News Alert

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.

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

Park Square’s Mystery Writers Producers Club

Park Square's Mystery Writers Producers Club

Executive Director C. Michael-Jon Pease on How It All Began in 2012 — Over Dinner!

Agatha Christie: Rule of Thumb, a well-crafted and newly discovered theatre piece comprised of three chilling one-acts, will grace our Proscenium Stage on July 12 and will run through August 25. Agatha Christie was an incredibly prolific creative writer and dramatist, having authored dozens of short stories and plays throughout her wildly successful career. A master of the mystery genre and all its complexity, most of her works delve into dark themes, such as revenge, betrayal, love triangles and of course — murder! All of these ingredients make for a perfect evening of edge-of-your seat theatre, which we’re excited to bring you this summer and early fall.

As the opening of Rule of Thumb fast approaches, we thought this would be an excellent time to reach out to Executive Director C. Michael-Jon Pease to get the scoop on why the mystery genre is so popular with Minnesota theatregoers and around the world. We also got some insights into the history of Park Square’s own Mystery Writer’s Producers Club (MWPC), a devoted community of mystery genre aficionados who help support our mystery show each season.

C. Michael-Jon: The MWPC started in 2012 when Richard Cook and I invited Robyn Hansen and John Clarey to dinner and asked them to make a major investment in our commission of The Red Box, a Nero Wolfe Mystery, adapted from the novel by Rex Stout by Joseph Goodrich. We knew John was a major Rex Stout fan and was coming up on a significant birthday. What a great present — to underwrite the commission in his name. But Robyn and John had a better idea (and, to be fair, they had just made a huge commitment to help us build the Andy Boss Stage).

“I always think it’s more fun to get your friends involved, especially since theatre is so social,” John said. Then Robyn quickly followed up with, “What if we create a club and ask each member to contribute? We’ll probably raise more money than any one of us could give. And what if we promise to do all the legwork so that it’s no more work on the staff than taking us to dinner?”

The club was born and has quickly grown to more than 40 households, who each contribute $1,000 annually. They are truly a social bunch who love to get together for potlucks or pre-show dinners, trade novels and scripts, and meet with artists behind the scenes. They are also really smart and we’ve come to rely on them as allies in the work, not just donors.

MWPC members have volunteered to proof drafts of new commissions for typos; sit in on dress rehearsals looking for continuity problems; and even hunt down hard to find items or information. During an early scene reading for Might As Well Be Dead, the playwright’s wife was reading the part of the father who first comes to Nero Wolfe with the case. The group loved her style and agreed that it would be more natural for the missing man’s mother to seek out the great detective. A few edits later (and a quick call to the Rex Stout estate to get permission to change the character) and Austene Van wound up playing the role of the mother in our production. I think the relationships among the members and the deep relationship with the theatre as a whole has kept the group vital and growing.

Interview by Rebecca Nichloson, Marketing Manager

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.