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Posts Tagged The Liar

Hope and Inspiration

One cannot help but be reflective after Election Day, and one thing that I’ve been thinking about is the role of theatre arts in society as a source of hope and inspiration.

In my work at Park Square Theatre, both as blogger and daytime usher, I get to witness firsthand some of the dynamic changes occurring within the Minnesota scene as Elders begin to hand off responsibilities to a younger generation, as organizations soul-search on how to remain relevant to their audiences and as they ever strive to fulfill their missions–all while trying to stay financially afloat to be able to come back to do it all over again season after season. What I have discovered is that a theatre is a place of service, and those who work in one are more likely than not following a calling. The theatre “bug” is not foremost a pursuit of fame and fortune (though the latter would be a welcomed help) but a dedication by those involved to work for the greater social good.

While at Park Square Theatre, I get to brush shoulders with living Minnesota theatre history–the people who have been the shakers-and-movers of Twin Cities theatre for decades, not much in the limelight but still tirelessly dedicated to bringing quality live theatre to you from behind the scenes. To name just a few, there are Artistic Director Richard Cook, who co-founded and built up Park Square’s stature in its Saint Paul community; Education Director Mary Finnerty, who created what is likely the strongest theatre education program for middle- and high-school students in the state; photographer Petronella J. Ytsma, who can tell you photoshoot stories that span the change of photo-technology; and newly hired Group Sales & Community Engagement Manager Linda Twiss, who has likely, unbeknownst to you, already touched some aspect of your theater-going experience in Minnesota through the years.

Then there are our Future–the younger generation who also carry on the vision and mission. In my two seasons at Park Square Theatre, I have watched House Manager Amanda Lammert rise to Audience Services Director and, as such, clear the path for  millennials, such as Jiffy Kunik to become Performance Supervisor, Adrian Larkin to become Lead House Manager and Ben Cook-Feltz to become Ticket Office Supervisor. Our stage managers, such as Jamie Kranz, Megan Dougherty, Laura Topham and Lyndsey Harter, tend to be young female leaders with sure hands on each production that they oversee. My own fellow blogger, Vincent Hannam, is so clearly a Student of Life through Theatre; I get to see him grow not just as a theatre artist but as a wholehearted human being as I blog alongside him. And I have interviewed so many up-and-coming theatre professionals, from actors to designers, working with such intensity and creativity in their chosen fields. To be amongst such passionate young people, committed to theatre as a social cause is a constant source of hope and inspiration.

Park Square's A Raisin in the Sun. Photo by Connie Shaver.

A scene from A Raisin in the Sun (Photo by Connie Shaver)

And this fall I am witnessing the fruits of the prior year’s labor to carefully select this season’s plays, culled from suggestions by theatre professionals, theatre goers and volunteer script readers–all committed to fulfilling Park Square Theatre’s mission. The whole process is a mixture of intentionality and serendipity, resulting in a breathtaking season of anticipation and high hopes that we got it right. This season, we started out with The Liar and The Realistic Joneses, both in their own ways guiding us to what is true and real. Then came The House on Mango Street and currently A Raisin in the Sun, both uplifting the human spirit in the face of adversity. In December, we look forward to The Soul of Gershwin: The Musical Journey of an American Klezmer, a style of music brought to us by Jewish immigrants.

Park Square Theatre’s mission is “to enrich our community by producing and presenting exceptional live theatre that touches the heart, engages the mind, and delights the spirit.” It is theatre in service to the common good and, by extension, a source of hope and inspiration. To all.

Note: We have a very limited number of tickets available for A Raisin in the Sun evening and weekend performances through November 20. But you may now purchase tickets for weekday student matinee performances through December 22. (You would be watching the play with school groups.) Student matinee tickets cost just $25.

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Tickets for The Soul of Gershwin: The Musical Journey of an American Klezmer evening and weekend performances are available through December 31.

To order, call 651.291.7005 or go to parksquaretheatre.org.

The Illuminating Mike Kittel

Mike Kittel

As Park Square Theatre’s Resident Lighting Designer, Mike Kittel doesn’t design the lighting for just a single, but for all, Park Square productions. That’s a lot of pressure on one person, but it’s also part of the excitement of his profession, which he loves.

Kittel was clearly harried upon his arrival for our meeting, busy preparing for technical rehearsals of The Liar on the Proscenium Stage and attending regular rehearsals of The Realistic Joneses, currently on the Boss Thrust Stage until October 16. When he finally sat down, Kittel reminded me of a light on a dimmer switch. His mind still seemingly miles away and not yet warmed up to our conversation, his eyes shone just a bit brighter, with the intensity gradually building as he talked more and more about the lighting design for The Realistic Joneses and his own theatre background.

Kittel is usually involved in production meetings with the director and the other designers for a show two to three months before it starts, although his contemplation on the lighting design likely began well beyond those few months as ideas would crop up once he’d read the script. These meetings are key towards understanding what actual plan to create to light the actors and space effectively, helping to support the emotions, images and even interpretation of the production. Lighting is finally plotted out about 1-1/2 weeks before the technical rehearsal, and refinements in light placement, cues, colors, intensity and anything else are made during that rehearsal.

A challenge with The Realistic Joneses is that the action takes place in just a 20-by-20 feet space with a low ceiling. Within that limited space, Kittel had to design lighting to convey both indoor and outdoor settings, such as a starry night in a backyard, the interior of a supermarket and nighttime in front of a garage with a motion detector going on and off. Kittel came up with a creative “drop lighting” solution for some of the desired effects.  I shall reveal no more so as not to spoil your viewing experience.

According to Kittel, the easiest lighting for him to execute for The Realistic Joneses was the simulation of motion detectors.  The most difficult lighting involved creating super-realistic exterior effects, such as sunshine.

Although The Realistic Joneses takes place in realistic settings, that did not require Kittel to consistently implement full realism in his lighting plan, particularly during transitions. He made good use of color, light angles, patterns or shafts of light to enhance the audience experience.

“Lighting is very musical to me–the way it moves around space and surrounds you,” Kittel said.  “It’s powerful; it can enhance or destroy. Good lighting usually should go unnoticed. Bad lighting can ruin everyone’s work.”

Kittel was not originally a lighting designer.  In high school and college, he was an actor. He accidentally fell into his current profession after taking a lighting class in college.

“The next year, that professor made me light A Christmas Carol because all the other students had graduated,” Kittel recalled. “A Christmas Carol is fantastical, magical; so it terrified me.  I had never done it before.”

With his professor’s help, Kittel did it and, in the process, fell in love with lighting. He now designs 20 to 26 shows per year. He enjoys how it all happens so fast and how “every show is like a math problem with an unlimited amount of correct answers.”

Before Kittel rushed back to his work, I made him step into the light to take his picture.  Still disheveled but now sporting a bright smile, he obliged before disappearing in the speed of light.

The Liar: Featuring Michael Ooms

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

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ROLE: Philiste, Alcippe’s friend

DESCRIPTIVE LINES ABOUT PHILISTE IN THE PLAY:

(Said by Alcippe to his friend Dorante)

You know Philiste? The beau monde’s favorite beau?

(Dorante’s reply)

The man they call the Baron Comme Il Faut?
We know each other from Poitiers.

 

Michael Ooms with JuCoby Johnson and Sha' Cage in a rehearsal. (Photograph by Connie Shaver)

Michael Ooms with JuCoby Johnson and Sha’ Cage in a rehearsal.
(Photograph by Connie Shaver)

CAST QUESTION:

This play will be visually and verbally stunning.  Every cast member, including you, must do “verbal acrobatics” with challenging wordplay and perfect timing with not just delivery but also comebacks.  As an actor, how do you get to the point that you can deliver such lines as if with ease?

This is a great question.  In order to pull a thing like this off, a multitude of facets need to fall into sync.  In my mind, there are two truly important elements: hard work and honesty.  As a cast, we work tirelessly to find the rhythm and truth of a piece.  While understanding the title of the play, The Liar, we all have to find our truths within it.  A lie is only as good as the belief it inspires.  And that’s what we work towards.  The belief in these words to inspire something.   Fact or fiction, the words must deliver the story that we as a cast are so graced to have been given.  David Ives has a great mind for so many things.  Among the grandest are language, truth and comradery (in my humble opinion).  Our ultimate goal has been to respect his work and bring it to life, as one.  And that’s the real trick.  To find the key together and unlock the thing.  From where I’m standing, this box is open; and it’s hilarious.

CAST BACKGROUND:

Park Square Debut Representative Theatre Classical Actors Ensemble: Doctor Faustus; Savage Umbrella: These Are the Men; Swandive: Five Flights; Pioneer Place: Tuesdays with Maurie; Gonzo Group Theatre: Long Day’s Journey into Night; NightPath: Our Town Film Mighty Ducks; Mighty Ducks 2 Training Classical Actors Ensemble: Company Member; Gonzo Group Theatre: Founding Company Member Upcoming Projects Savage Umbrella: The Awakening

 

Michael Ooms with his actor-parents Richard Ooms and Claudia Wilkens who have also delighted audiences on the Park Square stages Photograph by Connie Shaver

Michael Ooms with his actor-parents Richard Ooms and Claudia Wilkens,who have also delighted audiences on  Park Square stages
Photograph by Connie Shaver

Area Premiere of The Liar – Park Square Theatre’s Proscenium Stage – Ends Oct 2

The Liar: Featuring Rex Isom Jr.

As part of our Meet the Cast of The Liar Blog Series, let us introduce you to Rex Isom Jr.:

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ROLE: Geronte, Dorante’s father

DESCRIPTIVE LINES ABOUT GERONTE IN THE PLAY:

(Said by Dorante)

My friends, here’s to my dad, without whose virtue
I’d not have known how fraudulence can hurt you!

CAST QUESTION:

As I understand, you have a strong background in improvisational comedy.  How do you plan (or do you plan) on drawing from that skill as Geronte, even though it is a scripted play?

For a scripted play, I believe that improvisation helps the actor with the technical aspects of presenting the character. Since improv really relies on the actor being a good listener and observer, having those skills during a scripted and blocked performance provides the actor with a sort of “behind the scenes” backbone. You are more aware of the overall construct, and thus you can aid more in those “bump in the road” moments, like when a line might be dropped by another actor or a prop falls on stage. You can help out in a much more natural way and stay in character since improv is also about maintaining your character in every way throughout the scene–emotionally, physically and mentally.

Some might think improv makes it harder to maintain the precision of a scripted work. On the contrary, it helps me fortify that precision by keeping me attuned to the whole play and all its parts, not just my part.

CAST BACKGROUND:

Park Square Debut Representative Theatre Stevie Ray’s Improv Cabaret Show; New Native Theatre: The Meeting; Penumbra Theatre: Black Eagles; History Theatre: To Kill a Mockingbird; Brave New Workshop: Jesse Goes to Hollywood; Guthrie Theater: The Darker Face of the Earth Film Public Domain, Thin Ice Training B.S., Theatre Arts, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Awards/Other Most Outstanding Creative Programming Award, 2009 & 2011, CTV15, Roseville, MN Upcoming Projects History Theatre: The Highwaymen

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

Rex Isom Jr. with 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 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 JuCoby Johnson

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

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ROLES: Alcippe, Clarice’s secret fiancé

DESCRIPTIVE LINES ABOUT ALCIPPE IN THE PLAY:

(Said by Clarice about Alcippe)

So let him spew. My lover’s lava’s nothing new.
Two years now we’ve been secretly engaged–
And he’s the one who’s chronically enraged?
Oh, very well.

CAST QUESTION:

You have done a lot of Shakespeare.  How difficult is the wordplay in The Liar in comparison?  (For example, you have one line that starts with:  “O faithless, fickle, fraudulent play.”)

The wordplay in The Liar is very similar to that used in Shakespeare. I would say that the biggest similarity is the speed in which the language has to go in order for the jokes to land. If you can get the language to be fast and light while still holding onto the clarity, you’ve won half the battle. Within that lies the biggest difficulty. If it’s all fast and light, but lacking in clarity, the audience gets sick of it very quickly. You have to find a way to tell the story clearly and crisply at a faster pace than may seem comfortable. It takes a lot of trust in your fellow actors and a strong familiarity with the text.

CAST BACKGROUND:

Park Square Debut Representative Theatre Ten Thousand Things: Dear World; Mu Performing Arts: You for Me for You; New Epic Theater: The Normal Heart; Great River Shakespeare Festival: As You Like It Training B.F.A., Acting, University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater Actor Training Program Upcoming Projects Ten Thousand Things: Pericles; Theater Latté Da: Six Degrees of Separation

JuCoby Johnson with Sha' Cage in a rehearsal. (Photograph by Connie Shaver)

JuCoby Johnson with 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

What’s Realistic?

The Liar Rehearsal

All fabrications?

For the past weeks, I’ve been writing about a play in which everything seems fabricated. The title character is a compulsive liar, but just about every other character is also duping someone else. Of course, I’m referring to the comedy, The Liar, which is on Park Square Theatre’s Proscenium Stage until October 2. Yet, the fact that the play is a farce and, hence, a critique of real-life societal mores, begs the question: To what extent is the play not realistic?

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What will Jennifer and Bob Jones do?

In juxtaposition, on Park Square’s Boss Thrust Stage from September 23 to October 16 will be the play The Realistic Joneses, a comedy/drama in which we watch two couples, both with the last name of Jones and both neighbors to each other, cope with a progressively debilitating illness. Mortality is certainly a sobering notion throughout the production, and how the characters choose to face it is reflected in the play’s title. The term “realistic” suggests a no-nonsense, pragmatic approach to life; but how does this actually play out for those who must face a terminal illness? Well, by relying on a sense of humor, of course; but what more? I’ll let you find out for yourself!

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The talented cast of A Raisin in the Sun

Then from October 28 to November 20 on the Boss Stage, Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun will make us ponder: How possible–how realistic–will it be for each member of the Youngers, a poor African-American family, to obtain his/her dream in a racially oppressive society?

Is the world the way Beneatha Younger claims it is to her beau Asagai: “Don’t you see there isn’t any real progress, Asagai, there is only one large circle that we march in, around and around, each of us with our own little picture in front of us–our own little mirage that we think is the future?”

Or is she mistaken, as Asagi counters: “What you just said–about the circle. It isn’t a circle….it is simply a long line–as in geometry, you know–one that curves into infinity. And because we cannot see the end, we also cannot see how it–changes. And it is very odd, but those who see the changes–who dream, who will not give up–are called idealists… and those who see only the circle–they call each other the ‘realists!'”

What an irony that theatre so often has the power to bring us closer to what is true to life–and that make believe opens the door to real self-discoveries.

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Plus Season Package Pricing:

Any 3 or more shows starting at $25 each

Any 6 shows starting at $142 total

All 13 shows starting at $294 total

(All “starting at” prices based on preview prices, standard seats.  Programs, dates and artists subject to change.)

NOTE:  All photographs in this blog were taken by Petronella J. Ystma.

The Liar: Featuring Sha’ Cage

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

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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!

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