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Posts Tagged St. Paul

Jane Froiland Knows No Bounds!

For many actors, simply living by your stage chops alone isn’t enough to keep the bills paid. Not in the Twin Cities and definitely not in the other single cities out there. Even in New York, the actors fortunate enough to do it “full time” do most of their work outside of the city, in the regional centers of the country. Despite this, however, actors constantly prove that they are a flexible and hardened group of people; where there’s a will, you can bet they’ll find a way!

Jane Froiland studies hard for the part. (Photo by Connie Shaver)

One mark of a smart artist, like anyone in charge of their own business, is to diversify one’s talent. “Oh, you don’t need an actor this time? That’s fine. How about director? I can offer my services as an experienced stage director! Or manager! Or playwright. Or costumer. Lighting designer? Ok, ok… seriously, can I just sell concessions or help the actors learn their lines?”

This sort of resourcefulness is almost the only viable way *most* actors truly make a “living” in the theatre. Jane Froiland is one such multi-talented artist who is often balancing her performance schedule with her gigs as a stage director. She can currently be seen in Park Square Theatre’s The Diary of Anne Frank while gearing up for a run of You Can’t Take it With You at Woodbury High School. Performing in the mornings and directing in the afternoons? Sounds like a full time job to me! Of her days this spring, Froiland states: “… what a dream to be able to be a part of telling such an important story and be able to foster the next generation of artists all in the same day.”

More than that, it “legitimizes” her standing as a director in the eyes of her students. When they are able to work with a creator who “walks the walk” and is able to express her knowledge from a very real and first-hand professional experience. Not only does this create a high bar from those student-performers to meet, but helps Froiland in her own lifelong education as an actor/director. After all, who knows if some of those Woodbury students are in the audience at Park Square watching their esteemed director perform?

You can watch Jane Froiland yourself in The Diary of Anne Frank, playing select dates in April at Park Square Theatre. More information and tickets can be found here at parksquaretheatre.org!

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!

Beware: Bradley the Green!

As you probably know by now, there are pirates running amok at Park Square, but who is leading this band of motley marauders? Who, oh who, is their fearful leader?

When I sally forth to seek my prey
I help myself in a royal way.
I sink a few more ships, it’s true,
Than a well-bred monarch ought to do…

For I am a Pirate King!
And it is, it is a glorious thing
To be a Pirate King!

And playing our incorrigible PK is Bradley Greenwald, or if you were to meet him on the high seas, Bradley the Green!

A well-known face around town, Greenwald has been performing in the Twin Cities for the past 25 years, starting when he landed a touring gig with the Minnesota Opera while in college. While in the midst of majoring in German, he fell into voice lessons and quite literally find his voice. He took time off of school for that tour and never went back.

Fast forward to today and he’s one of the most hard working actors and singers in the community with a mountain of credits at theatres such as Theatre da la Jeune Lune, the Guthrie, 10,000 Things Theatre, Children’s Theatre Company, Jungle Theater, and A Prairie Home Companion. Greenwald doesn’t discriminate either when it comes to choosing projects. In a 2015 interview with the Pioneer Press he said,

If it’s honest and honestly written, I love it… Whether it’s a 1918 novelty song, ‘Impossible Dream’ or Act II from the finale of ‘Figaro.’

Photo by Ann Marsden

No wonder he’s so popular to work with! No wonder, too, that he’s even got his own fan club on Facebook. (Upon further investigation it’s called “The Association of Bradley Greenwald Lovers”. It’s an open group as well. Nice.)

What does Bradley the Green have to say about all this attention? Again in the aforementioned interview, ““a little oodgy”. It’s that sly sense of humor, combined with his voice, that he is able to wield so effectively and highlighting that effectiveness is his treasure chest of accolades that includes a McKnight Fellowship for Theater Artists and a 2006 Ivey Award for the one-man drama, I Am My Own Wife at the Jungle Theater.

The Major General (Christina Baldwin) with the Pirate King (Bradley Greenwald). (Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma)

With all of that, Park Square is happy to share him with audiences in one of the most famous operettas of all time, The Pirates of Penzance, where  those comic skills and sublime voice will be on full display as the lovable and goofy, Pirate King.

 

 

Oh, better far to live and die
Under the brave black flag I fly,
Than play a sanctimonious part,
With a pirate head and a pirate heart…

But I’ll be true to the song I sing,
And live and die a Pirate King!

Tickets and information here. 

 

Christina Baldwin: The Very Model

A leading face in Park Square’s Pirates of Penzance is actor, Christina Baldwin, who is portraying the famous “Major General”. Of course, in this particular production, everything about the “traditional” staging has been re-interpreted. Not only is Baldwin playing the Major General, but she is playing the real-life, Helen Lenoir, (who is playing the Major General).

The cast of The Pirates of Penzance take their bows. (Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Expanding upon this, Baldwin states; “Doug’s [Scholz-Carlson] knowledge of Gilbert and Sullivan history and trivia is astounding! He has placed Gilbert, Sullivan and many other characters from their circle in our show. I had never heard of Helen Lenoir, and Doug’s idea to incorporate her into the Pirates story is well-placed. By all accounts, she really was a large cog in the machine that kept the G&S machine rolling. It makes sense that she gets to be the Major General!”

Photo by William Clark

Christina Baldwin grew up in Jordan, Minn. where she and her seven siblings were introduced to the arts at an early age. Her parents brought her along to see theater and live music whenever possible. She attended college at Lawrence University Conservatory of Music and after a brief stint in New York, returned to Minnesota to pursue a Masters of Music degree at the U of M. It was then that she began a nearly 10 year collaboration with Theatre de la Jeune Lune. Other credits around town include work with the Minnesota Opera, the Guthrie, History Theater, Nautilus Music-Theater, Minnesota Orchestra, the Schubert Club and the Ordway.

No stranger Park Square either, Baldwin was previously seen in Lisa Kron’s Well, as well as Ragtime, Calendar Girls and the co-production of Grey Gardens with the Ordway. She’s even well acquainted with Pirates of Penzance, having performed in the show at the Guthrie and Kansas City Repertory.

With her first turn as the Major General, what could her inspirations possibly be? “Honestly, my inspiration drifts somewhere between Mary Poppins and Karen from Will & Grace.”
Now that sounds like a major general we can all get behind! You can catch the multi-talented Baldwin at Park Square until March 25 on the proscenium stage at Park Square Theatre. More information and tickets can be had here.

Dot the Halls!

Stoke the fire, tinsel the tree, “enhance” your eggnog – do whatever you do to make yourself comfortable this holiday season, for you know just how stressful this time of the year can be!

That angst comes in many shapes and forms, from last-minute gift shopping to navigating those inevitably disparate political views. Sometimes, however, the biggest cause of anxiety isn’t something that can be whisked away with the tree and wrapping, but something that fundamentally tests the love and hope of the season.

Currently running at Park Square is a play called Dot, by Colman Domingo, that explores those trials and tribulations.

In the days leading up to Christmas, one West Philadelphia family is rocked by the fact that their mother’s health is rapidly decling due to Alzheimer’s. All around age forty, the children are often too wrapped up in their own mid-life crises to face the severity of the situation, all too willing to snipe at each other’s own shortcomings. Can the family push past these petty insecurities to confront the the reality of losing their mother?

Like I was saying before, the type of stress that this must cause on the family isn’t going to go away with the coming of a new year and by the end of the play, the siblings realize this. That they themselves are the only support system they have to rely on. No matter the differences, the bond of family is too powerful to ignore.

That then, is where those pillars of the season – love, joy and hope – come into play.

For all of it’s drama, Dot is extremely heartwarming and often down-right hilarious. Any one with siblings or numerous relatives can attest to the absurdity that ensues when so many loud personalities share the same living room. Either your join the madness or sneak away to the kitchen and gorge yourself on leftovers. However you cope, you still appreciate those that you call family, however different they may be from yourself.

This is why Dot is such a great play for Christmas-time and why I would love to see it done often in as many theaters as possible. Not only do the holiday themes run deep, but it’s a new play, so you’re able to relate to the work in a way that more closely resembles your own world than that of say, another telling of Victorian-era A Christmas Carol.

Therefore, treat yourself this season and witness the tornado of tinsel and tears that is Dot and get in touch with those traditions that make you warm and fuzzy inside. Or is that the eggnog your sipping?

Tickets and more information HERE 

 

Of Mice and Men in Review

Looking back on my time performing in Of Mice and Men at Park Square, I can’t help but marvel at all the studens who came and witnessed our rendition of the classic story. Nearly every morning between November 4 and December 16, groups both large and small came to the Andy Boss Thrust Stage and were down right captivated. Rarely did we have any disturbances and certainly never anything that warranted more than a quick visit from the house manager.

Credit here has to go to that house management team of Quinn Shadko and Adrian Larkin (who set clear expectations to the kids in a pre-show speech), but I think the schools themselves deserve a ton of credit as well. These were kids who had all mostly read the book already and were eager to delve further into the literature but watching it come to life. When people ask me who adapted the play, I love saying John Steinbeck. Since he also wrote this play, I believe it’s a highly constructive component to studying the novel.

This all became apparent to me over the course of the run, when we would hold post-show discussions after select performances. These twenty minute talk-backs were the chance for students to directly engage with the actors. Our conversations covered some fairly heavy topics such as gender roles, racism, the class economics of the Depression and the treatment of the mentally impaired.

But were these topics too much for teenagers to grapple with? In every instance, I was surprised by their eagerness to discuss. Such a forum seemed to give them the freedom to say just what they thought about those aforementioned topics and how our modern world is both alike and different from that of 1937. As an educational show, Of Mice and Men offers so much to sink one’s teeth into. It’s like a little microcosm of all the politics America has always struggled with. I would encourage any social studies or history teacher to check it out.

While the show is an intellectual goldmine, I also loved the fact that it offered the students so many opportunities for emotional release! I’m not even talking about all the tragedy – yes, they cried as much as the adults – but the willingness that they had to laugh, mock and cheer was admirably bold.

For an actor, it was rejuvenating. It felt like being in Elizabethan England, playing to the groundlings at the Globe. That kind of audience participation is so important as it recognizes the inherent fact that this is all make-believe and that we’re all experiencing the story. Of course you don’t want to be disrespectful to any performer, but why shouldn’t audiences “aaaaaawwwww” at the dog or jeer the bad guy? Hopefully those kids had as much fun as the actors and came away thinking about “The Theatre” as a place where they can not only reflect, but also relax.

I think this is something else our show succeeded in doing and for that, I’m so grateful I got to be involved. One of the biggest discussions in the theatre world right now is cultivating audiences from an early age. Of Mice and Men offers teenagers everything they could ask for – a riveting drama with plenty of action and comedic relief. And what do you know, they’re learning a thing or two to boot!

Just two performances left, Friday, Dec 15 and Saturday, Dec 16 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets and information here

Meet Eva Gemlo!

A new face you might see around Park Square is that of Eva Gemlo! As a ticketing associate, she’s among the few and the proud to play a part in one of the most vital facets of a theatre company. The one selling you your ticket is probably going to be the first face you see that evening, after all, and Eva will definitely leave you with a bright first impression. Not only does she have plenty of theatre experience, but really loves the administrative side of things, saying,

I’ve been lucky enough to work with A Red Orchid theatre down in Chicago where I had a very similar job… it’s very easy to work a job like this if you believe in what your ‘selling’.

A joy of theatre was built up in college. Eva attended Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, where she majored in theatre with a minor in management. Going further back, the seeds of that joy can be found when she was one of thousands of local students to visit Park Square and revel in the experience of watching Of Mice and Men when she was in high school. Here she is now helping to continue that special thrill for many more students.

Eva considers herself rather fortunate to be able to blend her management and theatrical skills. A working actor, she’s been very busy performing the role of Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Zephyr Theatre while gearing up to play Ishmael in Theatre Coup D’Etat’s Moby Dick this November. When not performing, rehearsing, or working at Park Square she just likes to simply spend time with friends and family. Hey, who doesn’t? We at Park Square appreciate all her hard work and positive energy!

Business…

Pleasure! (Photos by Connie Shaver.)

 

Have a Laugh with Carolyn Pool

When Henry and Alice: Into the Wild opens the season at Park Square there will be a familiar face in the cast – Carolyn Pool! A veteran of not only Park Square, Pool has been seen on many stages in Minneapolis and Saint Paul working with such esteemed companies as Illusion Theatre, Penumbra, Theatre Mu, Pillsbury House and countless new works at the Playwrights’ Center. She says, however, that Park Square has been a defining feature of her artistic work with such credits as August, Osage County, Proof, The Sisters Rosenweig, and Born Yesterday. The first time she tread the Park Square boards it wasn’t even at the current location in the Hamm Building, but at the old Lowertown venue in School for Wives.

Now Pool brings her talents to Henry and Alice along with fellow stage cohort, John Middleton. The two are not strangers, having appeared on stage together before at Park Square. That was in Dead Man’s Cell Phone where the two’s chemistry was duly noted. When asked about what she hopes the audience is able to take away from the play, she says aptly:

“I hope they laugh! I also hope they see some of themselves in these characters and maybe realize that they are not alone in their experiences. Telling stories truthfully and beautifully even if those stories are sometimes difficult is my greatest passion as an actor. And, when I can make people laugh and feel good too, that is the most wonderful feeling.” 
Carolyn Pool and John Middleton in the rehearsal hall last week (photo by Connie Shaver)

Making people laugh is definitely something Carolyn Pool has made a career of. If you’re well-tuned into the Twin Cities theatre scene you have probably heard about her two-woman shows, (co-created with Shanan Custer) 2 Sugars, Room for Cream and Sometimes There’s Wine. The former earned the duo a 2013 Ivey Award when it played at the New Century Theatre. Pool and Custer are frequent collaborators who are always looking for projects to write, act and laugh in together.

Indeed having a good time is almost certain when she takes the stage with Middleton and Melanie Wermacher. Mark your calendars and plan to join in on the fun on the Boss Stage September 15 – October 22.

 

Carolyn Pool, John Middleton and Melanie Wermacher  in the rehearsal hall. (photo by Connie Shaver)

Role Reprisal: John Middleton

John Middleton

Starting the 2017-2018 season off with a bang is Henry and Alice: Into the Wild by Michele Riml and directed by Mary M. Finnerty. A few of those names may sound familiar to the Park Square faithful, as this delightful rom-com is a sequel to that other delightful rom-com, Sexy Laundry, which brought the house down in 2014. Finnerty also directed the precursor and wouldn’t you know it, John Middleton is also back in the role of Henry, while this time around Carolyn Pool plays his counterpart , Alice. Melanie Wehrmacher rounds out the cast as an interloping family member.

I was able to ask Middleton a few questions about what it’s like getting to act the same character in a new play. After all, that’s not something that happens very often in the theatre. Unlike a movie sequel, you do not have the opportunity to “go back” and catch the first one. For him, the biggest difference will be the fact that in Sexy Laundry he had the even more unique experience to act opposite his real-life wife, Charity Jones. While that may not be the case for Henry and Alice, he is excited to work with friend Carolyn Pool who he says is, “… a terrific actress who’s carried me through productions before – including Dead Man’s Cell Phone here at Park Square.” That production was in 2010, so that gives you an idea of how familiar audiences should be with Middleton. Most recently, he was seen on the Andy Boss Thrust Stage in Idiot’s Delight by Girl Friday Productions, playing the wily, straight-talking American.

 

Sexy Laundry with Charity Jones. Photo by Petronella Ytsma 

But how far can we go? Middleton’s very first production at Park Square in 1991’s The Marriage of Figaro, and while he may not have had many lines he distinctly remembers moving a lot of chairs around. That was only a year after he first came to the Twin Cities as an actor. Hailing from Wisconsin, he landed a role playing a pirate in a production of Peter Pan at the Children’s Theatre Company and liked Minnesota so much he decided to stay. I believe I can speak for the community here when I say we’re certainly glad he did! Other recent Park Square Theatre credits include: Calendar Girls, Romeo and Juliet, The School for Lies, and American Family.

As you can see, Henry and Alice: Into the Wild is but the latest in many wonderful turns on the Park Square boards for John Middleton. As we herald the start of the new season, let’s revisit the familiar world of Sexy Laundry and the actor who brought it to life then as he will now.

Derek Dirlam: Code Name – Archie Goodwin

Right now at Park Square, you can catch the mystery-thriller of the summer, Might as Well Be Dead: A Nero Wolfe Mystery, on stage through July 30th. While the hero, Nero Wolfe, may have his name in the title, what good would he be without his loyal right-hand man? Filling that role is Archie Goodwin, a witty ladies man who works as Wolfe’s live-in assistant and aides him in the solving of mysteries. A highly skilled private investigator, it’s Goodwin who scours New York City collecting the evidence that Wolfe needs in order to solve a case. Such is the character that has filled volumes of detective fiction, but who can possibly bring this persona to life on the stage? Stepping in to do just that is actor Derek Dirlam, who has embraced the role emphatically.

 

A fan of the genre, he appreciates the expectations some fans may have in regards to Archie. Fortunately, thanks to the numerous stories author Rex Stout produced, Dirlam had plenty of varied sources to draw from. As mentioned in a previous blog about the author, Rex Stout wrote Nero Wolfe mysteries from 1934 to 1975. A remarkable span of time that was part of the greater pop cultural fascination with all things noir, pulp and hard-boiled. Think of characters like Sam Spade and you’ll know just where Dirlam is coming from in shaping the world of Archie Goodwin. He’s long been a listener of vintage radio-dramas and classic films like The Big Sleep, Double Indemnity and A Touch of Evil have proven helpful in getting into character, as well as tuning in to the music of the 1940s and ‘50s. Dirlam has created his own “Archie Playlist” that features jazz artists Buck Clayton, Coleman Hawkins and Louis Prima among others. Such a fan is he, that before being cast in Nero Wolfe, Dirlam produced his own play in the mystery genre at last year’s Fringe Festival entitled “A Study in Emerald” by Neil Gaiman, and it was combing through potential source material that he first came across the titles of Nero Wolfe.

As previously mentioned, there are about 40 years worth of Archie Goodwin to draw upon and Dirlam hopes that he’s able to flesh out his version of the character in a way that appeals to both the hard-boiled and the casual fan. Working with E.J. Subkoviak has been a wonderful experience as well, to which Dirlam says:

As the show developed, E.J. and I were able to incorporate several nuances of Archie and Wolfe’s relationship from the books that weren’t necessarily highlighted in this particular script, which I think makes the duo more interesting, and is also an added nod to the fans of the books.”

With actors like Dirlam and Subkoviak infusing Archie and Nero with such positive chemistry, there’s certainly plenty for audiences to enjoy. Full of suspicious characters, twists and turns, Might as Well Be Dead: A Nero Wolfe Mystery promises to keep those same audiences on their toes as they play their part in the mystery and get to know the one and only Archie Goodwin.

Subkoviak (left) and Dirlam (right) in Might as Well Be Dead: A Nero Wolfe Mystery plays on the proscenium stage through July 30.

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