Featuring Sara Richardson

Sara RichardsonAs part of our Meet the Cast of The Liar Blog Series, let us introduce you to Sara Richardson:

ROLE: Lucrece, Clarice’s best friend

DESCRIPTION LINES OF LUCRECE IN THE PLAY:

I’m deserving of a first-class mate
As other women. Yet I stand and wait.
Because I’m silent–all right, call it nervous–
Most men just never see beneath my surface.

CAST QUESTION:

What aspect of playing Lucrece will most challenge you?

Lucrece is quiet at first, which can be challenging; but David Ives gives us a lot of fun clues about her later in the script to build upon. Fun friendship rivalries, colorful descriptions comparing her unflatteringly to sea creatures, a clear bookish bent and self-professed as ‘nervous,’ we are given a lot to play with in terms of character. These hints allowed us to find ways of showing her more ill at ease qualities in action–always fun in a farce, especially one with such playfully designed elements (thanks designers Eli, Abbee, Rebecca and director Doug!)! A challenge in a farce is also always to find the honesty in the midst of the absurd so finding Lucrece’s real sense of longing and unrequited love deep down, before making it laughable, is important.

It is a gift to get to play someone who experiences such terribly awkward moments and has to live through them in front of everyone–painfully, earnestly and repeatedly. I love it!

CAST BACKGROUND:

Park Square Debut Representative Theatre Jungle Theater: The Night Alive; Mu Performing Arts: You for Me for You; Pillsbury House Theatre: Buzzer; Torch Theater: Boeing Boeing; Theatre Novi Most: Rehearsing Failure; Gremlin Theatre/Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival: A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur Film Rough Tender; Per Bianca (Cannes shorts 2011) Training Ècole Jacques Lecoq Other Sara-Richardson.com

Shanan Custer, Sara Richardson, India Gurley and Sha' Cage in a rehearsal. (Photograph by Connie Shaver)

Shanan Custer, Sara Richardson, India Gurley and Sha’ Cage in a rehearsal.
(Photograph by Connie Shaver)

Area Premiere of The Liar - Park Square Theatre’s Proscenium Stage – September 9 to October 2

 

The Liar: Featuring India Gurley

As part of the Meet the Cast of The Liar Blog Series, let us introduce you to India Gurley:

India Gurley

ROLE: Clarice, a young lady of Paris

DESCRIPTIVE LINE ABOUT CLARICE IN THE PLAY:

But this Clarice of yours.  Obese, obscene?
Some find her quite the glamorous gamine.

CAST QUESTION:

Clarice’s repartee with Dorante and Alcippe is very funny throughout the play.  As an actor, how do you keep your composure and not laugh out loud in such scenes?

Not laughing at the outrageously funny scenes between Clarice, Dorante and Alcippe is going to be a huge challenge! Especially because I am the type of person to break very easily.

One of the things that is helpful for me is to remember that, when you’re in a comedy, what makes it funny is that these situations are very real for the characters. Their reactions and truthful need to get what they want are what make it so funny and engaging for the audience. It also helps that we rehearse the show for three weeks, so I can prepare myself for something especially funny coming up in the show.

What’s great about doing comedies is that it is always a blast to go to rehearsal everyday and laugh and create hilarious characterizations. Hopefully, I can keep it together on stage!

CAST BACKGROUND:

Park Square Debut Representative Theatre Hudson Valley Shakespeare: A Midsummer Night’s Dream; Victory Gardens Theater: The House That Will Not Stand; Milwaukee Repertory Theater: The Color Purple; Guthrie Theater: Abe Lincoln and Uncle Tom in the White House; Ten Thousand Things: Measure for Measure Training B.F.A., Acting, University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater Actor Training Program Upcoming Projects The Hypocrites (Chicago): Wit

India Gurley with JuCoby Johnson in a rehearsal. (Photograph by Connie Shaver)

India Gurley with JuCoby Johnson in a rehearsal.
(Photograph by Connie Shaver)

Area Premiere of The Liar – Park Square Theatre’s Proscenium Stage – September 9 to October 2

And More Lies!

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Cast of The Liar

Park Square Theatre’s 2016-2017 season begins with the area premiere of The Liar from September 9 to October 2.  Playwright David Ives’ laugh-out-loud comedy centers on the escapades of Dorante, a gentleman who cannot tell the truth, and his servant Cliton who cannot tell a lie.

In the spirit of the play’s hilarious premise, we asked people to share their own stories about lies with humorous results. The stories kept coming in:

When I was a kid, my mom bought my dad a smoker for smoking fish as her Christmas gift to him. He fished a lot, and we loved smoked fish. It was (and still is) quite expensive to buy but much cheaper to smoke yourself.

I knew my mom had purchased this smoker. It was a hard gift to wrap and would have been obvious as to what it was if it had been placed under the tree. So my mom hid it in another part of the house. Christmas Eve, after everyone had opened all of their gifts, my mom proclaimed that we were all done opening gifts, which was, of course, a lie. I think she wanted to prolong the secret and heighten the element of surprise!

I turned and looked at her and said, “No we’re not. Dad hasn’t opened his smoker yet!”

Whoops! My poor mom’s face fell, and I instantly knew that I had revealed the lie, and her secret/surprise was blown!

After a moment, however, everyone, including my mom, began to laugh about my faux pas.  My mom brought out the smoker, my dad loved it, and all was well. We still laugh about that event almost every year when we’re with my parents for Christmas!

——-

Here I am, sitting in the house my husband and I built with our own hands (and used to rent out), and it’s been almost 11 years since we lived here last.  All these memories keep popping up from when we were here and the kids were younger.  I also keep remembering funny (or not so funny) stuff my past tenants did.

One tenant, Eileen, was a real character.  I’m convinced she was a born liar because she would bluster her way around the truth to get whatever she wanted.  On the application to rent my house, she agreed to get the utilities in her name, “No problem; no problem.”

Soon after, she did her best to sell me on the idea of installing a wood stove, and it would save her money, keep her warmer, etc. I told her (several times) that I was quite happy with my propane furnace, thank you.  But over the next few weeks before she was supposed to move in, she kept working on me to get a wood stove.

Finally, before we were supposed to move out and she move in, I had the feeling to check on the utilities and found out Eileen had bad credit (oops), and the propane company would not give her an account.  At that point, my daughter and I started laughing. We did a big head smack–that’s why Eileen wanted that wood stove so bad.

——

One summer my niece had gone to the PRIDE parade and given me a glow-in-the-dark sperm keychain that she have gotten there. I attached it to my purse as a zipper pull.  One day an eight-year-old boy spotted it and asked me, “What is this?”

Without thinking, I said, “A glow-in-the-dark sperm.”

“A squirm?” he asked. “What’s a squirm?”

“No,” I said. “A sperm.”

“Squirm? What IS that?”

Then I caught myself and replied, “Oh, I meant a worm. It’s a worm!”

“Oh, okay. I thought you said ‘squirm’ and didn’t know what that is.”

A year later ….

The now nine-year-old boy was looking at the glow-in-the-dark sperm again and said, “I know what this is, and it isn’t a worm.”

“Really?”  I asked. “Then what is it?”

“It’s a tadpole.”

“Are you sure it’s not a worm?”

“I know what tadpoles look like,” he insisted. “And this is definitely a tadpole, NOT a worm.”

——

(If you missed it, go back to see the blog “Lies! Lies!”  And, yes, indeed–still more lies to come in a future blog!)

Calendar Girls: Featuring Shanan Custer

As a part of our ongoing Meet the Cast of Calendar Girls Blog Series, let us introduce you to Shanan Custer:

Custer-Shanan

ROLE:  Ruth, 40s

AS DESCRIBED IN PLAYWRIGHT TIM FIRTH’S SCRIPT:

Ruth’s journey is from the false self-confidence of the emotionally abused to the genuine self- confidence of the woman happy in her own skin.  Ruth is eager to please but not a rag doll, and . . . she is desperate to be the cartilage in the spine of the WI and keep everyone happy.  She has spine herself—if she was too wet, no one would want her around.  But they do, and they feel protective of her because they sense there is something better in Ruth than her life is letting out.

DIRECTOR MARY FINNERTY’S COMMENT:

Shanan Custer is a comedienne of great talent.  She has a connection to audiences that is remarkable.  As Ruth, she is fearful but not annoying.  There is a strength underneath the comedy that I love.

QUESTION FOR SHANAN:

Ruth is a pleaser but not a pushover.  What pleased you about playing her?

I love the challenge of playing the underdog character — in this case the most nervous and unconfident of all the women — and making her real.  Ruth is a very comedic character with several lovely turns throughout the play that mostly focus on her dealing with her benign mix-ups and hang ups, but she is also shown as having a great deal of empathy for others and ultimately having a change of heart about herself and her place in the world.  I love the comedy and the interplay between these characters, but what I really love about playing Ruth is that I get the chance to make her funny but whole, silly but truthful and — I hope — relatable to our audiences.

CAST BACKGROUND:

Park Square 2 Sugars, Room for Cream; Dead Man’s Cell Phone  Representative Theatre Interact Theater: Hell is Empty and ALL the Devils are Here; Casting Spells Productions: Frankie and Johnny in the Clair De Lune; Workhaus Collective: The Mill; Theatre Pro Rata: Emilie: Le Marquis du Chatelet Defends Her Life Tonight  Training M.A., Theater History, Theory and Criticism, University of Maryland, College Park  Awards/Other Ivey Award 2013 (Ensemble, 2 Sugars, Room for Cream)  Upcoming Projects 2016 MN Fringe Festival: Sometimes There’s Wine; Park Square: The Liar, Theatre Pro Rata (at Park Square): Up: The Man in the Flying Chair

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