Announcing New Artist Fellowships


Program aims to increase the pipeline for under-represented artists

UPDATE: Submissions for the 2019 fellowships are now passed. Fellows will be announced March 1, 2019. Check back on this website in December 2019 for information on the next fellowship round.

MEDIA CONTACT: Connie Shaver, shaver@parksquaretheatre.org

Director Wendy Knox with Park Square Artistic Director, Flordelino Lagundino.

Saint Paul, Minn., January 7, 2019 – Flordelino Lagundino, Park Square Theatre’s John W. Harris Artistic Director, announces that applications are now being accepted for the pilot year of a new Artist Fellowship program at Park Square. “Fellowships gave me an inside track at some of the best theatres in the country, advancing my artistry and building my network,” says Lagundino, who assistant directed Blithe Spirit at The Guthrie as a New York Directing Fellow — an opportunity created by The Drama League Directors Project. “There is an industry-wide lack of arts leadership opportunities for people of color like myself, particularly early career artists. It’s important to me that in our work at Park Square we find ways to open doors and build a pipeline for all early career theatre artists, especially for marginalized communities such as indigenous, people of color, and LGBTQA artists, in order to create a greater sense of belonging for everyone in our community.”

The first year of the new theatre fellowship program is made possible by major grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board and Saint Paul’s Cultural STAR program. For the first round, Park Square will select eight early career artists from a state-wide, open application process.


To help fill an industry-wide lack in arts leadership opportunities, Park Square is piloting a theatre fellowship program in 2019. Park Square will select eight early career artists from a state-wide, open application process which seeks to elevate a cohort of diverse artistic voices for stage. Fellows will deepen and develop new skills over their year in residence by participating in projects which will connect them to Park Square and the Saint Paul/larger Twin Cities’ community.

For the fellowship, there are four assistant directing tracks and four assistant designer tracks available (design may be in any theatrical design medium: set, costume, lights, props, sound, or projections). Each fellow will assist on two shows from early stages through final production, and will have a voice in production meetings, planning, rehearsals, and direct collaboration with lead production staff and the Artistic Director.

Collectively, the fellows will form a self-directed cohort of emerging leaders and may participate in the various department functions at Park Square in areas such as casting, season planning, carpentry, electrics, wardrobe or run crew, and in budgeting, human resources or marketing. Additionally, there will be opportunities to meet with artistic leaders at Park Square’s partner theatres as well as other area theatrical institutions. To involve the fellow cohort with the wider community, staff support, and dedicated resources will be provided to help each fellow create a engagement experience as a part of Park Square’s mission to center artmaking within the ongoing dialogue we have with our community.

At the end of the fellowship year, the cohort will participate in an Evening Cabaret Performance in which Twin Cities Artistic Leaders will be invited. This culminating event will be co-hosted with the MN Theatre Alliance.

Assistant Directing Fellows and Assistant Design Fellows will receive $4,000 for the year. Payments will made in two installments: mid-way through the year and at the culmination of the project.

Park Square’s community partners in this program include Springboard for the Arts, the MN Theatre Alliance, the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, Theatre Mu, the History Theatre, PRIME Productions, and the East Side Freedom Library.

This is a new program and 2019 is the pilot year. Feedback will be considered for the planning of future iterations and development of the program.


Applicants must to 18 years of age or older. Full-time students at any level are not eligible. Applicants must be eligible to receive taxable income in the state of Minnesota throughout the fellowship year and must have been living or working in Minnesota for at least two years. IPOC, woman+ and LGBTQIA+ peoples are encouraged to apply.


UPDATE: Submissions for the 2019 fellowships are now passed. Fellows will be announced March 1, 2019. Check back on this website in December 2019 for information on the next fellowship round.


Applications are reviewed by a panel comprised of Artistic Director Flordelino Lagundino, Associate Artistic Director Laura Leffler, and two other artistic associates. Applications will be judged upon the following criteria: (1) adherence to the application guidelines, (2) artistic quality displayed in the work sample, and (3) strength of written materials.

IPOC, LGBTQIA2+, and woman+ peoples are encouraged to apply.

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PARK SQUARE THEATRE. 20 W. Seventh Place, Saint Paul. Ticket Office: 651.291.7005. parksquaretheatre.org

TWO Added Post-Show Talks!

After you see Marie and Rosetta, you are going to want to know more about rock ‘n’ roll icon, Sister Rosetta Tharpe! Here are two opportunities to go deeper into the history and context of this incredible show!

Post-show talks immediately follow an evening performance and are generally 30 minutes long. FREE with ticket purchase.

Purchase Tickets Here!

Saturday, Dec 15: Meet the Playwright. Hear directly from MARIE AND ROSETTA playwright, George Brant*.

Playwright George Brant. Photo by Heidi Bohnenkamp. 2015.

You are invited to a post-show talk with Brant and Park Square’s Artistic Director Flordelino Lagundino.

What goes into telling the story of an important and overlooked historical figure? How does a writer include music into a play’s narrative? What first inspires a play to be written in the first place? Bring your questions, or be ready to be inspired!

Thursday, Dec 20: Sister Rosetta and the Blues Way of Knowing. With Macalester College Assistant Professor of History, Crystal Moten**.

Crystal Moten, Macalester College

Join scholar and educator Crystal Moten to explore how Sister Rosetta navigated the historical and musical context of her time, specifically highlighting the Blues epistemology/way of knowing, and how Sister Rosetta challenged the expected gender roles within the church and in society.

*Playwright George Brant’s work has been developed and produced nationally and internationally. His most notable play, GROUNDED, opened at London’s Gate Theater in 2013, followed by a Julie Taymor-directed production at the Public Theater in 2016. Learn more at http://georgebrant.net/index.html

**Crystal M. Moten joined the Macalester faculty in 2016 and is an Assistant Professor of African American History. She teaches courses on modern African American history with particular emphasis on the following: civil rights, economic justice, women and gender, intellectual history and public history.

Her research interests focus on the intersection of race, class, and gender and specifically she writes about black women’s economic activism in civil rights era Milwaukee. Her work has appeared in the Journal of Civil and Human Rights and a special issue of Souls focusing on the Black women’s work, culture, and politics. Her forthcoming book is entitled This Woman’s Work: Black Women’s Economic Activism in Postwar Milwaukee.


Developing a new play – or a MUSICAL – is an exciting and complicated process filled with rewrites, workshops, edits and additions! We asked Keith Hovis, the playwright and composer of Jefferson Township Sparkling Junior Talent Pageant, on stage in June of 2019, to tell us more about the concept and creative process behind this new full-length and still-developing show!

You can hear a full sing-through of the show with Keith and the cast at a Workshop Presentation on November 1st, at 7:30 pm. Tickets are $10 (including a Free Drink!) and are on sale HERE.


line illustration of a tiara crown - dark burgundy on bright plum background

I started writing Jefferson Township Sparkling Junior Talent Pageant at one in the morning after I’d hit a massive writer’s block on another project. I had the actors, a director, and a production date (the 2017 Minnesota Fringe Festival), but inspiration was not striking.

Sitting at my keyboard I just started playing music. Four chords over and over, until I heard a chorus. What emerged over the next couple hours was the song, “Sparkling Junior Champion,” in which two former classmates, now in their 30’s, decide to revive their small hometown children’s talent competition.

Leslie Vincent and Kelly Houlehan. Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma.

This absurd premise, serves as the jumping off point for the show. At its core, Jefferson Township is about finding your way when you’ve hit an age where you’re told you should already have a plan in place. It’s about going home – that place where you grew up and helped shape your identity and values – and suddenly realizing you feel like an outsider in your own community. It’s about realizing that success and happiness come in many forms, and sometimes you need to open yourself up to possibilities you never considered before.

It’s a comedic, heartfelt exploration for anyone who has ever felt lost.

A scene from the Fringe Festival production of Jefferson Township Sparkling Junior Talent Pageant.

The original Fringe Festival version was an hour of fast-paced, farce-like comedy, peppered with moments of reflection. Expanding the piece to full length provides an opportunity to flesh out the characters and add more commentary on the pressures we face on a daily basis whether personal, societal, socioeconomic, familial, or generational.

I placed the show in a small town because I don’t feel like that is a population commonly reflected on stage; and when they are depicted, it is often through the lens of being simple, hard-working folk. Growing up, I was fed a narrative that having big dreams and being successful meant having to leave my hometown. It’s only as I’ve gotten older that I realize how false this narrative is.

Even now, as we near the election, I am amazed at all of the think pieces about rural America. What they want and how they might impact who is elected. In a world that has gotten more and more divided, this rural/urban split ignores that fact that no matter where you live, everyone wants to do their best. Have a family, succeed in their career, maybe buy a house, and who knows, possibly retire someday. These wants are universal. The reality is that people are people, no matter where you live. Crazy, right?

Writing Jefferson Township has reinforced how proud I am of where I came from. Yes, even if I still try to avoid awkward conversations with former classmates each time I go back to the Coborn’s in Princeton. I’ll just blame that on being slightly introverted.

It has also made me realize how lucky I am to have found my chosen community here in the cities. My new small-town community tucked in an urban landscape. And even more lucky that a few members of that chosen community, my cast – Zach Garcia, Kelly Houlehan, Ryan London Levin and Leslie Vincent – get to be on the journey of bringing Jefferson Township to Park Square.

Keith with the cast. From left to right: Ryan London Levin, Leslie Vincent, Keith Hovis, Kelly Houlehan, Zach Garcia. Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma.

I am excited to share my musical with Park Square audiences. I hope they laugh and are moved in equal measure. As we head into a public reading of the current draft on November 1, I am looking forward to seeing how people respond. I want the production in June of 2019 to be the best it can be, and I know this feedback will be essential for continued development of the show.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to my keyboard!

Keith Hovis as a playwright and composer based in Minneapolis. He can currently be seen onstage at the Southern Theater in A Morbid History of Sons & Daughters, an original, ensemble-created musical presented as part of the Twin Cities Horror Festival.

Introducing the Godmother of Rock ‘n’ Roll

Introducing the Godmother of Rock 'n' Roll


Local premiere stars Jamecia Bennett and Rajané Katurah Brown

Park Square Theatre announces the area premiere production of Marie & Rosetta by George Brandt, to be directed by Wendy Knox, who directed the early workshops of the play at the Minneapolis-based Playwrights’ Center. Soulful and spirited, this play with music tells the story of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, a 2018 inductee into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame who has become a Facebook sensation with tens of thousands of shares of the vintage video of her playing electric guitar on the street cropping up in feeds for the past several years. Tharpe brought fierce guitar playing and swing to gospel music and went on to influence rock musicians from Elvis to Jimi Hendrix and Ray Charles.

The story begins in a funeral parlor in Mississippi, as Rosetta (played by Jamecia Bennett*) and her young protégé, Marie Knight (played by Rajané Katurah Brown), prepare for a tour that will establish them as a great musical duo. Local musical powerhouses, Bennett and Brown earned rave reviews in THE WIZ at Children’s Theatre Company. In this production, musical director Gary D. Hines from The Sounds of Blackness will help them shape memorable renditions of spirituals like “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?” and “Sit Down,” to distinctly non-religious songs like “I Want a Tall Skinny Papa.”

“Rosetta was a powerhouse musician who had a huge influence on Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, and Etta James, among others,” says director Wendy Knox. “She came to fame as a gospel singer, was a rival of Mahalia Jackson, then crossed over to secular music and was shunned by the church community. She was married several times and maintained a longtime relationship with her musical partner Marie Knight. Under-recognized for her talents (gee, that problem hasn’t gone away, has it?), she had an enormous influence on rock and roll. What a treat to return to this great story in the very year when she finally got her due from the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame!”

The production team for Marie & Rosetta includes Joseph Stanley (Scenic Design); Aaron Chvatal (Costume Design); Robert Dunn (Wig Design); Abbee Warmboe (Properties Design); Michael P. Kittel (Lighting Design); Peter Morrow (Sound Design); Morgan Holmes (Dramaturg); Jared Zeigler* (Stage Manager).

Ticket prices: Previews: $20-$37. Regular Run: $25-$60. Discounts are available for seniors, military personnel, those under age 30, and groups. Tickets are on sale at the Park Square ticket office, 20 W. Seventh Place, or by phone: 651.291.7005, (12 noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday), or online at parksquaretheatre.org.   #PSTMarie&Rosetta

*Member, Actors Equity Association


Marie & Rosetta

Park Square’s Proscenium Stage

Previews: November 23 – 29, 2018

Opening Night: November 30

Regular Run: November 30  – December 30, 2018

Tickets: Previews: $20-$37; Regular Run: $25-$60

PARK SQUARE THEATRE, 20 W. Seventh Place, Saint Paul

Ticket Office: 651-291-7005 or parksquaretheatre.org

Phtos by Petronella J. Ytsma HERE.

Green 7:30 pm; Orange 2:00pm

P – Preview; B – 99¢ Bargain Preview; D – Post-show Discussion; O – Opening Night; ASL – American Sign Language; AD – Audio Description; C – Open Captioning

2 SUGARS TAKEOVER: It’s Like Real Life, But Funnier!

The Wine Chronicles, Chapter 2: It’s Like Real Life, But Funnier. 

Shanan and Carolyn continue their backstage conversation:

We often remark that the two hours we spend performing a show qualifies as a “totes legit” happy place, because we just get to exist in the world of the play. And “play” becomes a verb as well as a noun. We laugh so often in response to each other’s discoveries and deliveries that people usually wonder what is “real” and what is “the show”?

A little of both, actually. We’ve always written for ourselves, for each other, for aspirational circumstances as well as gritty, very “in the moment” spaces.

But, we like to laugh, too. The very best feeling in the world is knowing you genuinely made someone you care about laugh.

This is what we do offstage too!

And, that brings us to our audience…these people that are coming to see what our brains cooked up and are putting out here on the Andy Boss Stage. A lot of time, our creative process starts with, “Do we think it’s interesting? Does it make us laugh? Maybe it will make someone else laugh too. “

Shanan will often say, the very best sound is “the laugh of recognition.” And, that recognition is probably what makes our show work. One of the greatest compliments we’ve gotten from audiences is “this is just like my life, but funnier”. We love hearing that because it’s exactly what we set out to do. Taking real-life circumstances and finding the uniquely remarkable and hilarious moments and elevating them in the scene. It makes our job really fun. We are so happy you’re here to share it and laugh along with us.

P.S. THE SHOW HAS BEEN EXTENDED!!! The response to Sometime’s there’s Wine has been so wonderfully positive that we’ve added 4 MORE SHOWS! We’re now on stage through Oct 21. Get your tickets now!

Shanan Custer and Carolyn Pool are the 2 Sugars Show and creators of 2 Sugars, Room for Cream, Sometimes There’s Wine (currently running at Park Square Theatre’s Andy Boss Stage) and the upcoming Bad Things, Good Whiskey. When they aren’t performing, they enjoy reading, cheeseburgers, wine and planning their world domination.


New Video: Interview with THE AGITATORS

Two Ivey award winning actors, Mikell Sapp and Emily Gunyou Halaas, take on major roles as Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony in The Agitators.

Critics have high praise of this pair. Of their performances, the Star Tribune writes, “beautifully performed… the pair infuse historical material with conviction and pathos.” Rob Hubbard in the Pioneer Press writes, “strong, stubborn, vulnerable and compassionate, Halaas’ Anthony is astonishing. It’s one of the most commanding performances I’ve experienced on a Twin Cities stage this year,” and “Sapp offers a well-drawn portrayal of a man balancing confidence and doubt, hopefulness and regret.” 

Watch this video to hear a bit of these two marvelous actors speaking in their own voices and from their hearts about how this play relates to their lives and what it asks of us today.

The Agitators is on stage through October 28. Get your tickets HERE now!

2 SUGARS TAKEOVER: Hello From the Dressing Room

The Wine Chronicles, Chapter 1: Hello from the Dressing Room

Our dresses.

It is a true gift in life when one get’s to just do what one wants…especially with one’s very favorite person. Virginia Woolfe wrote, “a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” Well, that may be true for fiction, and was true for Virginia, and, in some ways, the sweet little life that Shanan Custer and Carolyn Pool have carved out at Park Square this fall fits this thesis too. Here’s a little glimpse into the “room of our own,” the Dressing Room.

Of course, there are the “costumes” we wear in the show, various shades of burgundy dominate as you probably guessed, along with adorable shoes.

Shanan is kind of a “nester” so her side of the room is beautifully decorated with photos of family, meaningful cards, various pretty things and a yummy scent diffuser for aromatherapy.

Carolyn’s side is a bit different. A couple of mementos, a make-up bag and an ever-present cup of coffee. She’s thinking she might need to embellish a little!

Shanan’s side.


Carolyn’s side.

Look at these cute coasters you will see at restaurants around town!

Also, there is wine. We do ENJOY wine. And, yes, it is real wine on stage with us although we drink very little of it during the show. We’re working pretty hard up there! When we’re done though, it’s nice to unwind in our dressing room with a glass or two of vino, before heading to Meritage, Vieux Carre, Kincaid’s or The Saint Paul Hotel. And, by the way, if you haven’t visited the great surrounding bars and restaurants, you should. Many of the nice downtown St. Paul establishments have partnered with Park Square to promote our show, and we couldn’t be happier about it.

So “hello” from the dressing room! Welcome to our theatrical home, we can’t wait to see you in the audience. Grab a glass of wine and get comfy. We are so glad you’re here.

PS. DID WE TELL YOU WE’VE EXTENDED??? Sometime’s there wine is selling out (we love you, thank you so much) so we’ve added 4 MORE SHOWS! Now on stage through Oct 21. Get your tickets now!


Shanan Custer and Carolyn Pool are the 2 Sugars Show and creators of 2 Sugars, Room for Cream, Sometimes There’s Wine (currently running at Park Square Theatre’s Andy Boss Stage) and the upcoming Bad Things, Good Whiskey. When they aren’t performing, they enjoy reading, cheeseburgers, wine and planning their world domination.


Delve Deeper into The Agitators

In The Agitators, on stage through Oct 28, Frederick Douglass inspires Susan B. Anthony by saying, “Nothing changes if people are not talking about it.” We trust that after seeing this knock-out play, you will want to think and engage more deeply, so in the upcoming weeks, we’re curating many chances to talk, learn and reflect on the content of this amazing timely story.

Emily Gunyou Halaas as Susan B. Anthony. Mikell Sapp as Frederick Douglass. Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma.

We want to ask the big questions. What were the obstacles Douglass and Anthony were up against? How did they stay inspired in the face of hardship and defeat? And most importantly, how does the work they started still continue today?

Join us for one or more of these engagement events:

Sun, Sept 30 post-show – Agitators: past, present and future. Conversation with Peter Rachleff, history professor and co-executive director of the East Side Freedom Library and dramaturg for The Agitators. Conversation will center on the question, “what is the significance of this story today.” Learn More.*

Wed, Oct 3, 7pm – Behind the Curtain. Join members of the cast and the Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library at the Hamline Midway Library. Enjoy a behind-the-scenes look at the play with cast members Mikell Sapp (Frederick Douglass) and Emily Gunyou Halaas (Susan B. Anthony), and sound designer Christy Johnson. Special half price ticket offer. Learn more at www.thefriends.org

Leondra M. Hanson, J.D.

Thurs, Oct 4, 6:30 pm pre-show – Life, love and Activism: America’s First Female Lawyers. Join Park Square Theatre and the Hamline Center for Justice and Law for a pre-show talk by attorney and law professor Leondra Hanson.

Myra Bradwell was a legal reformer and journalist who helped women obtain the right to practice law. She was also a contemporary and an acquaintance of Susan B. Anthony, and while the two agreed on outcome they did not always agree on approach. Bradwell’s experiences and relationships, and those of the other women lawyers of her time, offer relevant lessons for all who seek to be “agitators.” Learn More.

Sun, Oct 7 post-show  Your chance to meet members of the cast and creative team to hear about their experience bringing the characters to life, and how it has impacted them. Director Signe V. Harriday has said, “we are not creating portraits, we’re creating people.”

Peter Rachleff at East Side Freedom Library.

Wed, Oct 10, 7pm – Who are OUR Agitators? Learn about and make connections between The Agitators and contemporary activist movements with historian/dramaturg Peter Rachleff. East Side Freedom Library. Free. More at eastsidefreedomlibrary.org




*Financial access is a core value of Park Square Theatre. $16 tickets to The Agitators are available for the East Side Freedom Library Community. Use promo code EFL when ordering at www.parkquaretheatre.org or call 651.291.7005. East Side Freedom Library also has a limited number of complementary tickets available. If this is the best way for you or someone you know to get access to this conversation, contact Clarence at clarence@eastsidefreedomlibrary.org to access this opportunity.



Looking for a little laughter as the weather gets chillier? Check out this sneak peak of the hit comedy Sometime’s There’s Wine, featuring the comedy brilliance of Two Sugars Show comediennes Carolyn Poole and Shanan Custer.

Star Tribune writes, “a delicious pairing – this piece offers all the joy of a lively conversation between two close and very clever friends.”

Tickets are going fast, get yours HERE before they sell out!

Official Proclamation: Richard Cook Day in the City of Saint Paul

We celebrate Richard Cook as he is honored by an official proclamation by Mayor Melvin Carter, announcing Thursday, September 6th, 2018, to be Richard Cook Day in the City of Saint Paul!

The announcement coincides with the opening of an exhibition at the Landmark Center celebrating Cook’s 43 year legacy of leading Park Square Theatre. Learn More Here.

Read the official proclamation:

WHEREAS, as a result of Richard Cook’s vision, dynamic leadership and faith in the value of  the arts to develop a community, Park Square Theatre has provided a vibrant home for artists and audiences since 1975; and

WHEREAS, during those 43 years, Richard has served Park Square Theatre as an artist, Development Director, Artistic Director and Chief Strategist; and

WHEREAS, under Richard’s leadership, Park Square Theatre has grown to become the East Metro’s premier regional theatre, with two performing spaces and an award winning education program which inspires more than 30,000 middle and high school students from every corner of the state annually; and

WHEREAS, Richard has designed and built theatre spaces in the Park Square Court Building, the Jemne Building and the Historic Hamm Building, including the 2014 construction of the Andy Boss Thrust Stage; and

WHEREAS, Richard has produced 350 plays that have engaged more than 1.3 million audience members, and  as a volunteer has led Saint Paul Cultural STAR Board, and helped develop the Saint Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists; and

WHEREAS, Richard has commissioned and brought to Saint Paul important world premier plays from Minnesota artists including William Randall Beard, Christina Ham, Jeffery Hatcher, Joseph Goodrich, Thomasina Petrus, Matt Sciple and Lee Blessing and Austene Van; and 

WHEREAS, Richard has given every Saint Paul citizen the chance to have a place at the theatrical table by continually making Park Square’s stages a platform for diverse artists and all of this community’s stories, and by continually striving to maintain affordable ticket prices through 99 cent ticket prices and other means; and

WHEREAS, Richard is retiring in September, 2018 after a long and successful career, leaving – through Park Square Theatre – a dynamic legacy of civic, cultural and educational enrichment;

Now, Therefore, I, Melvin Carter, Mayor of the City of Saint Paul, do hereby proclaim Thursday, September 6, 2018, to be:

Richard Cook Day 

In Witness Whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the City of Saint Paul to be affixed this Twenty-Sixth Day of April in the Year Two Thousand Eighteen

Melvin Carter, Mayor

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