News Alert


A Pride and Prejudice Director’s Note from Lisa Channer

I’m not sure how I avoided her for so long but until Park Square artistic director Flordelino sent me Kate Hamill’s adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, I had never cracked a Jane Austen book. Ever. Not even Pride and Prejudice. I did not know what I was missing all those years! Her portrayals of family dynamics, gender, marriage and class through witty recognizable characters makes her not only entertaining but timeless and feminist.

That this play is funny is undeniable, but it is the desperate stakes of their world that roots all the humor and sets the context in which these characters play out their decisions. With no brothers to inherit the family home the Bennet women face the prospect of poverty, homelessness and desperation if they can’t “win” husbands. But also, for a woman in Regency era England, marriage meant “civil death” in which she ceases to be a separate human being with individual autonomous rights. Tough choice. Poverty or Erasure? And lest we congratulate our modern world too quickly, as recently as 1972 my own mother was unable to apply for a bank account in her own name without a husband’s signature and we still do not have an Equal Rights Amendment. And so Jane Austen remains current.

As I laugh at these brilliant characters in the hands of these talented actors, I am reminded of the great 17th century French playwright Molière. Like Molière, Austen is a genius of comedic social commentary, pointing out preposterous
social rules with a pen as sharp as a knife.

-Lisa Channer, director of Pride and Prejudice

Tickets and Information



Park Square Theatre pauses to right-size and roll out a new vision by its new leader

Saint Paul, Minn., October 29, 2019 – To better serve its stakeholders, Park Square Theatre has made the difficult decision to revise its season and cancel its planned productions of the major musicals EVITA and MISS YOU LIKE HELL.

Financial challenges, brought on by less than expected ticket sales and fundraising shortfalls, led to this difficult decision. “Park Square is taking this valuable opportunity to regroup so that we may become a stronger organization and meet the needs of the Twin Cities theater community,” states artistic director Flordelino Lagundino. “This was a very difficult decision to make as it causes hardships, especially to the artists working with us. As an actor and director, I do not take lightly the impact it has on the talented people I came to Minnesota to work with.”

Lagundino further states Park Square is working towards a healthy business model that supports stellar artistry for appreciative audiences. “It is a natural pattern for a 47-year-old theater to evolve, and this is part of that maturation process.”

The Park Square Theatre’s nine-show season continues with THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW and PAIGE IN FULL, both of which close this week. Upcoming productions include:  PRIDE AND PREJUDICE by Kate Hamill (Nov 15 – Dec 22, 2019); FACE TO FACE: OUR HMONG COMMUNITY with Ping Chong + Co. (Mar 5 – 15, 2020); HOLMES AND WATSON by Jeffrey Hatcher (Jun 12 – Jul 26, 2020); and a remount of MARIE AND ROSETTA by George Brandt (Dates TBD).

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Your help is needed at this critical time. Make a donation today HERE.

Purchase tickets to Pride and Prejudice HERE.

For questions regarding subscriptions and ticketing, email




Neal Beckman, Sara Richardson, China Brickey and Kiara Jackson in Pride and Prejudice. Photo by Richard Fleischman.

Park Square Theatre rings in the winter holidays with its first ever production of a Jane Austen novel with the regional premiere of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE (Nov 15 – Dec 22, 2019) adapted from the classic by Kate Hamill (SENSE AND SENSIBILITY, LITTLE WOMEN) and directed by Lisa Channer in her Park Square debut. This clever comedy offers a decidedly progressive take on the trials of Lizzy, Mr. Darcy, and the whole Bennet clan, with a few dance breaks thrown in for good measure.

“I love it because of the emphasis on the actor and the emphasis on theatricality,” says Park Square Theatre Artistic Director, Flordelino Lagundino. “Many of the actors play multiple roles and there is a sense of joy and abandon. Like the original Austen, it also gets to the depths of what it means to really fight for love and family.”

Many consider Austen to be one of the early feminist writers. To fully mine the gender politics of Austen’s most famous story, Hamill has constructed the role doubling in such a way that some characters have to be played by an actor of the opposite gender. Neal Beckman, for example, plays both Mr. Bingley and Bennet sister Mary, while McKenna Kelly-Eiding, who delighted audiences as Sherlock Holmes in KEN LUDWIG’S BASKERVILLE, plays the bumbling Mr. Collins and the dastardly Wickham.

Hamill also plays on the idea of the “perfect match,” by constructing the action like a game and or military strategy. “As I was writing, I started thinking about when you meet someone and you fall in love or something happens that changes your life beyond your control, and I wanted a way to make that more tangible. So, I thought bells are things you can’t ignore—church bells, wedding bells, alarm bells, door bells—they let us know something has changed, and I wanted to incorporate those in the script. So, every time something happens beyond the character’s control, something happens with a bell.”

Channer sets this decidedly frolicsome world as a play within a play. The entire proscenium stage will be open to the back wall with no side curtains, allowing the audience to see the actors preparing “offstage” for their next time in the “ring” which serves as the playing space.

The cast includes Sara Richardson* (Jane, Miss De Bourgh), China Brickey* (Lizzy), Kiara Jackson* (Lydia), Paul Rutledge (Mr. Darcy), McKenna Kelly-Eiding (Mr. Collins, Wickham), Neal Beckman (Mr. Bingley, Mary), Alex Galick* (Charlotte, Mr. Bennet), George Keller* (Mrs. Bennet).

The Production team includes:  Ruth Coughlin Lencowski (Vocal Coach), Annie Katsura Rollins (Scenic Designer), Sonya Berlovitz (Costume Design), Dan Dukich (Sound Designer), Karin Olsen (Lighting Designer), Josephine Everett (Properties Designer), Scott Stafford (Choreographer) Tim Komatsu (Park Square Theatre Dramaturgy Fellow), Rachael Rhoades (Advance Stage Manager), Megan Fae Dougherty (Production Stage Manager) Jaya Robillard (Assistant Stage Manager), Rane Oganowski (Wardrobe) Charlotte Deranek (Sound Board Operator)  *Member, Actors Equity Association

Ticket prices: Previews: $27-$37. Regular Run: $40-$60. Discounts are available for students, 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, (Noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday), or online at   #PSTAusten   SEASON TICKETS are on sale now.  Subscription package prices begin at $66.


Previews: Nov 15 – 21, 2019

Opening Night: Nov 22, 2019

Regular Run: Nov 22 – Dec 22, 2019

Tickets: Previews: $20-$37; Regular Run: $25-$65

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

Ticket office: 651.291.7005 or


Participation Packs add to the fun at ROCKY HORROR!

On stage through Nov 2, including two special performances at 6:00 pm and 10:30 pm on Halloween!

Still need a ticket? Buy The Rocky Horror Show tickets HERE!

Audience participation is part of the fun at The Rocky Horror Show! The help you join in the revelry, we’ve put together participation packs that guide you to the level of interaction that feels right to you! The kits are available for purchase at the bar prior to the show, for just $5! While every region and fandom has there own signature jokes and audience callbacks, we’ve included the most classic and important props to support participation. Look for members of the cast, particularly the narrator, to demonstrate how to use the props throughout the show!

Park Square Theatre Participation Kit for Rocky Horror Show in order of use:

Confetti To throw at newlyweds Ralph Hapschatt and Betty Munroe at the beginning of the show. Many fans will bring rice, but our kit uses paper shredding for better effect/easier clean-up!

Newspaper When Brad and Janet are caught in the storm, Janet covers her head with a newspaper, and you should do the same.

Water gun To mimic the rainstorm Brad and Janet are caught in. Good thing you have a newspaper on your head! (be sure to fill-up your water gun before you head into the theatre!)

Tea Light Light up the place during the “There’s a light” verse of Over at the Frankenstein Place. Refrain from using lighters — you have a newspaper on your head!

Rubber Glove During and after the creation speech, Frank snaps his rubber gloves three times. Do the same in sync each time for an awesome sound effect.

Noisemakers At the end of the creation speech, the Transylvanians respond with applause and noisemakers. Go for it.

Bubbles At the end of the I Can Make You a Man (the Charles Atlas song) reprise, the Transylvanians blow bubbles as Rocky and Frank head toward the bedroom.

Toilet paper When Dr. Scott enters the lab, Brad cries out “Great Scott!” That’s your cue to toss rolls of toilet paper!

Playing card During the song I’m Going Home, Frank sings “Cards for sorrow, cards for pain.” Let the cards fly.


Have fun using your Participation Packs! Remember, they are available for purchase at the bar prior to the performance for $5!

Still need a ticket? Buy The Rocky Horror Show tickets HERE!

On stage through Nov 2, including two special performances at 6:00 pm and 10:30 pm on Halloween!


What is behind PAIGE IN FULL?

An Artist Statement from Paige Hernandez

Paige Hernandez in Paige in Full.

“With PIF (Paige in Full), I aimed to create what I wanted to see on stage: a positive story from a woman of color that is both uplifting and insightful. The show needed to blur cultural lines with infectious music, choreography that moved the story forward, poems that defied structure, accessible emotion, and a strong narrative of love, pain, and triumph.

I wanted a story that would help to reclaim the positive energy that hip hop was once known to create. I wanted a story that was all at once international, and “around the way”. Lastly, I wanted a story for little girls of color. I want them to know that no matter where they fall in the rainbow, their voice is interesting, unique and needs to be heard.

I credit a lot of the show’s inspiration to my younger brother and collaborator, Nick tha 1da. He gave me a CD of his beats and my creative wheels started turning. The music inspired 20+ characters, 18 poems, 7 live music (DJ) sets and 8 dance routines.

Theater needs a jolt of fresh air. Its audience isn’t getting any younger and its topics can’t compete with social media, technology and the current racial climate. The hip hop experience has evolved from records to cassettes; cds, to ipods; and now to the stage. Enjoy the visual mix tape.”


Still image from Paige in Full.

Ticket prices $16-$30. Tickets are on sale at the Park Square Ticket Office, 20 W. Seventh Place, downtown Saint Paul, by phone: 651.291.7005, (12 noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday), or online at   #PSTPaige



Paige Hernandez in Paige in Full.

Park Square Theatre announces a special one-week only presentation of PAIGE IN FULL by Paige Hernandez on the Boss Stage (Friday, Oct 25 – Sunday, Oct 27). This unique experience blends poetry, dance, media and music to share a multicultural girl’s journey through hip-hop to self-discovery. Since its premiere in 2010, this “visual mix-tape” has sold out performances throughout the country and garnered praise from critics and audiences alike for its energy, intelligence, and originality.  In addition to just three public performances, the show will play to schools at special weekday matinees.

“With Paige in Full, I aimed to create what I wanted to see on stage: a positive story from a woman of color that is both uplifting and insightful,” says creator Paige Hernandez.  “The show needed to blur cultural lines with infectious music, choreography that moved the story forward, poems that defied structure, accessible emotion, and a strong narrative of love, pain, and triumph. I wanted a story that would help to reclaim the positive energy that hip hop was once known to create. Lastly, I wanted a story for little girls of color. I want them to know that no matter where they fall in the rainbow, their voice is interesting, unique and needs to be heard.”

Paige Hernandez* (writer, choreographer, and performer) is a multifaceted artist, who is known for her innovative fusion of poetry, hip hop, dance and education. As a master teaching artist, Paige has taught throughout the country, to all ages, in all disciplines. The Huffington Post named Paige a “classroom hero” because of her outstanding arts integration and work with STEM initiatives. She has collaborated with The Lincoln Center (NY) and was commissioned by the National New Play Network in 2012.

The show is directed by Danielle A. Drakes* with live beats and sound design by Nick tha 1da.

*Member, Actors Equity Association

Ticket prices $16-$30. Tickets are on sale at the Park Square Ticket Office, 20 W. Seventh Place, downtown Saint Paul, by phone: 651.291.7005, (12 noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday), or online at   #PSTPaige


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Monsters and Mainstream Tension in ROCKY HORROR


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


Let’s do the Time Warp Again!

Let's do the Time Warp Again!

Naughty Fun in the Era of Trans Rights and #MeToo

Media Contact – Connie Shaver 

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   #PSTRocky

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


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

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

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.


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.