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The Liar: Featuring Shanan Custer

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

custer-shanan-color

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

The Liar: Featuring Sha’ Cage

As part of our Meet the Cast of The Liar Blog Series, let us introduce you to Sha’ Cage:

 cage-sha-2016-color

ROLE: Dorante, a young man just arrived in Paris

DESCRIPTIVE LINES ABOUT DORANTE IN THE PLAY:

Said to Dorante by his servant Cliton:

No disrespect. Is there a molecule
Of truth in anything that stems from there?
(Points to Dorante’s mouth.)
‘Cause you lie anytime and anywhere!

CAST QUESTION:

What attracted you to the role of Dorante, a constant liar?

I’m often drawn to roles that seem incredibly difficult, things that I’ve never tried, characters that move me or characters that are a bit insane. So what does that say about me, you ask? Dorante has a bit of all these elements rolled into one. I’m still trying to get into his psyche, but he’s absolutely playful and fun.  He really can’t help but tell lies.

As someone who loves a good lie–although horrible at telling one and getting away with it, I must admit that I’m utterly and thoroughly intrigued!

The other day, my son asked me, ” Mom, what if you make a mistake and tell the truth?”

I said, “I’ll just pretend it was my twin brother.”

He got a kick out of that lie.

I’m thrilled to step into Dorante’s shoes and onto this fast-paced journey of discovery, twists and turns.

CAST BACKGROUND:

Park Square Mary T. and Lizzy K. Representative Theatre Ten Thousand Things: Henry IV; Penumbra Theatre: Ballad of Emmett Till; GuthrieTheater: Clybourne Park; Mixed Blood Theatre: Ruined; Frank Theatre: Venus, F*cking A Film New Neighbors, Cry About a Nickel, Drop Dead Gorgeous, Radio, Midnight, Joe’s Somebody, Factotum Awards/Other Regional Emmy; Ivey Award; McKnight Fellowship; Distinguished Fox/TCG Fellowship; Named one of the Leading Artists of her generation by Insight; Named a Changemaker by Women’s Press; City Pages Best Solo Performer (Frank Theatre: Grounded); Star Tribune 2014 Mover and Maker; Mpls St. Paul Magazine Power Couple of the Year 2015 (with artistic partner EG Bailey) Upcoming Projects Co-curating a film festival in Sweden (October); Intermedia Arts: a work in progress of her solo work Say Her Name (Nov 29); touring her show in 2017 (nationally and abroad).

Sha' Cage with Rex Isom Jr. in a rehearsal. (Photograph by Connie Shaver)

Sha’ Cage with Rex Isom Jr. in a rehearsal.
(Photograph by Connie Shaver)

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

Two Stages, Sheer Fun

For many Minnesotan families such as mine, Labor Day marks the end of summer. There is a nervous excitement in our household as another school year begins. What will it bring into our lives? Surely, loads of laughter, tears; much clarity, but just as many misunderstandings; personal highs, and emotional lows. Life is like that–filled with drama, comedy and everything in between.

Excitement also runs high at Park Square Theatre as we begin our 2016-2017 season. This coming week, both our stages will be crazy-busy with marvelous, energetic fun. Park Square presents the area premiere of David Ives’ The Liar on the Proscenium Stage from September 9 to October 2; while Joe Chvala and the Flying Foot Forum complete their run of Passing Through Pig’s Eye from September 7 to 11, a roving performance that starts and ends at the Boss Thrust Stage.

Mounting the production of The Liar has been incredible fun for those who can’t wait to bring it to you live on stage. This summer, I have connected with many of the show’s actors and designers for glimpses of the mischievous world that they plan to entangle us in–a world of intricate wordplay, deceptive scenery, twisty plot and fast-paced humor. In the spirit of the show, individuals also shared their own funny stories about lying. (Be sure to read past blog posts and future ones about The Liar.) Everyone’s enthusiasm has been infectious, and I cannot wait to see this play.

The Liar in Dress Rehearsal

Last week, I brought my entire family to see Passing Through Pig’s Eye. We came not knowing much beyond the fact that we would learn some Saint Paul history but were absolutely WOWed by the inventive dance numbers and often gut-busting humor. All I can say is, “Go see it NOW before you can’t!” In my mind’s eye, I can still see those “crazy legs” of the loose-limbed gangster, tap dancing away in bright red shoes, and the hilarious image of a stage full of dancers holding dodge balls. I can still feel the adrenaline rush of watching anything-goes street dancing, followed by Joe Chvala and longtime Forum member Karla Grotting “dust up the floor” like those movie greats, Astaire and Rogers or Kelly and Reynolds. What hit my whole family hardest about the performance that night was the sheer joy of the dancers on the stage and on the street, having so much fun doing what they love most.

Passing Through Pigs Eye

The end of summer doesn’t mark the end of fun, just anticipation for more to come. Consider coming down to Park Square Theatre soon to share in the fun–our fun, your fun, sheer fun!

A Look Over His Shoulders: How Eli Schlatter Designs

The set of The Liar is moving onto Park Square Theatre’s Proscenium Stage for the play’s September 9 to October 2 run.  Scenic Designer Eli Schlatter has spent months getting us to the moment when concepts become reality, following similar steps that he’d taken many a time for other productions.

After reading the script twice, Schlatter met with both Director Doug Scholz-Carlson and Costume Designer Rebecca Bernstein to get their input.  His collaboration with Scholz-Carlson involved going through each scene in the play to discuss what would be needed and Schlatter’s providing research images as possible concepts.

Now armed with some sense of what the show should look and feel like, Schlatter did further research and conceptualizing with thumbnail sketches.

A sketch

A sketch

Once Schlatter and Scholz-Carlson decided to go with a very classic and two-dimensional set design (refer to the August 28 blog, “Flat Land: The World of The Liar“), Schlatter made what is called a white model.  This is an unpainted white cardboard model of the set scaled according to actual Proscenium Stage measurements to determine how the set will fit and look in the space.  Schlatter used a ruler with a quartering scale (one inch equals four feet) for measuring and added model people for perspective.

A white model

A white model

His next step was to create a means within the design for scene changes.  For The Liar, the two back center walls could be opened or shut like doors to change the space for the action to move upstage or downstage. Schlatter then produced a color model of the set.

The color model

The color model

After meeting with Lighting Designer Mike Kittel, Schlatter made further decisions about such matters as surface texture before producing paint elevations–very detailed, scaled plans that show the scenic painter exactly where, what and how something must be painted onto the entire set.  They look somewhat akin to drafting plans with specific painting specifications throughout. The shop crew is also provided with a section view, which shows how the set looks from different directions, as well as execution drawings that show all the dimensional details.

Eli Schlatter (left) with Assistant Technical Director Ian Stoutenburgh (right)

Director Doug Scholz-Carlson (left); Eli Schlatter (center); Assistant Technical Director Ian Stoutenburgh (right)

The Park Square shop crew have been busy building and painting the set. While it is quicker to build a two-dimensional set, more pressure is placed on the painting to be especially well done, though luckily the human eye tends to fill in any details on scenery that’s not represented on the stage.

As Schlatter completes his work for The Liar, he won’t be putting his feet up to relax anytime soon. He’s already working with the Artistry in Bloomington to design for Little Shop of Horrors and Bad Dates.

What Will You Do With It?

Joe Chvala

It is a sunny but cool morning when I visited Joe Chvala.  I pass through the wooden gate to enter a green world loosely guarded by two gargoyles. It’s something to do with how the light filters through his yard that makes me expect something magical to happen. The White Rabbit from Wonderland may scamper past in a rush, or the Cheshire Cat may show himself on a tree branch. Calmly seated outside by a table on the porch is Chvala himself, like his garden, kind of otherworldly and timeless.

I have come to interview Chvala about Passing Through Pig’s Eye, a roving performance through historic Saint Paul by his percussive dance company, Flying Foot Forum, and guest performers. The show runs from August 25 to September 11, with its start and end points at Park Square Theatre’s Boss Thrust Stage within the historic Hamm Building. Audiences will divide into smaller groups for an immersive experience of dance and music at key locations in downtown Saint Paul. The audience will be moving around a great deal and sometimes standing so consider wearing comfortable shoes and clothing and not carrying large bags. The show is wheelchair accessible and appropriate for all ages.

For someone who’s on deadline to launch a new production by August 25, Chvala looks like he has all the time in the world, relaxed and still, ironic for a man known for perpetual motion on stage. And can Chvala move! He has done it all: jazz, ballet, tango, tap, folk, . . . you name it! Ultimately, percussive dance won his heart; but unwilling to settle on any one form–no, not simply tap; not just clogging–he draws from them all then adds his own percussive twists, letting loose his creative inventions.

Chvala admits to having lived a charmed life, able to spend much of it creating his own internal and external worlds since childhood. He grew up in Madison, Wisconsin, enjoying languid summers at a cabin by the lake, immersed in nature and his own wild imagination. He first became involved in theatre as a teenager, thrilled to now make believe to live audiences. Getting hooked on musical theatre as a child started him down the path to dance, which he pursued more seriously after moving to New York.

Chvala’s journey has led him to travel widely and even sometimes stay for longer spells. He is a Midwesterner who became a New Yorker (seven years) who then lived and taught dance in Gothenburg, Sweden (two years). Living overseas expanded his worldview and further deepened his artistic development. What finally drew him back full circle to the Midwest are close family ties which ground him. Despite his need for solitude to create, Chvala is, at heart, a connector, which makes it unsurprising that he had created Flying Foot Forum in 1991, a means for artists to share and invent together.

Chvala also feels most grounded when dancing, literally connecting with the earth. While he may have tendrils into other worlds, each of them having their own appeal, this is the world that feels the most immediate. As Chvala continues to uncompromisingly create the life that he wants to live and to gift–and as he sits in the radiant sunlight in the morning–he brings to mind these final lines from poet Mark Doty’s “Long Point Light”:

Here is the world you asked for,
gorgeous and opportune,

here is nine o’clock, harbor-wide,
and a glinting code: promise and warning.
The morning’s the size of heaven.

What will you do with it?

TEST: Costumes 101: Before and During the Show

In theatre, as in real life, how one dresses reveals a lot about a person.  This summer, I asked Megan West, Park Square Theatre’s Production Manager, to tell me how costuming is handled from start to finish.  So she did!

Park Square hires a designer to create costumes for each play. Before meeting the cast, the costume designer has already done much character research to consider appropriate wardrobes to help create the characters’ identities.  S/he puts together a “collage book” for each character, consisting of fabric swatches to determine what colors, hues and textures to use, pictures from fashion publications or ads, online images and whatever else may seem indicative of the character.  All the while, s/he is also consulting with the play’s director to discuss what really works.

The costume designer also attends production meetings to collaborate with the set and lighting designers.  For instance, the set designer may know not to get a red sofa if costumes will be in red, or the costume designer may know not to create green costumes if a set will be designed using green tones.  The lighting designer also needs to know about chosen color-schemes to create effective lighting.

The actors will have been measured and had fittings as part of the costuming process, which gives them some idea as to what they will wear.  Not until technical rehearsals happen will the actors start wearing the costumes.  It is the time for them to get a sense of how it feels to move with the costumes on as well as to practice how to quickly change in and out of costumes.  The actors, in fact, have their wardrobe organized and labeled on a rack in the dressing room as well as provided with a list of their costumes.  Everything is organized to help the play run smoothly.

Not all costumes need to be “created from scratch.”  That is actually an expensive process so, more often than not, clothing is purchased from stores, usually on discount or used.  Clothing and accessories can also be rented at low cost–a dollar per week for jewelry, $3 per week for pants, $4 for coats.  Actors may even own personal pieces appropriate for the play, which the theatre pays them rent to use.

The designer’s job is not yet over even after the show has opened.  Audience reactions in the preview performances can influence costume changes.  For instance, if an orange dress causes laughter in a serious scene, then the designer must change the dress.  Or does a tank top on an heiress, for example, look cheap and shabby on stage when it shouldn’t?

Costumes must be kept clean throughout the play’s run, too.  Park Square has a  part-time wardrobe staff member who keeps track of laundering schedules and repair lists so a hired laundress knows what and when to wash in-house or dry-clean and what needs mending.  In general, clothing is washed every other performance, but articles that touch skin, such as underclothing and slips, must be laundered after each performance.  A helpful “trick of the trade” is to spray vodka on clothes as a disinfectant.  Once the play ends, everything gets a final wash.

When I have watched actors in performances, I was unaware of all that is involved in the costuming process.  So much meticulous attention to detail is necessary to design or acquire the right costumes and to maintain and organize them.  So much hidden work goes into creating magic on the stage.

              Calendar Girls Costumes          Calendar Girls Costumes

Some Costumes for Calendar Girls

 

(Look out for the upcoming blog, “Costumes 102: After the Show.”)

 

Costumes 101: Before and During the Show

In theatre, as in real life, how one dresses reveals a lot about a person.  This summer, I asked Megan West, Park Square Theatre’s Production Manager, to tell me how costuming is handled from start to finish.  So she did!

Park Square hires a designer to create costumes for each play. Before meeting the cast, the costume designer has already done much character research to consider appropriate wardrobes to help create the characters’ identities.  S/he puts together a “collage book” for each character, consisting of fabric swatches to determine what colors, hues and textures to use, pictures from fashion publications or ads, online images and whatever else may seem indicative of the character.  All the while, s/he is also consulting with the play’s director to discuss what really works.

The costume designer also attends production meetings to collaborate with the set and lighting designers.  For instance, the set designer may know not to get a red sofa if costumes will be in red, or the costume designer may know not to create green costumes if a set will be designed using green tones.  The lighting designer also needs to know about chosen color-schemes to create effective lighting.

The actors will have been measured and had fittings as part of the costuming process, which gives them some idea as to what they will wear.  Not until technical rehearsals happen will the actors start wearing the costumes.  It is the time for them to get a sense of how it feels to move with the costumes on as well as to practice how to quickly change in and out of costumes.  The actors, in fact, have their wardrobe organized and labeled on a rack in the dressing room as well as provided with a list of their costumes.  Everything is organized to help the play run smoothly.

Not all costumes need to be “created from scratch.”  That is actually an expensive process so, more often than not, clothing is purchased from stores, usually on discount or used.  Clothing and accessories can also be rented at low cost–a dollar per week for jewelry, $3 per week for pants, $4 for coats.  Actors may even own personal pieces appropriate for the play, which the theatre pays them rent to use.

The designer’s job is not yet over even after the show has opened.  Audience reactions in the preview performances can influence costume changes.  For instance, if an orange dress causes laughter in a serious scene, then the designer must change the dress.  Or does a tank top on an heiress, for example, look cheap and shabby on stage when it shouldn’t?

Costumes must be kept clean throughout the play’s run, too.  Park Square has a  part-time wardrobe staff member who keeps track of laundering schedules and repair lists so a hired laundress knows what and when to wash in-house or dry-clean and what needs mending.  In general, clothing is washed every other performance, but articles that touch skin, such as underclothing and slips, must be laundered after each performance.  A helpful “trick of the trade” is to spray vodka on clothes as a disinfectant.  Once the play ends, everything gets a final wash.

When I have watched actors in performances, I was unaware of all that is involved in the costuming process.  So much meticulous attention to detail is necessary to design or acquire the right costumes and to maintain and organize them.  So much hidden work goes into creating magic on the stage.

              Calendar Girls Costumes          Calendar Girls Costumes

Some Costumes for Calendar Girls

 

(Look out for the upcoming blog, “Costumes 102: After the Show.”)

 

Build the Table

banner-palabras-project-6-27-16B

When I first heard about Other Tiger Productions, what I admired most was its intention to cross cultural lines to create a multi-talented, inclusive organization.  In a world where inclusivity often means permission for a seat at the dominant table, Other Tiger Productions proactively built an already diverse table of its own.

What surprised me as I read my program for The Palabras Project while awaiting the start of this past Sunday’s performance was the list of collaborating artists–36 in all–on top of the five featured master artists from the Twin Cities’ Latino/Chicano/Spanish communities.  The first names of the 36 ranged from Akiko to Odin; their last names, Cervantes to Rhomberg.

In their letter to patrons, Other Tiger’s co-founders, Jessica Huang and Ricardo Vazquez, claim to “work to bring artists and audiences together to celebrate a global theater experience.”  In turn, may they be embraced by a global-minded audience, right here in Minnesota.

Come support Other Tiger Productions and the numerous artists who have created The Palabras ProjectThree performances remain from July 15 to 17, including a free public reading of Lorca’s Blood Wedding in English on July 14 at 7:30 pm, at Park Square Theatre’s Andy Boss Thrust Stage.

cast-palabras-project-6-23

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