News Alert

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.