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Monsters and Mainstream Tension in ROCKY HORROR

SEEING DOUBLE: MONSTERS AND MAINSTREAM TENSION IN THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW

Super-fans Dori Hartley and Sal Piro at the Waverly Theater NYC 1977 during a screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Credit unknown.

When the Narrator opens The Rocky Horror Show (RHS) with a timeline of 1930s to 60s science fiction films, the audience is set up for the fantastical B-movie send up of Brad and Janet’s wild night in Doctor Frank N’ Furter’s lab. And since it first hit the West End London stage in 1973, the fandom of RHS – and its subsequent 1975 film adaptation The Rocky Horror Picture Show (RHPS) – has ritualized costumes, lip syncs, call-backs and the time warp in perfect alignment with this camp classic.

As a dramaturg, what most excites me about our audience revisiting this classic in the theater is the opportunity to investigate RHS as a living artifact. The science fiction and horror genres also lend themselves well to such an investigation. In “The American Nightmare: Horror in the 70s,” gay film critic Robin Wood describes the genre as the relationship between normality – “boringly constant: the heterosexual monogamous couple, the family and the social institutions (police, church, armed forces) that support and defend them” – and The Monster, whose form fluctuates to suit whatever threatens current society. Though a parody of its genres, RHS similarly acts as a fun house mirror to reflect its era’s repression and fear around sex, politics, pop culture, and technological advancement. As Wood goes on to say, “One of the functions of the concept of entertainment is to act as a kind of partial sleep of consciousness, in which the most dangerous and subversive implications can disguise themselves.”

As I watched rehearsals, I considered what this Frankensteinian, gender playful, rock-and-roll, alien invasion romp could reveal about repression and fears in 1973, and what the impact is of telling these stories in 2019.

Time Warp

It’s clear from RHS costume designer Sue Blane’s idealization of American squares that Brad and Janet stand-in for the 1950s mainstream. Contrast that with Frank, Magenta and Riff-Raff’s gender-swapped, proto-punk fashion, helped along by the production team’s make-up artist Pierre la Roche, who famously styled David Bowie. The tension between 50s nostalgia and 70s cultural rebellion that played out on stage was also happening in the world. In the early 1970s British teens were enamored with Teddy Boy and Girl fashion that borrowed heavily from retro Edwardian silhouettes. Glam rockers, like the New York Dolls, experimented with sexuality and femininity in their styling while sticking to a conservative late-50s sound. And in America, shiny polyester and exaggerated bell bottoms and collars were growing popular on a backdrop of clean cut, Motown pop.

Tim Curry as Dr. Frank N Furter in the original stage production of The Rocky Horror Show.

It was only a few years before rebellion broke loose, making way for New York’s afros, free love and free drug discotheques, and London designer Vivienne Westwood’s Sex, a boutique that would sell her ripped fishnet stockings and stylings synonymous with the Sex Pistols and punk rock. How do these mainstream tensions between sex, politics and pop culture play out today? Consider sex worker-turned-rap celebrity Cardi B. As 2018 America wrestled with its relationship to Latinx immigrants, Cardi topped the charts with bilingual, crossover hit “I Like It,” featuring Puerto Rican rapper Bad Bunny, Columbian star J.Balvin and a sample from a classic 1967 boogaloo song by Pete Rodriguez. Modern cultural producers who are cast as “monsters” continue to use music and fashion to perform their rebellion.

Sweet “T”

In the 1970s activists and trans people of color Marsha Johnson and Sylvia Rivera used “transvestite” and “transsexual” as the accurate words to describe themselves and their communities’ identities. And when RHPS midnight movie showings began in 1975 at Waverly Theater in Greenwich Village – New York’s queer epicenter and same neighborhood where Johnson and Rivera organized Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries and rioted in 1969 at the Stonewall Inn – original fans embraced Frank’s transgressive qualities as embodied in that word. They transformed the theater into a safe space for exploring and performing gender, sexuality, and fantasy, a legacy which continues in Rocky Horror fandom today.

Sylvia Rivera (left) and Marsha P. Johnson (second from left). Image via NETFLIX, The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson.

However in inheriting this legacy, we also confront the tension in how our language has shifted. We’ve collectively decided referring to anyone in the queer community – who does not use these words to label themselves – is outdated at best, derogatory and violent at worst. LGBTQ media monitoring organization GLAAD advises the use of the terms “cross-dress,” and relatedly “drag,” to replace “transvestite” in its media guide, addressing queer representation in RHS as such:

“It’s important to understand the difference between drag culture and trans reality. The former can be about performance, exaggeration, and entertainment; the latter is about people’s actual lives. Plenty of transgender people have begun their journeys in the drag community, and you will find many trans folks who adore all of the subversive, transgressive energy that drag can bring. But many of are uneasy when our lives are mistaken for “performance,” and it’s disrespectful to trans people to conflate the two.”

Ricky Morisseau in Park Square’s THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW. Photo by Dan Norman.

In staging our production, director Ilana Ransom Toeplitz thought about how our narrator could help guide the audience through this tension. We worked to create storytelling that helped actor Ricky Morrisseau celebrate the fantasy of Dr Frank-N-Furter, as well as embody a more modern drag persona, authentic to his own gender performance. As you watch our loving send-up and participate in an over forty-year tradition of Rocky Horror fun, I hope you keep in mind the high stakes for those who “rebel” against conformity, repression and cultural fear, in both the safe subversive space of the theater and the more tense mainstream world.

 

Morgan Holmes is the dramaturg on The Rocky Horror Show and a member of Park Square’s Emerging Leaders Advisory Board. She is an all-around theatermaker – writing, directing, dramaturging and administrating across the Twin Cities. She is most interested in identity, ritual, intimacy, and internet culture, which she explores as co-creator of Perspectives Theater Company.

 

 

For further reading:

Creatures of the Night: The Rocky Horror Experience by Sal Piro
American Nightmare: Essays on the Horror Film by Robin Wood, et al
Hollywood from Vietnam to Reagan, and Beyond by Robin Wood
Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries: Survival, Revolt and Queer Antagonist Struggle, a zine by Untorelli Press

GLAAD Media Reference Guides – “Transgender” and “In Focus: Covering the Transgender Community

 

Blue Ribbon State Fair Specials!

Blue Ribbon State Fair Specials!

Big Savings during Park Square’s GREAT STATE FAIR SALE!
It is Minnesota State Fair time, and the only things better than corn on the cob and chocolate chip cookies are Park Square’s Blue Ribbon Specials!

  • The best in live theatre presented in innovative and audacious ways.
  • Offers good Aug 22 through Labor Day only!
  • $25 Area 2 / $45 Area 1 tickets. See our new seating charts!*
  • Order online or call 651.291.7005 (Tues- Fri, 12-5 pm)

AUBERGINE
Sep 20 – Oct 20, 2019
Nothing says love like a home-cooked meal.

$25 Area 2 / $45 Area 1 tickets for one special weekend. Use code MIN

  • Friday Oct 4, 7:30pm
  • Saturday, Oct 5, 7:30pm
  • Sunday, Oct 6, 2:00pm
  • Wednesday, Oct 16, 7:30pm

BUY TICKETS to Aubergine



THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW
Sep 27-Nov 2, 2019
Let’s Do the Time Warp Again!

$25 Area 2/$45 Area 1 tickets on four Wednesdays. Use code MIN

  • Wednesday, Oct 9, 7:30pm
  • Wednesday, Oct 16, 7:30pm
  • Wednesday, Oct 23, 7:30pm
  • Wednesday, Oct 30, 7:30pm

BUY TICKETS to The Rocky Horror Show



PAIGE IN FULL: A B-Girl’s Visual Mixtape
Oct 25-27, 2019
A powerful storytelling experience that blends poetry, dance, music and visual arts. 

$20 tickets. All seats. One day only! Use code PIF

  • Sunday, Oct 27, 2:00pm

BUY TICKETS to Paige In Full



PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
Nov 15-Dec 22, 2019
Love is a serious game and the Bennets are playing for keeps!
$25 Area 2/$45 Area 1 tickets during Thanksgiving Weekend. Use code MIN

  • Friday, Nov 29, 7:30pm
  • Saturday, Nov 30, 7:30pm
  • Sunday, Dec 1, 2:00pm

BUY TICKETS to Pride and Prejudice


*To make your theatre experience even better, Park Square has reorganized our seating charts into Area 1 and Area 2 price tiers.
Graphic Seating Chart for Proscenium Stage - Please phone the ticket office at 651.291.7005 for assistance with accessibility and seat selectionGraphic Seating Chart for Boss Thrust Stage - Please phone the ticket office at 651.291.7005 for assistance with accessibility and seat selection

Let’s do the Time Warp Again!

Let's do the Time Warp Again!

PARK SQUARE DOES THE TIME WARP WITH ROCKY HORROR MUSICAL
Naughty Fun in the Era of Trans Rights and #MeToo

Media Contact – Connie Shaver
shaver@parksquaretheatre.org 

Saint Paul, Minn., August 5, 2019 – Park Square Theatre opens its Proscenium Stage Season with the Tony Award-nominated campy rock musical THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW by Richard O’Brien (Sept 27 – Nov 2, 2019), directed by Ilana Ransom Toeplitz. “I really want to rock the house and upend the way that people think of Park Square,” says Flordelino Lagundino, Park Square’s Artistic Director. “This is a great show to bring the generations together – those that stood in line as teenagers to see the original movie in 1975 (coincidentally the year Park Square opened), and young people experiencing it for their first time. I want the walls to shake and for people to get up, dance, laugh and have a good time!”

THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW will be Toeplitz’s Park Square and Twin Cities directing debut. She has served as associate director for the national tours of DIRTY DANCING: THE CLASSIC STORY ON STAGE and A CHRISTMAS STORY: THE MUSICAL!, as well as being a Drama League Director’s Project Alum (2017 Leo Shull New Musicals Directing Fellow). “The whole night should feel like a party that’s been locked up in a time machine for years, begging to come out and play,” says Toeplitz. “It all culminates in Frank-N-Furter’s epic floor show, which has all the glitz of a David Bowie concert combined with all of the glam of an episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Audience participation is encouraged.”

In the campy, audaciously sexy story, naïve sweethearts Brad and Janet get a flat tire during a storm and seek shelter at the eerie mansion of Dr. Frank-N-Furter, a “sweet transvestite from transsexual Transylvania.” As their innocence is lost, Brad and Janet meet a houseful of wild characters. Through elaborate dances and rock songs, Frank-N-Furter unveils his latest scientific creation: a muscular man named “Rocky.”

What started as a stage musical in 1973 became a cult classic film starring Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon and Meat Loaf in 1975. Most recently, Fox remade the classic for the small screen starring black transgender activist Laverne Cox in the role of Dr. Frank-N-Furter (played by Tim Curry in the original).

Photo of an androgynous actor in black corset, gloves, and fishnet tights.

Gracie Anderson as Frank. Photo by Richard Fleischman.

The cast includes local favorites Gracie Anderson (Dr. Frank-N-Furter), Marcela Michelle (Narrator), Natalie Shaw (Janet), Ben Lohrberg (Brad), Randy Schmeling* (Riff Raff), Celena Vera Morgan (Columbia), Hope Nordquist (Magenta), Rush Benson* (Rocky), Cameron Reeves (Eddie), and Sara Ochs (Dr. Scott).

The Production team includes: Ashawnti Sakina Ford (Assistant Director Fellow), Andrew Fleser (Music Director), An-Lin Dauber (Set Designer), Peter Morrow (Sound Designer), Andrew Griffin (Light Designer), Foster Johns (Vocal Coach), Mary Capers (Assistant Wigs Design Fellow). *Member, Actors Equity Association

Ticket prices: Previews: $25-$37. Regular Run: $25-$55. 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.   #PSTRocky

SEASON TICKETS are on sale now.  Subscription package prices begin at $66.

CALENDAR INFORMATION

Previews: Sep 27 – Oct 3, 2019
Opening Night: Oct 4, 2019
Regular Run: Oct 4 – Nov 2, 2019

Tickets: Previews: $20-$37; Regular Run: $25-$55
The Ticket Office is open from noon to 5:00 pm Tuesday through Friday. Call 651.291.7005.

PHOTOS by Richard Fleischman parksquaretheatre.org/media/photos/

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

Statement against Sexual Harassment and Abuse

We, the staff of Park Square Theatre, wish to acknowledge the pain and suffering endured by the victims of sexual abuse during the 1970s and 80s as young students at the Children’s Theatre Company. We grieve the deep damage and destruction of life that has occurred in the wake of this abuse. As a part of the larger theatre community, we are grateful to the victims for their courageous fight to be heard and to help guide us to solutions for ways true healing can begin to occur.

We see survivors of harassment, abuse and trauma as strong, whole human beings and important partners in the work to create a positive and healthy theatrical culture. We promise to listen and learn from all that has happened and we offer our hand in any way we can be of help.

We recognize that Park Square Theatre, as an institution, has not until this time spoken out against the culture of complicit silence around sexual abuse that was the industry norm for generations. That silence has allowed those in positions of power to harass and abuse artists, technicians and staff who are dependent on them for work. We also recognize that our art form itself – with its depictions of human behaviors including romantic intimacy, and physical, emotional and sexual violence –  creates situations where abuse can occur. Therefore, it is our responsibility to promote policies and procedures that protect those who work at Park Square Theatre.

We are determined to continue to learn and make changes to improve our workplace culture. For our part, we wish to submit the following measures that we at Park Square plan to take to create a healthier climate in our own organization.

  • Continue to develop and improve our code of conduct, anti-harassment policies and practices.
  • Discuss our behavior expectations and policies at job orientations, first rehearsals, and start of technical rehearsals for all productions
  • Promote a culture where those who experience or observe harassment feel safe reporting it to company leadership.
  • Hire trained intimacy directors when a play’s content calls for it.
  • Participate in ongoing conversations about sexual abuse prevention within the greater Twin Cities and national theatre community.

In addition to these internal actions, Park Square and its staff will make a financial contribution and encourage others to contribute to the Memorial for Sexual Assault Survivors at Boom Island Park.

We are determined to make our practice and our spaces safe from harassment and abuse for all of us who create and contribute to the art of theatre. We will not tolerate harassment and abuse at Park Square Theatre.

2019-2020 Season opens with AUBERGINE

Park Square Theatre opens its 2019-2020 Theatre Season with the area premiere of Aubergine by Julia Cho — a poignant and lyrical new play

Saint Paul, Minn., July 29, 2019 – Park Square Theatre opens its 2019-2020 Theatre Season on the Andy Boss Trust Stage with the area premiere of Aubergine (SEPT 20 – OCT 20, 2019) by Julia Cho, author of The Language Archive. Aubergine will be directed by Park Square’s Artistic Director Flordelino Lagundino – his Park Square directing debut.

In this poignant and lyrical new play, a son cooks a meal for his dying father to say everything that words can’t. Since this first generation Korean American speaks English and only limited Korean, the making of a perfect meal is an expression more precise than language, and the medium through which his love gradually reveals itself.

“This was one of the most beautiful plays I have ever read,” says Flordelino. “When I encountered it for the first time, I felt it was the best play I had read by an Asian American author in the last ten years. The writing feels so personal. It is a humorous and sensitive play about memories, food, and a relationship fractured by the loss of native language and the distance created between families because of war and the resulting Korean diaspora.”

“This play is also personal to me and plays out in my own history” Flordelino continues. “My father is Filipino, I am Filipino-American. I don’t speak his dialect, Ilocano. This is something that immigrants from any country feel.  I also think it’s a fascinating exploration of men as caregivers since Ray’s father in the play is in hospice care. The personal aspects hit home.”

The cast includes, Sun Mee Chomet*, Shanan Custer, Song Kim, Glenn Kubota, Kurt Kwan*, and Darrick Mosley*.

The Production team includes: Lindsey Cacich Samples (Assistant Director Fellow), Deb O (Set Designer), Amber Brown (Costume Design), Matt Otto (Sound Designer), Karin Olson (Light Designer), Kenji Shoemaker (Properties Designer), Kathy Maxwell (Video Designer), Annie Enneking (Fitght Choreographer), Ruth Coughlin Lencowski (Vocal Coach), Akiem Scott (Assistant Sound Design Fellow), Maxwell Colliard (Assistant Video Design Fellow).

*Member, Actors Equity Association

Picture of a man in a chef jacket surrounded by vines and eggplants. Heading says "Nothing says love like a home-cooked meal."

Ticket prices: Previews: $20-$37. Regular Run: $25-$55. 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.   #PSTAubergine

TICKETS are on sale now.  Subscription package prices begin at $66.

CALENDAR INFORMATION

Previews: Sep 20 – Sep 26, 2019

Opening Night: Sep 27, 2019

Regular Run: Sep 27 – Oct 20, 2019

Tickets: Previews: $20-$37; Regular Run: $25-$55

Ticket office: 651.291.7005 or www.parksquaretheatre.org

The Ticket Office is open from noon to 5:00 pm Tuesday through Friday. Call 651.291.7005.

 

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

 

Park Square’s Love Affair with Mystery

Park Square’s Love Affair with Mystery – From Dial M For Murder to Rule of Thumb

Hercule Poirot, the well-known Belgian detective created by Agatha Christie, made his debut on the Park Square Theatre Proscenium Stage on July 19th along with a cast of intriguing (and often, wonderfully despicable) characters.  Agatha Christie: Rule of Thumb, by the much loved mystery writer unfolds in three intricate one-acts and runs through August 25!

E.J. Subkoviak, Michael Paul Levin and Derek Dirlam in Might as Well Be Dead: A Nero Wolfe Mystery, 2017.

Park Square has a long history of producing theatre from the diverse mystery canon, including Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery, Might as Well Be Dead: A Nero Wolfe Mystery, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, among others. Many of these plays were championed by our Mystery Writers Producers Club (MWPC), a devoted community of mystery genre lovers who help support our mystery show each season.

We reached out to Executive Director C. Michael-Jon Pease to talk about Park Square’s legacy of producing mystery plays and why our audiences love them.

What was the first mystery play ever produced at Park Square?

Picture of a newspaper article.

Review of Dial M for Murder, 1975.

Michael-Jon: Park Square produced its first mystery in its first season (Dial M For Murder, 1975), but didn’t produce one again until 1993 with Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap. Park Square rented the Historic Hamm Building Theatre (now our current Proscenium stage) for the first time for that production to test out the location with a “Summer on Seventh” promotion in partnership with the Ordway, the City’s Cultural STAR program and (this really dates you!), Dayton’s River Room Restaurant. The show was a hit and was extended, breaking all previous PST box office records. One of the company members from that show who really made a name for herself was Teresa Sterns, who became the project manager for huge nonprofit development projects like the Science Museum of Minnesota, the new “M” (Minnesota Museum of American Art) as well as more modest projects like Park Square’s Andy Boss Stage.

Bob Davis in Spider's Web

Bob Davis in Spider’s Web, 2009.

This year’s Rule of Thumb is only the third time we’ve produced Agatha Christie, the last time was in 2009 with Spider’s Web, which also featured Bob Davis — as the murder victim.

Why do you think mystery plays are so popular?

Michael-Jon: Mystery fans tell us that they really enjoy the mental stimulation of keeping up with the clues and trying to outwit the detective. It’s also delicious when the production reveals something to the audience that it hasn’t yet been revealed to the characters themselves. Don’t be fooled though, those clues might be red herrings. A period mystery has the added layer of putting the audience in another place and time when the social and environmental cues were so different from today. We often put “Easter eggs” in a production for true fans or history buffs to find. For example, in The Red Box, the paintings on set were the exact images described in the books as being in Nero Wolfe’s study. Following one of those performances, there was a lively debate about the clue of masking tape; the audience member insisted that masking tape hadn’t been invented then. Thanks to a 3M employee who was in the audience, however, we didn’t even need to resort to Google to learn the exact year when the St Paul Company introduced masking tape.

We do sometimes get caught out by a sharp eye, however. During that same production of The Red Box, one fan noticed that the telephone cord was a few years off of the time period.

With the exception of 2012, each of the last 11 seasons has included a mystery, usually in the summer. The mystery genre has also inspired three commissions: The Red Box and Might As Well Be Dead (both Nero Wolfe adaptations by Joseph Goodrich) and Sherlock Holmes and the Ice Palace Murders by Jeffrey Hatcher, adapted from Larry Millett’s novel about Sherlock in Minnesota. So far, nearly 80,000 people have seen mysteries at Park Square and they have definitely become our answer to A Christmas Carol – a fun, intergenerational outing for families, literature and mystery fans. I remember when the movie Murder on the Orient Express came out starring Albert Finney as Poirot in 1974 when I was just 7. That was our family outing for Mother’s Day and my very first mystery. I was hooked!

Get tickets to Agatha Christie: Rule of Thumb HERE.

rule-of-thumb-220-by-richard-fleischman.

Audrey Park, Bob Davis and Rajané Katurah in Rule of Thumb, 2019.

Coming Summer of 2020 – Holmes and Watson. Sherlock Holmes is dead, or is he? Dr. Watson receives a telegram from a mental asylum: three patients are claiming to be Sherlock Holmes. Did the world’s greatest sleuth fake his own death? Who’s the real detective and who are the impostors? Tight, clever and full of suspense, this is Jeffrey Hatcher (Sherlock Holmes and the Ice Palace Murders, Mr. Holmes) at his best. Season Tickets available now.

Interview by Rebecca Nichloson.

Kelly and Ryan of Jefferson Township Speak Out!

Jefferson Township Sparkling Junior Talent Pageant is the show Twin Cities theatergoers and critics can’t get enough of! This bold, irrelevant musical satire opened on Park Square’s Boss Stage on June 21, and audiences have been raving about it every since. The story centers on protagonist Frannie Foster Wallace, an angsty Millennial who returns to her small town after living in the “Big City” and must re-define what it means to truly succeed. Through side-splitting humor, catchy songs and zany dance moves this dynamic new work touches the heart and inspires a deeper appreciation for the joys of small town life.

We reached out to actors Kelly Houlehan and Ryan London Levin, who play Frannie and Liam, in the musical, to talk about their experiences as a performers in this wildly entertaining story and how the play— with its edgy, evocative themes— may be the beginning of more theatre that appeals to audiences under 30.

Actors dressed in grocery store uniforms. They look devious.

Ryan London Levin and Kelly Houlehan. Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma.

Now that you’re performing the show regularly before a live audience, is there a different energy to the songs?

Kelly: This show really has a fifth cast member — the audience! In a comedy like Jefferson Township, we can really feel the energy of the audience as the show unfolds. Plus the Boss Stage is so intimate. People who have seen the show often ask if it’s exhausting to carry a full musical with only four actors and my response to that is no. The energy of the audience carries us through the show; you can tell how much they want to see what will happen next, so you just let it overflow out of you.

Ryan: I tell ya, it feels so good to have this show in front of people! Doing the show in rehearsals can be a bit daunting because we don’t really know how the public will react. We had some idea during the Minnesota Fringe run, but the show is longer now and characters have been developed more — we cut jokes and added jokes, fixed and shuffled plot points, and added songs. Now that we’re open, hearing people laugh and cheer the characters on is incredibly rewarding. One night we had the entire audience laughing so hard you couldn’t hear the song.

There’s been a ton of buzz about Jefferson, why do you think audiences love it so much?

Ryan: The music is incredible. Keith Hovis is not only a clever lyricist, but also a wonderful composer — all the songs are super catchy and energetic. It’s not your typical style of musical theater either (it’s a mixture of pop, rock, folk, and country) and I think it’s musically accessible to everyone; audiences leave with a different tune stuck in their head. I also think the show is a great escape from the stressful world we live in. Sure, it has commentary on Millennial life, but the struggles of being young and trying to achieve success is the story of every generation. The show is pure joy and the characters are lovable and relatable. Anyone of any age can find something to take away from Jefferson.

Kelly: The piece is just really good! The music is phenomenal. The characters are funny, heartfelt and are pushed to grow. The story is interesting and surprising and the comedy is intelligent.  A lot of theatres only produce dated musicals, and a modern musical about modern people and the issues they face is incredibly exciting and relatable (even if you’re not a Millennial). Hopefully, we’ll see more work that tells new, contemporary stories.

 Talk about any special moment you’ve had with an audience member since the opening?

Kelly: This show surprises people. They often aren’t sure exactly what they’re getting themselves into when they sit down, but by the end they’ve been on this journey with these four characters and now they know them so well and they love them! The most common response I get is, ‘Wow! I’m blown away and I’m coming back and bringing my — parents, sister, boyfriend, daughter, best friend’, etc. They just love it.”

Ryan: HA! I’ve had a lot of special moments with the audience while performing the show. The Andy Boss Stage is great because it’s so intimate, which allows the actors to connect with everyone easily. My character goes through a wild journey and it’s not hard to see and hear all the reactions of the room. I LOVE seeing people react to the crazy stuff I do on stage, but by the end of the show I can see people tear up which is really sweet. As silly as this show can be, it also has a ton of heart. Sometimes we even get choked up singing the closing number of show.

Watch this studio session of Kelly and Ryan singing Sparkling Junior Champion.

Jefferson Township runs through July 28. Tickets at https://bit.ly/2HLGzZ0.

Interview by Rebecca Nichloson

Meet Leslie and Zach of Jefferson Township

Meet Leslie and Zach of Jefferson Township

Jefferson Township’s Delightful Journey from the Minnesota Fringe Festival to Park Square Theatre: Conversations with Actors Leslie Vincent and Zach Garcia

An irreverent, bold musical satire about a talent show in a small town opened Friday, June 21 on Park Square’s Boss stage. Jefferson Township Sparkling Junior Talent Pageant, a new play about a pageant competition in rural Jefferson Township, tells the story of Frannie Foster Wallace — a thirty-something who must come to terms with her own personal failures after moving back to her  hometown. We reached out to Leslie Vincent and Zach Garcia, who play “Val” and “Travis” in the show, to talk about what it was like developing this musical comedy at Park Square after its first premiere at The Minnesota Fringe Festival in 2017.

Jefferson Township was first presented at the Minnesota Fringe Festival and has gone through an extensive workshop process here at Park Square. How has it and you, as performers and theatre makers, evolved along with it?

Leslie: The production value that Park Square can add to a piece really makes it special. This version has so many elements that we couldn’t pull off in a Fringe setting. The costumes, lights, and set we have now are magical. I’ve grown so much during this process. I’ve become a more flexible, confident, and joyful performer. I’ve learned to take wild risks with abandon because it’s more fun that way. When I’m out there on stage, singing Keith’s beautiful harmonies or cracking one of his jokes, I’m truly in heaven.

Headshot of actor Zach GarciaZach: In a Fringe festival setting, we had to challenge the audience to suspend their disbelief with certain plot points and character relationships due to the confinement of time. With this full-length version of the play, it felt great to evolve and deepen our characters, their relationships to each other and their stories. The cast has lived with these characters for two years, and to begin to adjust and refine the way we think about them was the biggest thrill and challenge in this workshop process.

What is the most important takeaway for the show (how do you want the audience to feel when they leave the theatre)?

Leslie:  I hope people can feel a sense of camaraderie with us. Everyone feels lost in their lives at some point. Everyone struggles with life’s unexpected shifts. These characters are over the top, but at the end of the day their struggle to find success and meaning in their lives isn’t that far-fetched.

Zach: I hope the audience walks away feeling that they’re exactly where they’re supposed to be in life. The beautiful thing about Keith’s writing is that he works with universal themes that span generations. Everybody has felt anxiety or uncertainty about where they are or what they are supposed to have accomplished by a certain point. My sincere hope is that every audience member can leave the theater knowing that it’s okay to not have all the answers and to remember to laugh their way through their own journey.

What character in the story do you most identify with and why?

Headshot of actor Leslie Vincent

Leslie Vincent

Leslie:  “Val” was written with me in mind, so obviously I most identify with her (#TEAMVAL). I love her brashness, wit, determination, and fearlessness. I also love all of my costumes — I want to wear more hot pink track suits in my day-to-day life.

Zach: The greatest gift in my career has been working with Keith, who writes stories specifically for the actor in that role.  “Travis” was loosely based on me and my life. He has a huge heart, is immensely loyal and cherishes the people close to him; I relate to all of these qualities. I spent a large portion of my childhood in rural Wisconsin. I know the pleasure of kicking it on the back of a truck bed with friends or hanging out in a parking lot. Another huge link to me is the role of being a father. When we first performed this piece at the Fringe Festival two years ago, my wife and I had just begun the discussion about starting a family. Fast forward to now and we’ve welcomed our son Oliver — three days before we went into rehearsals at Park Square!  Art imitates life I guess.

Tickets for Jefferson Township Sparkling Junior Talent Pageant are available HERE!

Picture of girl putting a tiara on her head and looking surprised.Interview by Rebecca Nichloson, Marketing Manager.

Flying Foot Forum Returns to Park Square

Flying Foot Forum Returns to Park Square

HEAVEN

Flying Foot Forum’s emotional, dance filled musical returns

MEDIA CONTACT
Connie Shaver, shaver@parksquaretheatre.org

Park Square Theatre and Flying Foot Forum present Heaven, on the Proscenium stage from May 31 through June 23, 2019. Created and directed by Joe Chvala, H

EAVEN is a choreographic blend of frenzied dancing, music and theatre set in war-torn Bosnia during the 1990s. The production features Orkestar Bez Ime, a Balkan party band, music by Chan Poling (The Suburbs, Glensheen) Joe Chvala, Victor Zupanc, and Natalie Nowytski, and actors who sing and speak in English and Serbo-Croatian as this story steeped in history celebrates the Bosnian culture and the dignity of those who lived through the war.

Heaven was first presented in March 2011 at the Guthrie’s Dowling Theatre. That production was ironically timed as the Arab Spring uprising was engulfing Egypt. Chvala is finding the messages of the play are as timely today as they were in 2011.

“Heaven is a show of sharp contrasts, filled with beautiful music, love stories and raucous dancing, as it brings us inside the violence of the Bosnian War,” said Chvala. “It is a cautionary tale of the need to find common ground rather than fight those who are different from us.”

The play begins in a café, the crowd singing Bosnian songs. Photo journalist Peter Adamson is documenting the war and is frustrated that his photos are not prompting the world to take action. He finds himself on a journey with his translator Faruk to save Faruk’s wife. Amid the horrors of war, there is humor, love and hope as the characters try to maintain their humanity. “This is theater that grabs you by the shoulders and shakes you in your seat.” (How Was the Show)

The production is enriched by a series of public events created in partnership by Park Square Theatre, Flying Foot Forum, World Without Genocide, The St Paul Rotary Club and the Minneapolis University Rotary Club to take audiences into the heart of the Bosnian War, genocide and through the transitional justice efforts that have followed in the decades since the war ended. Next up:

Exhumations and Justice

Post-show conversation following the Sunday, June 16 performance

A discussion following the performance will be led by Dr. Andrew Baker, Hennepin County Medical Examiner, who served as a forensic pathologist in Kosovo.

Sex Trafficking and Genocide

Film The Whistleblower and FBI talk on sex trafficking

Tuesday, June 11, 7:00 p.m.
Mitchell Hamline School of Law, 875 Summit Avenue, St. Paul

This 2010 biographical crime drama starring Rachel Weisz and Vanessa Redgrave is the story of Kathryn Bolkovac, a Nebraska police officer recruited as a UN peacekeeper for DynCorp International in post-war Bosnia in 1999. While there, she discovered a sex trafficking ring serving (and facilitated by) DynCorp employees, with the UN’s SFOR peacekeeping force turning a blind eye. A post-film talk will be moderated by FBI Special Agent Michael Melcher of the sex trafficking unit.

 

The production team for Heaven includes Emma Lai (Assistant Director); Jake Endres (Music Director); Robin Mcintyre (Scenic Design); Cindy Forsgren (Costume Design); Kirby Moore (Properties Design); Marcus Dilliard (Lighting Design); Cody Anderson (Sound Design); Steve Campbell (Video Design); Stela O’Center (Language and Culture Consultant); Joe Papke (Dialect Coach); Rachel Lantow *(Stage Manager);and Paran Kashani (Assistant Stage Manager)

CAST:

Jeremy Bensussan

Jan Campbell

Joe Chvala

Peter Colburn

Michelle de Joya

Ariel Donahue

Kevin Dustrude

Mary Gantenbein

Karla Grotting

Liam Hage

Christian LaBissoniere

Cooper Lajeunesse

Helena Magalhaes

Riley McNutt

Natalie Nowytski

Charles Robison

Jessica Staples

Molly Stoltz

Nicolas Sullivan

Lara Trujillo

Eric Webster

Joe Weismann

Mabel Weismann

 

BAND

Colleen Bertsch

Jeffrey Gram

Jake Endres

Scott Keever

Eric Ray

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.   #PSTHeaven

*Member, Actors Equity Association

CALENDAR INFORMATION

Heaven

Park Square’s Proscenium Stage

Previews: May 31 – June 6, 2019

Opening Night: June 7

Regular Run: June 7 – 23, 2019

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

 

UP NEXT ON THE PARK SQUARE PROSCENIUM STAGE:

The world premiere of:

Jefferson Township Sparkling Junior Talent Pageant

Book and Lyrics by Keith Hovis

Directed by and Laura Leffler

Previews: June 14 – 20, 2019

Opening Night: June 21

Regular Run: June 21 – July 28, 2019

 

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

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Stars of MARIE AND ROSETTA to play the Dakota!

On April 21st, Jamecia Bennett and Rajané Katurah Brown will return to the Dakota Jazz Club for a one-night-only performance of the music from Park Square’s hit production Marie and Rosetta, a tribute to gospel and rock legend, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and her protege Marie Knight.

In the play, Sister Rosetta states, “I brought a little church to the nightclub, and a little nightclub to the church,” making it a perfect show for a family outing on Easter Sunday.

Sunday April 21. 7:00 pm
Dakota Jazz Club
1010 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis
For tickets visit www.dakotacooks.com

Jamecia Bennett and Rajané Katurah Brown at The Dakota in January 2019. Photo by Connie Shaver.

“Stars from Sister Rosetta Tharpe play adapt wonderfully to the Dakota”
Star Tribune

Bringing fierce guitar playing and swing to gospel music, Sister Rosetta Tharpe influenced rock musicians from Elvis to Jimi Hendrix and Ray Charles. Jamecia Bennett (lead singer of Sounds of Blackness) and Rajané Katurah Brown (Star Tribune “9 Artists to Watch in 2019”) present an a tribute not to be missed!