Park Square Announces 45th Season

Park Square Announces 45th Season

First Season for new Artistic Director Flordelino Lagundino Features Big Scale, Big Heart, Three Musicals and One World Premiere


Connie Shaver,


Saint Paul, Minn., Feb. 14, 2019 – Park Square Theatre announced its 45th theatre season for 2019-2020 today. This is the first season to be created by Artistic Director Flordelino Lagundino, who took the reins of the theatre on August 1, 2018, after a national search. Flordelino will direct two shows in his first season, both by Korean American playwrights: AUBERGINE by Julia Cho and UN (the completely true story of the rise of Kim Jong Un) by John Kim.

Flordelino is building on Park Square’s commitment to new work with regional premieres, as well as one world premiere. He is also continuing former Artistic Director Richard Cook’s legacy of guaranteeing that every season includes at least one directing debut by introducing Park Square audiences to nationally recognized directors Mark Valdez, Ilana Ransom Toeplitz and Madeline Sayet, as well as local powerhouses Marcela Lorca and Lisa Channer.

“I wanted my first season to have an emphasis on community and to show as many people as possible that they have a place at Park Square and that they belong here,” said Flordelino. “I’ve been listening carefully to our community my first five months in town and am working to provide us all with stories that uplift, entertain, prod, and ultimately help us understand each other as fellow humans. And I think this is a moment in time when we all need to get up and dance!”

The season opens with that exact counterpoint: a delicious human drama on the Boss and plenty of dance moves on the Proscenium.

First on the Boss Stage will be the area premiere of AUBERGINE (Sept 20 – Oct 20, 2019) by Julia Cho, author of The Language archive, directed by Flordelino Lagundino. 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.”

The season continues on the Park Square Proscenium Stage 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. “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!”

Ilana Ransom Toeplitz

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.”

A special one-week only presentation of PAIGE IN FULL by Paige Hernandez will take to the Boss Stage (Oct 25– 27, 2019). 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.

Paige in Full

Warren Bowles

Park Square will offer just one weekend of general audience performances of its critically acclaimed production of Lorraine Hansberry’s A RAISIN IN THE SUN, directed by Warren Bowles (Boss Stage, Dec 6-8, 2019), with student matinees playing (Nov 18 – Dec 20, 2019).

Lisa Channer

For the holidays on the Proscenium Stage, Park Square continues its tradition of “counter programming” by featuring the regional premiere of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE (Nov 15 – Dec 22, 2019) adapted from the Jane Austen 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 Flordelino. “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.”

Mark Valdez

2020 kicks off on the Proscenium with a brand-new take on the Broadway musical EVITA by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Weber, directed by Mark Valdez in his Park Square debut with musical direction by Denise Prosek and choreography by Joe Chvala (Jan 17 – Mar 1, 2020). “Mark is blowing the dust off this classic,” says Flordelino. “He is taking on how populism meets politics. What does it take to rise up in today’s society and make a name for yourself? And at what cost do we make our way up the ladder of success and power in any political environment?”

Valdez, who directs frequently at Mixed Blood Theatre, just received the Americans for the Arts 2019 Johnson Fellowship for Artists Transforming Communities, a $65,000 award that will help Mark continue his ground-breaking work in community-based theatre engagement.

The world premiere of UN (the completely true story of Kim Jong Un) by John Kim (Feb 7 – Mar 1, 2020) will be directed by Flordelino Lagundino, who was involved in the early development of the play at Pan Asian Rep in New York City. The play is a hilarious, irreverent, and brutal take on the life and rise to power of Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. It chronicles his life as teen who loves basketball, Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, through the shaping of his mythology as the Supreme Leader. “John Kim and I have known each other for about 20 years,” shares Flordelino. “We met when I directed him in David Henry Hwang’s THE SOUND OF A VOICE when John was an undergrad actor at George Mason University. His script looks at the often-insane ways in which power is given and taken, and how the western world looks and frames power from countries that do not share its Eurocentric origins.”

FACE TO FACE: OUR HMONG COMMUNITY (Boss Stage, Mar 5 – 15, 2020) is a first-ever partnership between Park Square and the internationally-renowned Ping Chong + Company, a New York-based leader in innovative community-based theatre engagement. FACE TO FACE will be a community-specific, interview-based theater piece examining issues of culture and identity within Saint Paul’s vibrant Hmong Community. This original play will feature members from the Hmong community that will tell their stories – in their own words. “Minnesota has crossed an important and exciting cultural threshold,” says Executive Director Michael-jon Pease, “with more state legislators named ‘Xiong’ than ‘Johnson.’ This project is a way to explore the many facets of a community who are woven into our Minnesota fabric.”

“FACE TO FACE is a larger series of theatre-based engagement projects which lifts up different parts of our community so that we all can know each other just a little bit better,” says Flordelino.

Marcela Lorca

The community spirit continues with the Midwest premiere of MISS YOU LIKE HELL by Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Quiara Alegría Hudes (ELLIOT, A SOLDIER’S FUGUE, WATER BY THE SPOONFUL, In the Heights) and acclaimed, genre-breaking singer/songwriter Erin McKeown (Apr 17 – May 17, 2020). Marcela Lorca is directing. The musical recently played Off-Broadway at The Public Theater in 2018, where it was nominated for five Drama Desk Awards, including Best Lyrics, Best Music and Best Orchestrations.

After living estranged from each other for years, 16-year old Olivia and her mom, an undocumented immigrant on the verge of deportation, embark on a road trip that crosses state lines. Together they meet Americans of different backgrounds, shared dreams, and complicated truths in this powerful new show with vast heart and fierce humor.

Michael Evan Haney

Summer in Saint Paul kicks off on the Proscenium Stage with Jeffrey Hatcher’s twisting, tantalizing mystery HOLMES AND WATSON (Jun 12 – Jul 26, 2020) directed by Michael Evan Haney. Sherlock Holmes has been dead three years when Dr. Watson receives a message from a mental asylum: three patients are claiming to be Sherlock Holmes. Did the world’s greatest sleuth fake his own death? Who is the real detective and who are the imposters? “Jeffrey is a local playwrighting legend,” says Flordelino. “This mystery is Hatcher at his best. The writing is driving, taut, and will keep you on the edge of your seat.” Director Michael Evan Haney will make his Park Square directing debut. “Jeffrey Hatcher has built his play upon one of the most famous mysteries in English Literature—the death? (Disappearance?) of Sherlock Holmes at Reichenbach Falls” added Haney. “ He has created a Rubik’s Cube of a plot in HOLMES AND WATSON—a fast paced 90 minutes of suspense, mystery and thrills.”

The summer fun continues with guillotines and a cry for liberty on the Boss Stage with the regional premiere of THE REVOLUTIONISTS by Lauren Gunderson (Jun 19 – Jul 19, 2020). Four badass women lose their heads in this irreverent, woman-powered comedy set during the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror. Playwright Olympe de Gouges, assassin Charlotte Corday, former queen (and fan of ribbons) Marie Antoinette, and Haitian rebel Marianne Angelle hang out, murder Marat, and try to beat back the extremist insanity in 1793 Paris. This grand and dream-tweaked comedy is about violence and legacy, art and activism, feminism and terrorism, compatriots and chosen sisters, and how we actually go about changing the world.

Madeline Sayet

THE REVOLUTIONISTS will be directed by Madeline Sayet in her Park Square Theatre debut. Sayet is a recipient of The White House Champion of Change Award from President Obama and a member of the FORBES 30 Under 30 in Hollywood and Entertainment for her work as a director, writer, performer and educator. “This story is biting and playful, full of passion, humor and poignant truths for all of us — not just those who die for causes, but everyone who tries to stand up,” says Sayet. “It immediately made me think of the Oscar Wilde quote, ‘If you want to tell people the truth, you’d better make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you.’”

In addition to the full season of public performances, Park Square will continue to serve the region’s largest teen theatre audience with 127 daytime matinees for students in 7th-12th grade from select shows in the season as well as from its repertory of literary classics ROMEO & JULIET, adapted and directed by David Mann, and THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK, directed by Ellen Fenster.


SEASON TICKETS are on sale now. Current subscribers have priority in ordering through March. Seating of new subscriptions will begin in April. Season packages range in size from all eight plays and three add-ons in the season to a choose-your-own series of three or more. Subscription package prices begin at $66.


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


Madeline Sayet

Ilana Ransom Toeplitz

Michael Evan Haney headshot

Flordelino Lagundino and Michael-jon Pease headshots by Amy Anderson HERE

Paige in Full

Ping Chong + Co

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

$10,000 Water Damage Challenge Grant! Help the show go on!

Park Square Backstage Flooded. $10,000 Challenge grant in place to double your gift and meet the $20,000 goal.

You know how cold it was during the Polar Vortex.

Saint Paul recorded its coldest temperatures since 1996 (and before that 1887)!

Imagine the shock as Park Square’s technical staff came in Wednesday morning, January 30 – bundled up against the cold, coaxing their car batteries to start – to find a cascade of water falling from the ceiling of the scene shop due to burst pipes in the building.

Water pouring in above the scene shop.

The drains were quickly overwhelmed. Water cascaded into the technical office, dressing rooms and green room, eventually forcing the sewer lines to back up. Ick. Yes, the cast’s shoes were submerged in you-know-what.

The damage is extensive. The room holding the furniture and props for our 20th anniversary production of The Diary of Anne Frank was flooded. Crews are busy rebuilding and painting set pieces, replacing shoes, drying out the stage curtains and creating temporary dressing room for the valiant cast of Girl Friday Production’s upcoming show The Skin of Our Teeth, which opens Feb 9.

Insurance will cover most of the damage, but never all. If you’ve been in an old building with water damage, you know the discovery of new problems will continue on well into the spring. (We think there’s still one of those coming!)

A large curtain being dried.

Early estimates are that there will be a $20,000 gap when all is said and done.

And you need us to be ready to welcome 25,000 more teens this spring for field trips to Antigone, The Diary of Anne Frank and Romeo and Juliet.

You can make sure the shows go on at Park Square!

  • Please buy tickets.
  • Please make a gift to meet the $10,000 challenge match and the $20,000 goal.
  • “Party with a purpose” when you Sign up for the Cattle Call Ball or our Spring Mischief Gala. Exceeding our goals at these events will make a difference (and be fun!)
  • Volunteer to help move stuff and repaint.

When you give today, you will join the heroes of a record-breaking cold, wet, smelly, spirit-crushing day.

The entrance to the dressing rooms.

Your pantheon of heroes includes these all-stars Gaea Dill-D’Ascoli (Assistant Technical Director), Dave Peterson (Facility Director), Gabe Salmon (facility associate), Mary Mongtomery-Jensen (Interim Production Manager), Trevor Muller-Hegel, Eric Hofstead, Allison Oberg, Rachel “Olli”  Johnson, Peter Talbot, and Anna Lund.

On your behalf, they are working around the clock with the remediation company, assessing damage, making inventories, cleaning up (you don’t want to know the details), and getting your shows ready with amazing artists.

Thank you for being the friends that keep the show going for your whole community. With you on our side, we can do it!

With gratitude,


Executive Director

P.S. And if you haven’t picked up on the irony, The Skin of Our Teeth follows the eternal family through the Ice Age, a great flood and a world war with their hope intact. You are our hope!

A conversation with MJ Kedrowski

A conversation with MJ Kedrowski

Marcia Aubineau, retired St. Thomas faculty member and part of Park Square’s Educator Advisory Board, connected with MJ (Meagan) Kedrowski, the director and adaptor behind the upcoming production of Antigone, to discuss what makes this production unique and why in makes sense to produce Greek tragedy today.

You can find this interview and more resources and activities in the Antigone Study Guide.

Antigone will be performed on the Boss stage Feb 1 – March 3. Buy Tickets Here.

Marcia Aubineau: What brought you to this play in the first place? Why and how do you think it will resonate with today’s audiences? What are your hopes for the production?

Meagan Kedrowski: I’ve always been drawn to classic Greek theatre. The dramatic stakes are so high, and the lessons are so rooted in the human experience. Most of the lessons being taught and examined that many years ago are still lessons that apply to a modern audience. It’s actually surprisingly easy to adapt most of them to a modern context. Meaningful topics being explored in ancient Greece, and in the world today, fill the world of this play.For this version of Antigone, we create an original, devised adaptation of the classic Greek drama but continue to explore themes of civil disobedience, fidelity, and family love. We face head-on the ever-changing and difficult debate: which law is greater— gods’ or humans’? The play also holds up a mirror to what a loving family torn apart by power, greed, and humility can look like. In addition, in a time when natural law and contemporary legal institutions so often overrun our personal fights for justice, we ask the question: For what would you be willing to die?

MJ (Meagan) Kedrowski

What goes into adapting a play from the original text?

I really love taking old works and using them as a baseline to create a new piece of theatre. This is an adaptation, but also, it’s nearly a full new script. It’s got many of the same characters and many of the same plot points, but we see people take a whole new path to get where they are going. I love to examine the things we haven’t yet seen in a story: the motivations that are deep-seated in a character and the possibilities that have not been looked at. It’s my hope that an audience seeing this version of the story experiences the characters and the story in a fresh new light. I hope people walk away with a new perspective of this timeless classic, questioning how the themes in the material resonate in their own lives.

In your adaptation, you have made several changes to the original text. For example, why did you reduce the chorus and eliminate the choral odes?

The chorus is actually four characters. I’ve combined the roles that exist in Sophocles’ original text of the Guard, First Messenger, Second Messenger, and the Chorus of Theban Elders into an ensemble of four characters who do it all. These four actors work together as an ensemble to give a nod to a traditional Greek chorus. I did this partially to pare down the cast size in order to make the piece more intimate and to utilize these actors for more of the action.

And bringing the action to these characters is actually why I’ve altered the Odes. These characters still take the agency of guiding the story and filling the audience in on things, but they do it on stage and in real time. The show is bookended in the traditional presentational style of talking right to the audience, but then it flows into a modernization that uses these characters as part of the action instead of just talking about the action.

Jamila Joiner (Ismene) and Lauren Diesch (Antigone) in rehearsal.

You also added flashbacks and references to childhood events including the use of nicknames. What was your intention here?

I really wanted to focus on the deep love of family. Often, this particular family is seen as all god-like, and they come off as cold or hard to relate to. In looking at their history and the love that keeps them going through the first two chapters of this trilogy, I wanted to illuminate these deeply nuanced, history-filled relationships. The more history we get to witness, the more context we have to the connections the characters have to each other, and the more understanding we have for why they do what they do. It forces empathy in a way. It gives more perspective to why Antigone fights so hard for her brother when we see the love they had for each other as children. We get a new look at why it’s so hard for Creon to condemn Antigone when we get to experience happy moments they have had in the past. We get to see more layers of the internal struggle they each face. It raises both the stakes and the humanity of these people, and ultimately makes the story all the more devastating.

Another change was the omission of Tieresias and the addition of the brother-monster to convince Creon to change his mind.

In the copy of the Sophocles text that I have, one of Tieresias’ first lines is, “This is the way the blind man comes. Princes, Princes, two heads lit by the eyes of one.” I read this over and over and over, and the more I read it, the more I wanted to explore the idea of “Two Princes” that make up “the eyes of one” otherworldly character that still has a prophetic message. In trying to keep the resonance of these dead brothers wandering the earth, I explored what it would mean to have their combined ghosts talk to the king. I was excited to create a new tension and fear for Creon. So, I asked the question, “What is the most terrifying thing this king could see?” Encountering the faceless contoured ghosts of the young boys that he had loved deeply and decided the fate for, seemed like an incredible obstacle to throw at Creon.

You’ve made Creon a more sympathetic character than he appears to be in the original. What was your motivation for this?

I very purposefully deepened the conflict in this character because I was uninterested in a two dimensional right vs. wrong argument and more interested in the struggles we face in the everyday human experience. These choices aren’t easy. Human conflict is never easy. The richer the characters are, the more difficult it is to pick a side. My hope is that both Antigone and Creon are deeply passionate, potentially both right, and potentially both wrong. They are flawed, realistic humans, and it’s interesting to see those flaws.

Actually, you added the ghosts of the dead brothers earlier on including Eteocles’ spirit saying that the gods won’t accept him without his brother. We also see the dead Polynices “reviving” during the burial scenes.

Kelly Nelson (Eteocles) and Antonia Perez (Polynices) in rehearsal.

If the dead brothers have any agency in the story, and if they are going to mean anything, they have to be more present, so the audience has the opportunity to develop some sort of relationship with them. This gives them more power in the story. In making them more present, we can better understand their relationship to Antigone and in seeing them ask her for help, the audience can feel her heart strings being pulled. We see why it’s so important to her to fight this fight. Again, it ups the stakes and lets us view these moments rather than just talking about them.

For what purpose did you move much of the action from offstage to onstage?

I believe that asking an audience to psychologically be on the same journey as the character often causes them to invest more in what the outcome of the journey is. It’s my view that an audience should experience a play, not just watch it. Audiences are explorers, not spectators.

There is great attention in the play given to the burial ritual including the symbolism of the bracelets.

I read a book in a college drama course entitled Objects as Actors: Props and the Poetics of Performance in Greek Tragedy by Melissa Mueller. Objects as Actors charts a new approach to Greek tragedy based on an obvious, yet often overlooked, fact: Greek tragedy was meant to be performed with props. The works were incomplete without physical items—theatrical props.

In this case, I wanted to create a bit of plot line that could enhance the story via a prop, and endowing that prop with power in the storytelling. After doing research into the world of materialism in ancient Greece, I found that personal possessions held great meaning. We wanted to have a personal possession that did just that. Also something that could deepen the connections between characters. I brought in several objects to a rehearsal one day, and the bracelet idea really stuck. The moments the bracelets were used were then created by the actors in the room through devised composition work.

Do students need to be familiar with the role of women in 5th century Greek society in order to understand the audacity of Antigone’s actions?

Potentially. Part of the reason for casting this iteration of the project with all women/women+ is to empower these people. There are several times in the original Sophocles text when people tell Antigone “you are only a woman” in reference to something she can’t do. Also, there are several times when a character says “women can’t” do something. I tried to keep these moments to reflect on what the culture was back then and what the culture is now. My hope is that an audience of any kind, but particularly young people, will hear this and know that they can still fight for something they think is right. No matter what their gender.

Marcia Aubineau (right) with McKenna Kelly-Eiding and Marika Proctor at the opening of BASKERVILLE.

Interview conducted and dictated by Marcia Aubineau.


Announcing New Artist Fellowships


Program aims to increase the pipeline for under-represented artists

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

MEDIA CONTACT: Connie Shaver,

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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

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

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

TRIPLE ESPRESSO: Friendship that endures past the failures

TRIPLE ESPRESSO: Friendship that endures past the failures

Let’s Hear it for the “Losers” 

by Michael Pearce Donley


I’ve done two shows at Park Square Theatre, and they have a number of things in common. 2 Pianos 4 Hands, and Triple Espresso were both written by the original performers of the show, (I, along with my partners Bob Stromberg and Bill Arnold, co-wrote Triple Espresso). I play the piano in both. Both contain an unlikely callback to the movie Chariots of Fire. Both contain all-male casts. Both are comedies with heart.

Both shows are about “losers.”

2 Pianos 4 Hands follows the story of 2 friends/rivals who strive to become renowned concert pianists, only to realize they’re just not good enough.

Peter Vitale and Michael Pierce Donley in 2 PIANOS, 4 HANDS. 2014.  Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma.

Triple Espresso follows a trio of comic performers from the 1970s hoping to make it big. One blunder after another leads them to the edge of obscurity, culminating in a career-ending performance on live national television.

Bill Arnold, Michael Pierce Donley, and Bob Stromberg in TRIPLE ESPRESSO

I’m drawn to the “losers” in these shows. I put the word in quotes because one can lose a dream but win at humanity.

2 Pianos 4 Hands ends with two friends drinking beer, listening to a Vladimir Horowitz recording. My character spits out, “I could have played Carnegie Hall!” Then reality sets in. We are not the best in the world, the best in the country, the best in the city; but maybe, just maybe, we’re the best in the neighborhood. We smile at each other, go to our pianos, and for the love of the music, play our hearts out to end the show.

Triple Espresso is a show about friendship that endures past the failures. It’s the kind of friendship that will live beyond the final number, because despite all the mistakes, these guys have a genuine affection for each other. The one thing they really share is their collective failure, and at final glance, they survived together. That’s not so bad.

Because here’s the thing. Almost none of us is the best. 99% of us are not the best athlete, the best artist, the best business leader, the best parent, friend, student, lover, human. That’s a lot of “losers,” if you think about it. We may be good, very good, even great, but there’s always someone better, right?

Fellow actor/musician Peter Vitale and I never did a perfect performance of the final piece in 2 Pianos 4 Hands. When we played that 8-minute Bach concerto, we really were coaxing each other through, leading and following, making mistakes and encouraging each other forward, and when the final chord was played, the breath we released was real. It was the feeling of being alive, the best in the neighborhood.

After performing Triple Espresso over 3500 times, my partners and I still mess up. We’re not perfect performers or comedians, but we own this little piece of stage for 2 hours every night and evoke genuine laughter, not because we’re perfect but because we’re honest.

So, let’s hear it for the 99% of us who are not the very best. I kind of like us this way.

logo for Triple Espresso - stylized coffee cup and hand drawn type in black, red, and grey on white backgroundTriple Espresso is on stage at Park Square Theatre through January 13.

Family-friendly fun for all ages!

Buy Tickets!

Michael Pearce Donley is a theater artist, singer, pianist and writer. He works full time at Eagle Brook Church as Associate Creative Director. He and his wife Joy live in Maplewood.

An interview with Jamecia Bennett

“I had no fear of standing up for someone who isn’t able now to do it for herself.”

In the Star Tribune review, Chris Hewitt writes, “anyone who has seen Jamecia Bennett, lead singer of Sounds’ of Blackness, in theatrical productions has probably had the sense that we’re only getting a part of her… Here, the gloves are off and Bennett delivers a musical performance of raw searing power.”

Park Square’s Lindsay Christensen got to ask Ms. Bennett a few more personal questions about what it was like to bring her own story and values to the production of Marie and Rosetta.

LC: What was your very first memory with music?

Jamecia Bennett

JB: My First memory of music was at 4 years old! My mother, Grammy Award winner Ann Nesby, would sit me at the piano and she would teach me harmony while she played and sang with me! I actually stood on a chair to sing and direct the church choir, as per the reference [in Marie and Rosetta] that Rosetta gives to her standing on a piano so people could see her!

LC: What did it mean to you to step into Sister Rosetta’s shoes?

JB: Stepping  into the shoes of Sister Rosetta meant a great deal. I knew that I was gonna have to be responsible to tell and sell her story in and hour and thirty minutes to people that may or may not have an idea of who she was! Learning her background and how she moved, who she had in her atmosphere, to me determined how I would deliver my lines. Straight to the point but knowing that she was raised by her mother so she had a nurturing side about her as well. But knowing first that I had to know the power of her music and what it meant to her.

LC: Did you have any fear or nerves?

JB: I didn’t have any fear… now I did have a pause in time when i saw how many lines in the show I had! LOL! But I had no fear of standing up for someone who isn’t able now to do it for herself.

Jamecia Bennett as Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma.

LC: What was the biggest challenge about bringing her to life?

JB: The biggest challenge of bringing her to life was rehashing all of the memories of my now passed on grandmother, Shirley Bennett, who spoke of her and Mahalia Jackson often. So some of the songs it’s hard to get through. But Rosetta is a straight shooter and to hear all of what she had to go through with the church, men, and just by being black and a woman in that time was kinda hard. So finding the right momentum of each song , the lines spoken and the playing of her guitar had to be consistent homework because it had to look real. If one of the three strong things mentioned was off, it would draw attention to it and take away from the message I was trying to present and the hardworking performer she was!

LC: If Rosetta was alive, what do you think her reaction would be to music today, especially given the negativity she faced toeing the line between secular and church music?

JB: I think she would be a force still. Nothing could stand in her way. I believe she would be respected much on the lines of Aretha Franklin. Which I may add, Aretha dealt with the same circumstances. Rosetta would be the Queen of Rock and Roll alive as she is now passed on.

Jamecia Bennett as Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Background: Rajané Katurah Brown. Photo by Terry Gydesen.

LC: Can you share an experience you’ve had of people coming together around – or being moved by –  the power of music or theatre?

JB: I’ve had plenty of experiences with people being moved with theatre and music especially with this show. To see the faces of people in the audience crying when they hear one of the songs in this show I sing, “Look Down The Line,” lets me know that love and loss doesn’t have a color. We all bleed the same color blood. I love to hear the harmony of laughter together at the monologues whether it be race sensitive or not. We get the opportunity to laugh and cry together.

LC: What is one thing, or a single word, you hope audiences take away after seeing Marie and Rosetta?

JB: Whether it’s suffering or celebration it’s all about Joy! 

Learn more about Jamecia Bennett at, and at Follow her on Facebook and Instagram @jameciabennett.

Rajané Katurah Brown and Jamecia Bennett. Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma.

MARIE AND ROSETTA runs through December 30. Matinee added Sat, Dec 29 at 2:00 pm. Buy tickets here.

Lindsay Christensen Park Square’s Group Sales and Development Associate and a fierce freelance stage manager and graduate student pursuing a degree in Arts and Cultural Management at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota. 

TWO Added Post-Show Talks!

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

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

Purchase Tickets Here!

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

Playwright George Brant. Photo by Heidi Bohnenkamp. 2015.

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

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

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

Crystal Moten, Macalester College

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

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

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

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

Mississippi, 1946


by Morgan Holmes, dramaturg for Marie and Rosetta

When Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Marie Knight became an act in 1946 and set off on tour, the separate but equal doctrine of Jim Crow law was in full force. And it would be nearly a decade before Jet magazine published the funeral photos of Emmett Till, whose grotesque 1955 lynching in Mississippi was a flash point for the burgeoning Civil Rights Movement. While the explicit image of “white only” signs define the doctrine in the American consciousness, Jim Crow would play out in more complicated ways for Tharpe, as she worked to make a name for herself on the road.


“The rules that defined a group’s supremacy were so tightly wound as to put pressure on everyone trying to stay within the narrow confines of acceptability.”
– from Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration

It’s impossible to overstate how every aspect of white and black society was regulated under Jim Crow, from 1860s Reconstruction to the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Separate but equal facilities (i.e. entrances, waiting rooms, elevators) and institutions (i.e. hospitals, schools), hampered black social mobility and dignity, as well as literal mobility across the United States. Though growing access to the automobile in the 20s and 30s offered them independence from segregated buses and train cars, African-American travelers could find themselves on the road without a gas station, diner, hotel, or even bathroom at which to stop permissively and safely, especially in sundown towns, where imposed curfews and intimidating residents drove non-whites from the public sphere after dark. For the limited white-black interactions allowed, perceived disrespect was a capital offense. In Mississippi alone, white mobs, riled up with economic anxiety over the loss of black workforce to the Great Migration, and fear of job and social competition with those who remained, lynched 15 of the 33 total lynching victims on record for 1940-1949 in the U.S.

Jamecia Bennett, left, as Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Rajané Katurah Brown as Marie Knight. Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma.


“We always had to stay at someone’s house. Or you lived on that bus.”

-Singer Ruth Brown, Shout, Sister, Shout!: The Untold Story of Rock-and-Roll Trailblazer Sister Rosetta Tharpe

While Jim Crow worked to make the world impossible for African-Americans to navigate, the proliferation of the black church provided a sanctuary for community gathering. By the 1940s, there were over 3,000 black churches in Mississippi serving about 500,000 congregants, or 50% of the state’s African-American population. Each denomination developed a unique relationship to the secular world, from the Baptists’ political organization around civil rights, to the Church of God in Christ’s evangelical missionary work that birthed a circuit of churches and revival events across the nation. The circuit provided a stage, a built-in audience, and most importantly, easily attainable meal and board for a generation of singers who could not find commercial success in the secular, segregated music industry. Tharpe received her first radio plays from Sunday broadcasts of services at Miami Temple in Florida, attracting white audiences to the unusually integrated COGIC church and the gospel sound.


“It will be a great day for us to suspend this publication for then we can go wherever we please, and without embarrassment.”

– Victor H. Green, introduction to the 1949 edition of The Negro Motorist’s Green-Book

In spite of the dangers and difficulties, African-Americans persisted in travel, subverting the status quo by packing their own meals, hiring white drivers to assist them and consulting national travel guides to plan their stops. Harlem letter carrier and activist Victor H. Green collected the classifieds of businesses nationwide that were proven safe for black travelers, and published them annually in the most popular guide, The Negro Motorist’s Green-Book, from 1936 to 1967. Mississippi’s listings expanded from only a few hotels and bed & breakfast-like “tourist homes” in 1940, to include restaurants, service stations, nightclubs, funeral homes, beauty parlors, barbershops, and a Jackson skating rink by 1949.

In a move befitting the gospel rock star, Tharpe gained further independence in the 1950s, after buying a tour bus to refurbish as a dressing room and place to sleep for her and her backup singers, The Rosettes. While Tharpe’s music may oscillate from obscurity to popularity to forgotten again, it is her own resilience – on the road and through the music industry – that allowed her story to survive.

Coming Next: Rosetta, Marie and Mahalia


Morgan Holmes 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.

Marie and Rosetta is on stage now through Dec 30, starring Jamecia Bennett and Rajané Katurah Brown. Tickets available at or 651.291.7005.

Godly vs. Worldly: the competing forces of Sister Rosetta’s musical rise



by Morgan Holmes, dramaturg for Marie and Rosetta

It’s easy enough to look at Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s life and conclude that her innovative, genre-bending musicianship was “ahead of its time.” How else could such a public and internationally beloved figure wind up buried in an unmarked Philadelphia grave? But – much like our own pop stars who burn brightly, then fizzle out with fans as they experiment with sounds, personas, and public identities (Taylor Swift’s varied success in pop and political crossover, for example) – Tharpe’s career was precisely the product of her time. Throughout her rise, she was activated by and reactive to the sanctity and secularism that marked her world.


The same beat that Black folks dance to on Saturday night is the same beat that they shout to on a Sunday morning” -Reverend Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker, People Get Ready!: A New History of Black Gospel

Jamecia Bennett as Sister Rosetta Tharpe

Increased opportunity of industrialization in the north, as well as the promise of better treatment, drew 1.6 million African-Americans north from the 1910s to the Depression, in the first period of black urbanization dubbed the Great Migration. Among the millions, evangelist missionary Katie Bell Nubin left her husband and sharecropper past in rural Arkansas in the early 1920s, to move her daughter, Rosetta, north to Chicago. The migration also brought north the artistry and improvisation of the delta blues, where it coalesced with the call-and-response format of Negro spirituals, birthing gospel. Gospel Chicagoans Mahalia Jackson’s vocal stylings reminiscent of Bessie Smith, and Arizona Juanita Dranes, who used her piano as an extension of her voice rather than its traditional use as an accompaniment to the soloist or choir, influenced Tharpe’s own guitar-picking and singing.


make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise” -Psalm 98:4

Jamecia Bennett as Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Rajané Katurah Brown as Marie Knight

Sprung from the roots of the Holiness movement, which avowed outward displays of holiness like modest dress, sobriety or “clean living,” and avoiding worldly activities, the Pentacostal denomination Church of God in Christ (COGIC) spread like wildfire across the South, traveling north with the Great Migration. Music as an outward expression of faith was also a tenet of COGIC worship. This tenet influenced the gospel sound – a loud, joyous, testimonial sound. Tharpe began her own career performing at Chicago’s Fortieth Street COGIC and touring COGIC circuit with her mother and first husband, preacher Thomas Tharpe.





Even though I was just a child, I knew immediately that this woman was playing a different kind of music. It was gospel, but the way she put it across, in her bluesy-jazzy style, was a real ‘revelation’ […] a real ‘bad’ groove.”

-Singer Etta James, Heart & Soul: A Celebration of Black Music Style in America, 1930-1975

By the time blues pianist Thomas A. Dorsey codified the genre through his sheet music publishing company, Tharpe had already begun innovating gospel further. Whether disillusioned from the restrictions of poverty, her abusive first marriage, or the conservative COGIC, she traded the sanctified audience that nurtured her for commercial success on the Harlem club circuit, where she hobnobbed with Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong and big bands like Cab Calloway’s. Unsurprisingly American pop music’s syncopated groove crept into her gospel, as evidenced by her 1938 Decca hit “Rock Me,” a secular version of Dorsey’s “Hide Me in Thy Bosom.” Swinging the gospel won her a mainstream audience but came with its own restrictions, like singing in low-brow vaudeville, burlesque and minstrel revues at the white-only Cotton Club. At the clubs, the testimonial spirit of gospel was mocked, satirized, and whitewashed in “Saint and Sinner” acts. Yet Tharpe stuck to her faith, walking the ambiguous line between spiritual and secular – sometimes successfully, sometimes at the cost of her career.

Coming Next: Mississippi in 1946: the hazards Sister Rosetta faced traveling in the south.

Marie and Rosetta is on stage now through Dec 30, starring Jamecia Bennett and Rajané Katurah Brown. Tickets available at or 651.291.7005.

Morgan Holmes 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.

A Biographical Timeline of Sister Rosetta Tharpe

Looking to learn a little more about Sister Rosetta Tharpe before seeing Marie and Rosetta? Here is brief timeline of the life and music of this trailblazing and and influential artist! Marie and Rosetta is on stage Nov 23-Dec 30. Buy Tickets Here!

A Biographical Timeline of Sister Rosetta Tharpe

Researched and Compiled by Morgan Holmes, Marie and Rosetta Dramaturg

The Early Years

1915 Rosetta Atkins is born in Cotton Plant, Arkansas, on March 20. Soon after, mother and evangelist preacher Katie Bell Nubin separates from her husband and relocates Rosetta to Chicago.

1920s-30s Rosetta performs with Katie Bell at Fortieth Street Church of God in Christ. The duo tour Chicago’s Maxwell Street market and the Church of God in Christ (COGIC) circuit of the South. Her acclaim as a gospel singer and guitar player grows.

Jamecia Bennett* as Sister Rosetta Tharpe.

1934 Marries COGIC preacher Thomas Tharpe.

1938 Joins revue cast at the Cotton Club and records her first Decca record, “Rock Me.” Throughout the late 30s and 40s she tours Carnegie Hall, the Apollo Theater, Cafe Society in New York and the Grand Ole Opry. She befriends and performs with Cab Calloway, Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie and the like!

1942 Records Victory(V)-discs and performs for African-American troops during WWII.

1943 Divorces Tharpe. Marries Foch P. Allen.

The Middle Years

1944 Releases “Strange Things Happening Every Day” with Decca, reaching #2 on the “race records” chart.

Rajané Katurah Brown as Marie Knight, Jamecia Bennett* as Sister Rosetta.

1946 After a concert at Harlem’s Golden Gate Ballroom, where gospel singer Mahalia Jackson invited up-and-comer Marie Knight on stage, Tharpe convinces Knight to join her act.

1947-1951 Divorces Allen. Tharpe and Knight tour and record several hits. During this period of touring, Knight’s two children die in a house fire. In 1951, the duet part ways.

1951 In a publicity stunt, Tharpe stages a wedding at Griffith Stadium in Washington D.C. to Russell Morrison. Knight is her maid of honor, and the Rosettes, a group of back-up singers formed by Rosetta in 1949, serve as bridesmaids. Over 20,000 paying fans are in attendance. After her vows, she plays a concert on electric guitar in her wedding dress. Decca live records the ceremony and concert, then releases it as an album.

The Later Years

1957 Tharpe and Morrison travel Great Britain and Europe at the height of the British blues revival.

1964 She books the Folk, Blues and Gospel Caravan tour in England, and performs in an abandoned railroad station for a live audience and nationwide TV broadcast. LINK.

1968 Katie Bell dies in Philadelphia. Tharpe receives her only Grammy nomination for the 1968 LP Precious Memories.

1973 Tharpe dies on October 9 in Philadelphia, following a stroke, where she is laid to rest in an unmarked grave. Knight performs at her funeral.

A Rebirth of Interest

2007 Writer Gayle Wald’s biography, SHOUT SISTER SHOUT, The Untold Story of Rock-and-Roll Trail Blazer, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, kicks off a renewed period of interest in Tharpe’s life and music.

2011 A historical marker is added to Tharpe’s Philadelphia house. Filmmaker Mick Csaky produces the documentary The Godmother of Rock & Roll.

2018 Tharpe is inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame under its “Early Influence” award.


Morgan Holmes 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.

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