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Posts Tagged War With the Newts

More or Less

While walking by the corner of Thomas and Hamline Avenues in St. Paul, I looked down and discovered this poem on the sidewalk.  It fed my heart and soul all day and everyday thereafter when I have passed by it again.

Sidewalk poetry Photo by T. T. Cheng

Sidewalk poetry
Photo by T. T. Cheng

I love how art, whatever its form, can do that–connect to your very being and express your deepest yearnings. Every fiber of you responds to its pull, and your life is forever changed. You don’t even have to fully understand it. Art that has stuck with me often involved those “What the heck?” moments. My mind craves to understand and connect, deeply interacting with what’s before me.

At Park Square Theatre, I recall feeling my synapses crackle and pop the first time I experienced Sandbox Theatre’s ensemble work–namely, how the story of our world overrun by anthropomorphic newts, driving humans to extinction so intrigued me that I had to see War with the Newts more than once. Sandbox’s second production on our Boss Thrust Stage, Queens, was just as thought-provoking–this time, a work about an African-American boxer finding his place in a world ruled by Jim Crow laws. Now I can’t wait to see their world premiere of Big Money on the Boss this January. What will the story of a man who suddenly devotes his life to winning big in a game show have to do with me or with you? The only answer I know to give is to show up and open myself to the surprise of discovery.

And isn’t surprise a key element of powerful art? It wakes me up to ponder big questions–to give me “a little more eats,” something for my mind to chew over, swallow and digest so I can attempt to make meaning out of this crazy, imperfect world. Art is imperative to my survival as an empathetic human being; it pushes me to expand beyond my own little corner of the world to connect with yours–the very impetus needed to make “a little less war, a little more peace.”

As we head into another new year, consider doing your part to bring peace on Earth. Actively support the arts in any way that you can: as a creator, spectator, donor, volunteer, subscriber or promoter. We shall all be richer for it.

 

True Gems

I was recently inspired by Matthew Glover’s blogs on June 1 (“When 40 Feels Like a Lot”) and June 3 (“The Finish Line”). Glover was co-Director and Project Lead on Sandbox Theatre’s Queens, which just ended its run on Park Square Theatre’s Andy Boss Thrust Stage. Each of his posts gave us a glimpse of the immense dedication of artists to bring their creations to audiences, regardless of size, and how they feel called to give beyond the best of themselves—in this case, performing through excruciating pain from an injury.

Glover made me recall how I had discovered Sandbox Theatre at Park Square Theatre last season. The ensemble was performing War With the Newts, also on the Boss Stage and as part of Park Square’s Theatres in Residence Series. It was a truly groundbreaking production, described as “a deep exploration of the themes of nationalism, exploitative business practices and human nature’s self-destructive tendencies.” In short, humanity faced extinction at the hands of anthropomorphic newts. Reviewers described the play as “quirky” and “darkly funny.” The utter originality of the production simply blew my mind—in a very good way, leading me to see it twice.

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As you can imagine, I could not wait to see Queens this season. But like War With the Newts, Queens also fought for a larger audience, though both garnered good reviews. The sheer quiet beauty of the sure-footed performances made me want to see Queens again as well, though I was unable to do so this time.

In a May 25 review on Queens in City Pages, Jay Gabler wrote, “If you’re willing to set aside your expectations of a conventional narrative, though, you’ll find a show built on trust—trust among the performers, trust in the material, and trust in the audience.” I think that his words would also ring true for War With the Newts a year ago. Sandbox Theatre does excellent but unconventional work that may challenge the audience in new ways; and, often, cutting-edge art takes time to be recognized for the gem that it is—to, essentially, build an audience.

Pondering on the incredible dedication of Sandbox Theatre to its craft made me think about all the other smaller theatres in the Twin Cities that have or will perform at Park Square Theatre this season–Wonderlust Productions, Mu Performing Arts, Other Tiger Productions and Flying Foot Forum–and how they “sweat blood” to inspire us, broaden and challenge our views, and bring us together.

New start-ups, such as Full Circle Theatre (co-founded by Rick Shiomi who was also co-founder of Mu Performing Arts) and Hero Now Theatre (which cast our own Vincent Hannam in its inaugural play), have only cropped up this past year; and you can be sure that others will keep coming, all bent on working to build mutual understanding and inspire a better future.

I encourage you to come and engage with these and other theatres as you discover their existence. Come be challenged. Come to explore. Come to receive their gifts—always with an open mind.

 

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