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Posts Tagged The Pirates of Penzance

Elizabeth Hawkinson: A Soprano and “Everything Else”

Elizabeth Hawkinson is part of Park Square Theatre’s energetic nine-member cast of The Pirates of Penzance, playing multiple roles and loving it. Twin Cities critics have also captured its joyful spirit in their reviews, describing this modern spin on Gilbert and Sullivan’s hit musical as “see-worthy” and “arrr worth checking out.”

Yo, ho ho! Here’s Elizabeth to let us in on the fun:

1. What is the best part of being in this show?

My favorite part of our Pirates of Penzance is how free you are to react to any and everything. There is no fourth wall between us players and the audience, which means you can acknowledge they are there! You can look at them, speak to them and laugh with them, all while the action of the play is happening on stage. The story of The Pirates of Penzance is oh so silly and ridiculous, so you are free to ham it up and have fun! Nothing can be taken too seriously! To play such lighthearted, whimsical comedy is a treat.

Cast of Pirates of Penzance at Park Square Theatre in Saint Paul, Minnesota - 2018

Elisa Pluhar, left, Alice McGlave, Victoria Price (seated), Elizabeth Hawkinson, Zach Garcia, Charles Eaton, Max Wojtanowicz and Bradley Greenwald are in “Pirates of Penzance” at Park Square Theatre. (Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma)

2. But behind the fun is a ton of hard work. What’s the biggest challenge for you?

The biggest challenge I have in the show is pacing out my energy and maintaining proper breath support. With only nine actors, we are literally running around to cover all bases of the story. It is fun and definitely lends a silly-ridiculous quality that makes Gilbert and Sullivan enjoyable, but it is a physical challenge! You need to pace yourself through the show so you can have fun with the story rather than the story have fun with you.

3. Can you share something about your background pertaining to your decision and journey to becoming an actor?

L to R: Victoria Price, Elizabeth Hawkinson and Brian Sostek in rehearsal
(Photo by Connie Shaver)

I’ve pursued performing because I love it. To sing and act for people is a privilege and a joy. As you continue to perform, you always want to get better and better at your craft and, at the same time, are constantly meeting and working with new people, a new cast. It is a challenge physically, mentally and spiritually, and I wouldn’t be happy doing anything else.

4. What’s your favorite piratey thing?

Peg legs.

5. What’s coming up next for you after The Pirates of Penzance?

Up next for me is a film with good friend and director, Sam Fiorillo.

 

 

Tickets and information here.

Will Charles Eaton Keep a Straight Face?

Charles Eaton has been having a blast as part of the cast of The Pirates of Penzance on our Proscenium Stage through March 25. It’s been one of those gigs when work is truly play, and the hardest part may well be to keep a straight face on stage. Here he is to tell us about his experience in this hilarious Park Square production:

1. What has it been like for you to be a singing pirate and police officer in this production? Tell me all about the good, the bad and the silly!

It’s been a tricky but mostly hilarious challenge to keep the two straight. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to think, “Okay, are you a policeman here, or a pirate, or just an actor in the troupe?”

The police officers of Penzance!
(Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma)

2. Actors were cast primarily for their singing and acting abilities. How has it been for you to learn the physical moves in the dance sequences?

I, by no means, consider myself a dancer; but it has been a really good experience for me. It’s especially exciting to be constantly thinking about physicality on stage–being a pirate is a totally different persona than being a policeman.

3. What sparked your passion for singing and acting, and how long has this obsession been going on?

I’ve always loved music and always sang in choirs in school. My first musical was in 6th grade (Cornelius in Hello, Dolly!), but it wasn’t until college that I started taking voice lessons. I started music education; but after seeing La Boheme at the Metropolitan Opera, I knew that performing is what I wanted to do.

The pirates of Penzance!
(Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma)

4. What is your favorite “piratey” thing?

I parrot sit a lot and have formed quite the bond with the little guy, so I guess . . . parrots?

5. Why should people come to see The Pirates of Penzance?

There are SO many moments on stage when I have to truly hold back my laughter because of the hilarity that my awesome colleagues create. Anyone who doesn’t see it is missing out on some belly laughs!

 

Tickets and information here.

Presenting Victoria Price

Making her debut at Park Square Theatre in Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance is Victoria Price. As part of the nine-member ensemble, she plays multiple roles–one moment a pirate; another, a daughter; yet another, a police officer–in this wild and zany operetta.

“Everyone involved, are all hilarious,” Victoria said. “It’s been so much fun to see how we come together to make magic with nine people’s ideas. At rehearsal we were doing a lot of improv, in a sense, especially with the choreography. We were constantly thinking on our feet, figuring out how these characters would react.”

With her triple-threat talents of acting, singing and dancing, Movement and Dance Director Brian Sostek made Victoria the dance captain, which required her to know not just her own moves but also those of everyone else. That was a big challenge in a musical that’s already an overall challenge to do, but Victoria embraces all opportunities to grow as an artist.

L to R: Victoria Price, Elizabeth Hawkinson and Brian Sostek in rehearsal
(Photo by Connie Shaver)

“The singing is very difficult,” Victoria reflected. “There are so many words in the songs, and they’re sung so fast. We have to be able to get the words out so as to be intelligible yet sound beautiful. We’re trying to enunciate and get the best sound; and on top of that, memorize choreography. But the music is really beautiful and fun to sing.”

Victoria has loved musicals since early childhood but didn’t realize until later in life that making a career of being in them could be an option. She’d attended one year of high school at the New Orleans Center of Creative Arts before moving to Chicago, where she completed high school. After taking two gap years upon graduation, she eventually came to Minneapolis to train through North Central University and with other instructors outside of school.

Victoria (far right) as part of the police brigade
(Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma)

“A windy road brought me here,” said Victoria, “but I’m enjoying it. There are great opportunities here, and diving into this theatre community is exciting. I am passionate about live theatre and can’t wait for people to see my show. I’m especially looking forward to see young adults in the audience and to spark more interest in them to see live theatre.”

Asked if she’d ever wanted to be a pirate, she replied,” I was in Peter Pan in the fourth grade, playing Tiger Lily as well as a pirate in some instances. I wanted more to  be on the Peter Pan side, flying around. But it’s fun playing a pirate now. What I like is that they’re silly and take one moment at a time. One moment, they’re angry; the next moment, they’re happy again.”

Throw off those winter blues, and join in on the silliness with Vicki and “the gang” through March 25 at Park Square Theatre.

Cast members take their bows
(Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma)

 

Tickets and information here.

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!

How To Dress A Pirate (and Other Zany Characters)

Park Square Theatre‘s adaptation of The Pirates of Penzance by Doug Scholz-Carlson has Gilbert and Sullivan on a steamer, heading to New York for its opening. But–oops!–they’ve left the score in London! Forced to recreate the show from memory during their voyage, they use their ship mates as the cast and all the costumes they’d packed along in their trunks. In the world outside of the play (and the play within the play), the person who created all those clothes and accessories for our production is Costume Designer Rebecca Bernstein.

Rebecca gave the costumes for The Pirates of Penzance a Victorian-like feel but didn’t make them super-realistic. This stage costume-y aspect to the clothes supports the idea that the passengers on the ship (the real people) are playing parts in a show.

The premise is also that Gilbert and Sullivan have to make do with what’s on the ship, which includes just a small number of available people to play all the roles so Rebecca used color to help audiences more easily identify the characters. For instance, all the pirates have red, black and gold in their costumes, and the police are in blue. This color-coding also helps the actors make fast costume changes.

What I could not help noticing about Rebecca’s design renderings is how beautiful they are–like beautiful children’s storybook illustrations. This turns out to be a common compliment that Rebecca has heard many times before.

Rebecca feels like she’s been designing costumes “forever.”

“I’ve always liked clothes even as a kid,” Rebecca recalled. “My mom taught me to sew when I was five. I was interested in clothes as an art form and liked going to museums with fashion exhibits. I was also always interested in theatre–seeing plays.”

In junior high, Rebecca attended a magnet school that focused on the arts. They offered a costume class that produced the costumes for school plays. When she took the class in eighth grade, as Rebecca put it, “The sky opened; the angels sang. I knew I wanted to be a costume designer.”

Rebecca went on to attend an arts-oriented high school and obtain a BA in General Theatre. She then got her master’s in Costume Design from New York University.

Three years ago, Rebecca and her family moved from New York City to Minneapolis when her husband became the head of the sound department at the Children’s Theatre Company. Rebecca herself has found the Twin Cities to be a great arts community for professional opportunities, which includes her current stint at Park Square Theatre. Be prepared to keep seeing more creative works from this talented New York transplant on our stages for years to come.

 

 

NOTE: All renderings shown are by Rebecca Bernstein

Tickets and information here.

Alice McGlave, the Bride-to-Be

Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance is a fast-paced, zany comedy with a love story at its core. Playing Mabel, the bride-to-be of Frederic, the pirate apprentice, is Alice McGlave. Here she is to tell us about her role and a bit about herself:

1. What do you like about playing Mabel?

I like Mabel’s optimism and vulnerability. She falls in love so quickly with Frederic and remains positive even when the odds are against them and it seems like they won’t make it as a couple.

2. What’s the hardest part about playing Mabel?

I think the hardest part about playing Mabel is her music. She has some demanding vocal lines. It is a challenge to sing through those vocal lines while in character. Throw some choreography on top of that, and it can get pretty tricky.

3. How has your training prepared you for this part?

Alice McGlave in rehearsal
(Photo by Connie Shaver)

The key to playing Mabel is to make sure I am warmed up. Warming up was a crucial part of my training. Every voice lesson begins with a warm up. I compare singing a role like Mabel to that of an athlete. Like athletes warm up before a game or race, singers have to properly warm up to prepare for a performance.

4. What was your aha moment in realizing that you wanted to be an actor?

It was in high school. I began to realize how much joy performing brought me. There is nothing like performing in front of a live audience. It’s exhilarating!

5. What’s your favorite song in this show and why?

I really enjoy When the Foeman Bares His Steel. In the song, I am trying to motivate the police to go and fight the pirates. It’s such a goofy song, and the police are so much fun to watch. There is a lot of physical comedy throughout.

6. What’s your favorite “piratey” thing?

I am a huge fan of the pirate hats. The more feathers the better!

 

L to R: Bradley Greenwald, Alice McGlave and Christina Baldwin
(Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma)

 

Tickets and information here

Brian Sostek, A Mover and A Dancer

Doug Scholz-Carlson (l) and Brian Sostek (r) in a rehearsal with cast members
(Photo by Connie Shaver)

In The Pirates of Penzance, Brian Sostek is the Movement and Dance Director, creating the overall movements–not just for the dance sequences–in the show. It’s actually a collaborative process, starting with discussions to hash out concepts with Director Doug Scholz-Carlson, before the actors even step into rehearsals. They consider such issues as: What kind of feel do they want for this or that number?

Unlike Director Doug Scholz-Carlson and Music Director Denise Prosek, who have a script and scores to follow, Brian doesn’t already have the moves written down. He gets to work on a blank slate, though ever mindful that whatever created must support the telling of the story.

During the start of rehearsals, the cast spent an intensive three to four days with Denise to practice the music before working with Brian. The actors were hired for their acting and singing, rather than dancing, abilities so his first task was to see how they move. That helped him assess how to capitalize on their strengths and how much to push them beyond their comfort levels.

“I told the actors to expect to fail a lot,” Brian said. “Our objective is to find out what works or doesn’t.”

This process of trial and error placed great demands on the actors. Sometimes they’d have invested much energy in learning particular moves, only to have them changed.

Brian also continued to work closely with Doug and Denise throughout rehearsals. It was an organic process where sometimes Doug would be working with the cast and Brian would suggest that they try something or vice versa. Their collaboration became such that they felt comfortable jumping in to build on what the other was doing.

Brian Sostek leads cast members in movements during a rehearsal
(Photo by Connie Shaver)

Although his mom and dad had been in show business before becoming academics in dance and theatre, respectively, Brian himself hadn’t planned to follow in their footsteps. He’d transferred from Swarthmore College to Carleton College in his sophomore year with the thought of majoring in Political Science and Russian.

“Then I took a class on African American poetry, and it blew my mind,” Brian recalled. “That led me to start writing more.”

In 1990, Brian earned a BA in English Language and Literature/Letters. Even so, his first job upon graduation was an internship on environmental education in Virginia.

It was Brian’s return to Minnesota–specifically to the Twin Cities–that ultimately led him down his professional path. He’d done some improv at Carleton so auditioned to get into Dudley Rigg’s’ Brave New Workshop. Failing to get cast turned out to be serendipitous. He went on to audition at the Northrop as a background dancer for a prima ballerina of the Bolshoi Ballet. (Brian thinks he got the job for being one of only three males who’d showed up, but having studied dance under his mom likely helped as well.)

Later, Brian auditioned for Joe Chvala and ended up performing with his percussive dance troupe, The Flying Foot Forum, for approximately four years. Becoming a dance instructor at a ballroom dance studio also became a major source of income.

In 1996, Brian met dancer Megan McClellan and moved to Los Angeles for about four years before the two returned to the Twin Cities. In 2000, they created the inventive theatre and dance company, Sossy Mechanics. Today Brian remains a successful writer, director, choreographer, performer and teacher.

 


Tickets and information for The Pirates of Penzance here.
Tickets and information for French Twist, featuring Joe Chvala and The Flying Foot Forum here.

Theatre Can Save Your Life

 

Cast of Dot on Stage in livingroom with Christmas Tree

L to R: Michael Hanna (Adam), Ricardo Beaird (Donnie), Cynthia Jones-Taylor (Dotty), Maxwell Collyard (Fidel) and Yvette Garnier (Shelly) in DOT
(Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma)

“It’s a cheesy thing to say, but theatre saved my life.”

What actor Ricardo Beaird, who plays Dotty’s son in DOT, claims is likely not the first time that theatre has done that for someone, particularly someone younger. At 16, Ricardo was at the brink of failing and repeating a grade in school. Serendipity came in the form of a teaching artist, visiting to teach his class Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.

“I couldn’t understand it at all, but the artist took the time to help me decode it. I came to understand it so much that I could make others understand it, too. I then realized that I could use that same model–decoding to fit my way of learning and being able to explain to someone else–for other subjects, like math. I ended up becoming an A student!”

Donnie and Shelly in the kitchen

Ricardo Beaird (Donnie) and Yvette Ganier (Shelly) in DOT
(Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma)

According to Ricardo, he’d “felt dumb at the time.” Now he himself is gratifyingly also a teaching artist, with the additional perk of lifelong learning through theatre from his own stage work. After earning a B.S. in Theatre and Marketing from Middle Tennessee State University, what initially brought Ricardo to the Twin Cities in 2013 was an Actor-Educator position with CLIMB Theatre in Inver Grove Heights. Once the job ended, he stayed rather than moving to Chicago as originally planned due to our thriving and hospitable theatre community.

DOT is Ricardo’s second time on Park Square’s Proscenium Stage. His first time was in another family comedy/drama, Sons of the Prophet, during our 2015-2016 season. From June 15 to August 5, 2018, he will also be in Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery at Park Square Theatre.

 


ALSO, YOU CAN LEARN MORE ABOUT OUR EDUCATION PROGRAM (including upcoming productions of A Raisin in the Sun and The Pirates of PenzanceHERE

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