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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!

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.

(In)Famous Pirates of Stage and Screen!

In rehearsal at Park Square now is the ageless musical comedy, The Pirates of Penzance, by W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan. Fans of musical theatre and classic drama will no doubt be familiar with the opera; it has been making people fall in love with dimwitted pirates since it premiered in 1879 in New York City, and it accompanies H.M.S. Pinafore and The Mikado as Gilbert and Sullivan’s most produced works today.

All of my research into this show now, has stirred my latent fascination with pirates – especially those buccaneers we see in film and on TV. Of course, Pirates of Penzance was turned into a movie in 1983 starring Kevin Kline and Angela Lansbury. This film was based on the acclaimed 1980 Broadway production, produced by Joe Papp.

But who else makes up our motley crew of fictionalized swashbucklers? Who did I leave out and who shouldn’t I have included?

1. Let’s go back to the beginning, when pirates made their first big splash on the screen. Errol Flynn as the debonair renegade, Captain Blood, in the 1935 film that launched his stardom. Now that I think about it, why did it take over a hundred years to make a Pirates of Penzance film?

2. Of course, before film there was literature and coming out only a few years after Pirates of Penzance, was the dastardly Long John Silver of Treasure Island. This is absolutely the character that set the template for all the pirate-isms we know and love today. The peg-leg, the eye-patch, even that squawking parrot! Thanks Robert Louis Stevenson…. Naturally there have been dozens of depictions of Captain Long John and even a tasty fast-food joint. Famous actors such as Charlton Heston, Wallace Beery, Orson Welles and Jack Palance have all had a turn with the black spot, but who doesn’t love Tim Curry’s portrayal in Muppet Treasure Island?

3. Another infamous pirate has to be the one and only Captain Hook. While made famous the world-over by Disney’s 1953 animated classic, the character first appeared in the play Peter Pan (1904) by J.M. Barrie and the subsequent novel in 1911. The archenemy of the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up, Captain Hook attributes his name to the sinister iron hook that has replaced his hand (bit off by a very persistent crocodile). I would say that he and Long John Silver would certainly get along well!

4. Well, I think we’ve had enough of villainy for the time being, haven’t we? Let’s get back to the lovable-rogue archetype that Flynn perfected so well. Next up…. that captain of the Black Pearl and scoundrel of the Caribbean, Jack Sparrow! Thanks to Johnny Depp’s chameleon-like transformation in Disney’s 2003 classic, Pirates of the Caribbean, this pirate not only became famous but a world-wide phenomena, launching a multi-billion dollar franchise and four subsequent sequels (for better or for worse…) The only question we have now is – why is the rum gone?

5. Finally, I figured we would end this whole escapade where we started it, with 1983’s The Pirates of Penzance and Kevin Kline’s performance as the Pirate King. Kind-hearted and gentlemanly, the Pirate King is not your typical brand of bloodthirsty buccaneer, and that’s what makes the character so endearing!

(Now we have someone even better stepping into the role for Park Square: the multi-talented Bradley Greenwald.)

Bradley Greenwald (Photo by Petronella J Ytsma)

The Everyday Emergency

In 2010, Park Square produced Painting Churches, Tina Howe’s play about a woman who returns home to paint and help her parents. The father’s memory has begun to fail, and in its place are snatches of Irish and American poems. In the program for that production, I wrote about Mary Pipher’s book Another Country: Navigating the Emotional Terrain of Our Elders, in which the author describes how we have no frame of reference for dealing with those who are growing old. She writes, “We have few road maps to help us navigate the new lands [of aging].” In Howe’s play, the couple are relocating to Cape Cod from Boston’s Beacon Hill (current home to John Kerry, former home to Carly Simon, Ted Kennedy, and Uma Thurman). The Churches had the privilege to confront aging with substantial resources, and that’s what makes Colman Domingo’s play feel so vital.

Donnie and Shelly in the kitchen

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

In 2010, I did not note that I knew of Pipher’s book because it was on my family’s bookshelf, alongside Eldercare for Dummies. As Pipher points out, and as anyone knows who has experienced that traumatic instant when a loved one turns to you and asks, “Who are you?” we’re all dummies when it comes to eldercare. (If you prefer, there’s an Idiot’s Guide.) As Dot suggests, caring for prior generations is a nearly inescapable experience, and some who do escape it may incite resentment and anxiety in other family members – hence Shelly’s exasperation.

 

Just as in the play, families debate whether to care for aging loved ones in-home (and whose home) or to pursue other accommodations (“the home”). The stress of these conversations (or negotiations, or outright conflict) is compounded because most families make these decisions with highly constrained finances. Tina Howe’s play is a moving portrait of a family bonding. Domingo’s play is an unnerving mirror. Shelly feels that “every day is an emergency,” and for so many of us who have been in the position of the Shealy children, we may feel that way, too. As we care for the aging and ailing, every second risks a trauma, and every day offers an emergency. We may judge Shelly for the measures she takes to give herself a break, but we can understand her.

From Oedipus to King Lear, from A Streetcar Named Desire to August: Osage County, the family reunion has been a major impetus in Western drama, as far-flung family are forced home to confront crises. And crises, according to Pipher, “make everyone more who they really are.” At least Blanche DuBois knew not to head to the Kowalskis’ just in time for Christmas: holiday traditions and expectations – not to mention sheer numbers of people – can trouble even the most delicately balanced families. But Dot is not a tragedy, and neither is aging, and it’s no surprise the Shealys’ emergency ebbs when the family try to understand one another.

 


Dotty and Jackie on the livingroom sofa with Christmas tree

Cynthia Jones-Taylor as Dotty with Anna Lakin as close family friend Jackie (Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma)

Hot off its hit New York run, Dot runs through January 7, 2018 on the Proscenium Stage at Park Square Theatre.

LEARN MORE / GET TICKETS »

Charles Hubbell: The Claudius of Clout

Charles Hubbell is an actor currently performing in Park Square Theatre’s Hamlet. In this production, he portrays the conniving Claudius, killer of Hamlet’s father – usurper of the throne. Such a cool and calculating character demands a smart and experienced actor and Hubbell fits the role perfectly. Not only does he have experience with the play, but actually doing it at Park Square before, albeit as a different character. Looking back on the show, directed by Mary Finnerty, he recalls:

I played the role of Laertes. I was an insufferable hack then. Long hair, arrogant and rebellious. I regret I caused a lot of mischief during that production. Now I’m back as Claudius which is great fun because I’m bringing my years of experience and hopefully some maturity to the role. It’s fun to do those same Laertes/Claudius scenes I did then [once] as the hot headed youth but now I’m the cool, calculating King. 

Even when sitting in on a recent rehearsal, I would definitely vouch for this sense of maturity.

Charles Hubbell as Claudius (Photo by Amy Anderson)

A native of the Twin Cities, Hubbell was born and raised in Golden Valley and Crystal, respectively, before studying at the University of Minnesota. In addition to working his way through all the characters in Hamlet, he works as a talent agent for Agency Models and Talent, finding actors and models for the commercial market. His long experience in the independent movie world, as well as voiceover work, television and web shows, lends itself quite naturally to finding work for others in the field. Not only that, but he is an accomplished puppeteer and loves working with puppet teams to create webisodes and live comedy shows. These ain’t your typical kid-friendly puppets shows, however, as Hubbell prefers more grown up comedy, for those who enjoy Jim Henson-styled puppetry. His work has been seen on the web with Transylvania Television and at The Brave New Workshop with Tipsy Kangaroo’s Naughty Puppet Review.

Don’t expect that same level of irreverence with Claudius, however. As you take in Park Square’s production, you’ll be hooked by a very Machiavellian figure. Not just a politician, but a strategist, who is playing a long game of chess he intends to win. Perhaps not unlike many real-life figures throughout history, he is willing to challenge the divine and bend the will of his subjects.

Tickets and more information at parksquaretheatre.org

Adapted and directed by Joel Sass and featuring Charles Hubbell as ‘Claudius”. 

Tinne Rosenmeier is Polonia

Recently I had the supreme pleasure of speaking with actor, Tinne Rosenmeier, who is playing Polonia in Park Square Theatre’s production of Hamlet. Ms. Rosenmeier had a lot to say not only about the production itself, but how re-imagining the character “Polonius” as a woman helps bring fresh life to an established classic.

Photo by Nancy Hauck

So what’s it been like playing a character such as Polonia? What can audiences come away with after seeing your portrayal?

Polonia, yes.  WOW!  First of all, there’s the thrill of the opportunity, right? That made me giddy and rather flighty during our first week of rehearsals.  Then, there’s the history of the role, our expectations of who and what Polonius is: stuffy, fusty, chatty, a bit impotent and comical. Polonius is deeply embedded in the masculine story, history, and culture of our cultural understanding of Hamlet, the play. What happens when we shift away from that?

What we’re discovering is that Polonia  (the concept), works just fine.  As a power broker, I have many contemporary politicians to study – their poise, strength, and steel. There’s the reality we face as working women and mothers: how many of us can still be involved in the day to day of raising our children?  Polonia is and has been a working mother, and that very contemporary reality never confronted, and is unlikely to ever confront, a man playing a Polonius.  We still live in a society that stretches women to do it all. At the moment (though there may be some nuances we haven’t reached yet in rehearsals) Polonia has made career choices to serve her king(s), and she isn’t much given to self-doubt or regret.

As a mother, there are insights into Ophelia’s plight that don’t surface for a “Polonius.” The advice that she quit her crush on Hamlet hinges on his freedoms as a man and a prince — ‘with a longer tether may he walk/Than may be given you.’  What a rich vein to plumb. I think it is a mark of her lack of self-knowledge that she doesn’t recognize her own complicity in Ophelia’s trap, and despair.

When did you first get involved with Park Square?

My first audition for Park Square was in 1984, when I was embarrassed to learn that a Shakespearean sonnet wasn’t the same as an audition monologue.  I felt pretty lucky when I got a call to step into a part another actress vacated, in Arthur Miller’s The American Clock.   Later that season, or the next, I was again called in as a replacement, in The Master Builder, with Bill Kimes.  I was invited to join the resident acting company Park Square had for a few years, and spent a few seasons working here.

It was an amazing experience, but I learned the limits of untrained acting.  It was the kind and generous advice of Richard Cook, plus the encouragement of Betty Burdick (who played Mrs. Master Builder) that propelled me to seek training.  I needed a process.  It’s a deep satisfaction and honor to return to Park Square with technique and process, and to develop this role.

My family moved back to Saint Paul in 2000. I just couldn’t break in as an actress at that point, and I took myself over to Hamline to get my teaching license.  Over the last 13 years I’ve been teaching around the Twin Cities. I was so proud and excited to bring students to Park Square’s education programs and productions.  The Build a Moment experience is the cleanest introduction to the power of theater design and tech I’ve every run across. I also served on Park Square’s  Education Advisory Board for a few years, and raise my hat to Mary Finnerty and the whole group.  I believe in theater education, and Park Square’s contribution is unmatched and indispensable.

Tinne Rosenmeier is a Minnesota-native, born in St. Paul and a graduate of Carleton College and holds an MA in Educational Theatre from New York University. She also attended the National Shakespeare Conservatory in New York City. In addition to Park Square Theatre, she has been seen on stage at Pangea World Theatre (The House of Bernarda Alba) and Savage Umbrella (The Awakening), among many others. When she is not performing or teaching, her interests include playing with her dog, feeding the chickens, gardening and quilting when the weather turns cold.

See Ms. Rosenmeier in Hamlet, on the Proscenium Stage through November 11! The play is adapted and directed by Joel Sass.

 

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.

Addie’s Delight

Playing a part in Idiot’s Delight from Girl Friday Productions at Park Square is Adelin Phelps, who portrays the character Mrs. Cherry. I was able to catch up with her and ask her some of what she thought about the show and the relevance it can hold in our 21st century world.

From Madison, Wisconsin, she attended Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, receiving her B.A. in acting. Immediately after graduation, she moved on up to the Twin Cities to pursue a career in the theatre. In her time here she has firmly established herself as a performer and collaborator, working with such noted companies as Minnesota Jewish Theatre, History Theatre, Theatre Latte Da, Walking Shadow and Frank Theatre. If that’s not enough, she is a core and founding member of Transatlantic Love Affair, a group that has earned a bevy of recognition in recent years. She now finds herself within the ranks of Girl Friday Productions and the grand cast of Idiot’s Delight – Robert Sherwood’s prophetic satire on the state of the world just prior to the outbreak of World War II. This marks her debut with Girl Friday, and her second time on a Park Square stage (following 2012’s King Lear).

While definitely not from the world of medieval England, Mrs. Cherry does happen to be a Brit among the band of internationals holed up in the Alpine hotel in which Idiot’s Delight takes place. Young and newly married to the dashing Mr. Cherry (Gabriel Murphy), she must reconcile the joys of kissing, dancing and abundant love with the stark realities of encroaching war. Those themes certainly lend themsevles to the political strife currently swirling around the world, not just at home, and how we are able to overcome that discord is a central question of the piece. As Phelps says, The need for humor, the struggle for an open, brave heart, the importance to understand history, and connecting with other humans… that draws me as a person to the project.”

Especially the benefits of connecting with other humans is apparent in Sherwood’s play. An ensemble cast of characters all born in different countries are suddenly forced into company with each other, thanks to the actions of their own governments. In a sense of irony, the very people they should be at war with become their friends within the walls of the hotel.

All these international characters is most exciting to Phelps who relishes the chance to use her sense of play and imagination in creating a dialect or new physicality to bring her role to life. And the dancing! There’s much for any actor to sink their teeth into and Phelps is eager to share that infectious zeal with the audiences. Indeed, viewers are in for a treat when they take their seats this summer. Phelps has been delighted to work with Girl Friday Productions and director, Craig Johnson in getting to tell such a story!

 

 

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