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The Conveniently Comforting Out?

October 18, 1942, diary entry: This is a photograph of me as I wish I looked all the time. Then I might still have a chance of getting to Hollywood. But at present, I’m afraid, I usually look quite different.
(Photo from Anne Frank: Beyond the Diary – A Photographic Remembrance by Ruud van der Rol and Rian Verhoeven for the Anne Frank House)

Every year, school groups flock to Park Square Theatre to see our production of The Diary of Anne Frank. Our play is powerfully moving, calling us to bear witness and remember so that we do not repeat history.

Recently I came across “Our Ongoing Trail of Tears,” an article in the March issue of Minnesota Women’s Press by Colleen Hawkins, a social worker in the Indian Child Welfare Act division of child protection. One of Colleen’s comments– “I know the history of the near genocide of Native Americans in our state and country.”–made me recall that my first history lesson on genocide didn’t occur until I was studying World War II and simultaneously assigned to read The Diary of Anne Frank. In fact, my initial and all subsequent history lessons left out America’s own earlier history of genocide and its attempt to wipe out the Native Americans.

I was surprised to then discover what Pulitzer Prize-winning historian John Toland had written in Adolph Hitler: The Definitive Biography:

Hitler’s concept of concentration camps as well as the practicality of genocide owed much, so he claimed, to his studies of English and United States history. He admired the camps for Boer prisoners in South Africa and for the Indians in the wild west; and often praised to his inner circle the efficiency of America’s extermination–by starvation and uneven combat–of the red savages who could not be tamed by captivity.

Indeed, genocide happens in America as well as somewhere else. It’s also not something in the past–it’s impetus lives on–as a quick skim of current news headlines reveals:

“The Power of the Presidency: Will Ethnic Cleansing Be Next?” (by Barbara Reynolds for The Charleston Chronicle, January 15, 2018)

“Neo-Nazis and Hitler Supporters Thrive with Impunity in Poland, Jewish leader says” (by Cristina Maza for Newsweek, January 25, 2018)

“Myanmar Bulldozes Rohingya Villages in possible attempt to hide evidence of ethnic cleansing (by Todd Pitman and Esther Htsusan for Business Insider, February 23, 2018)

“Wallenberg Foundation decries Israel not recognizing Armenian Genocide” (by Tamara Zieve for The Jerusalem Post, February 25, 2018)

No, genocide did not begin nor end with the Jewish Holocaust. Now 75 years after Anne had received her diary for her 13th birthday on June 12, 1942, her story continues to be read at schools and retold on American stages to preserve memory and promote empathy. But as audiences take it in, will they also ponder our own country’s culpability or continue to ignore it?

In her diary, Anne Frank bears the cruelty of what has befallen the Jews by hanging on for dear life to one deep belief: “In spite of everything…people are really good at heart.” As genocide has happened and keeps happening without remorse, does Anne’s anthem of hope transform into a conveniently comforting out?

This season, limited performances are available for general audiences on April 19, 22, 26 and 28 to see this powerful literary classic on our Proscenium Stage. Details and Information Here.

You may also attend student matinees through May 11 by contacting Connor McEvoy, Education Sales & Services Manager, at 651/291-9196 or education@parksquaretheatre.org for information on showtimes and ticket availability.

Online Auction Now Open! It’s a Win/Win!

Have you gotten the chance to take a peek and get your bid in for our current online auction? There are over 30 great packages available now through Friday, April 27th, 2018 and every dollar of the sales goes towards our educational programming! Here is just a sampling of the amazing experiences and items that could be yours!

With spring and summer (hopefully) right around the corner, you could throw in a bid for a four pack of tickets to the Science Museum of Minnesota, currently featuring the exhibits Towers of Tomorrow with LEGO Bricks, Sportsology, and the Omnitheater presentation of Dream Big, celebrating the greatest feats of engineering! After a great day with the family, you and your significant other can enjoy a night of fabulous theatre here at Park Square with a glass of wine and one of our 2018-2019 productions. Is there a better way to see what two of the best organizations in Saint Paul have to offer? We don’t think so! Bid on the Museum!

 

Or are you looking for some new artwork to decorate a room in your home? We’ve got you covered with these beautiful nature photographs taken by one of our board members, John Berthiaume, right here in Minnesota. The trio of photographs featuring cardinals in their natural habitat are 18″ W x 12″ H and are 1.5″ thick. Buy the Birds!

 

We also have two beautiful photographs from the streets of London, each 12″ W x 17″ H. For anyone who has been to London or dreams to walk along the streets of fair Londontown, these two photographs featuring Piccadilly Circus and a bustling marketplace along one of the cobbled streets of the city can’t be beat! Envision yourself in London!

There are so many other options from coffee to desserts, restaurant gift certificates to orchestra tickets, artwork to a salon day and anything and everything in between! So what are you waiting for? You’ve got one more week to bid to your heart’s content!

Take a look at all of these great items!

 

Lindsay Christensen is a fierce freelance stage manager and graduate student pursuing a degree in Arts and Cultural Management at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota. She currently an intern at Park Square Theatre in the development department.

 

What If?

Sulia Altenberg (Anne Frank) and Ryan London Levin (Peter Van Daan) in a rehearsal
(Photo by Connie Shaver)

What if an English teacher had her class read The Diary of Anne Frank?

What if she’d asked permission from the principal to do an experiential lesson with her students?

What if that lesson involved deeming half the class to be superior to the other half?

What if the superior half got to reinforce their superiority through constant criticism and punishment?

What if the students skulked into class the following day wondering what would happen to them next?

Laurie Flanigan Hegge (Mrs. Frank), Robert-Bruce Brake (Mr. Van Daan) and Charles Fraser (Mr. Dussel) in a rehearsal
(Photo by Connie Shaver)

What if the teacher explained that they’d been part of a social experiment?

What if the “inferior” students got angry and upset?

What if they were mad that they wouldn’t get their turns to switch roles to become the tormentors?

What if there had only been one student of color in the room, and she was Japanese American?

What if this story is true?

***

Different approaches to teaching The Diary of Anne Frank can yield surprising, but no less valuable, insights for both teachers and students alike. Park Square Theatre itself supports teachers with comprehensive study guides for its student matinees that are loaded with contextual information, suggested classroom activities and numerous resources. Our study guides are lauded for their grade-appropriateness and usability, as they are created by educators for educators. They are also living documents, continually being re-evaluated and updated for relevancy, as well as inspiring tools for deep engagement and inquiry. 

Access the study guide for The Diary of Anne Frank here.

Just as Anne Frank’s diary has been a staple in American school curriculum for decades, the play has been one of Park Square Theatre’s longest running productions viewed by thousands of young audience members for decades. This season, don’t miss its limited performances for general audiences on April 19, 22, 26 and 28 (tickets and information here). 

 

 

Urban Spectrum presents: Warm Dark Dusk

You are like a warm dark dusk

In the middle of June-time

When the first violets

Have almost forgotten their names

And the deep red roses bloom.

 

You are like a warm dark dusk

In the middle of June-time

Before the hot nights of summer

Burn white with stars.

 

Young Negro Girl by Langston Hughes

 

In October 2016, the Urban Spectrum Theatre Company’s original production, Warm Dark Dusk, premiered at Minneapolis’ Phoenix Theater, playing to packed houses throughout its run. This spring, from April 12 to 22, Warm Dark Dusk is being restaged on Park Square Theatre’s Andy Boss Thrust Stage.

Warm Dark Dusk is a jazz dance and music interpretation of the poetry of Langston Hughes from the 1920s to 1940s. The production unfolds in four themed segments: Dance, The Blues, Love & Sex and the Night Life which Langston experienced throughout his travels. It features vignettes, monologues and vocal and dance numbers which will appeal to all audiences.

Penny Masuku and Tazz Germaine Lindsey performing, in dance, “Juke Box Love Song.”
(Photo by Christopher Lyle)

“I dreamed of doing this show for years,” said Judy Cooper Lyle, the producer/director of Warm Dark Dusk as well as founder and artistic director of the Urban Spectrum Theatre Company. Acquiring a grant allowed her to fulfill that dream. She researched and chose specific poems to build a cohesive story and brought on board choreographer Florence Lyle and music director Joe Shad. Florence, who is Judy’s cousin, has worked in Hollywood for over two decades and toured with such notable singers as Marvin Gaye, Tammi Terrell, Lionel Richie and Lou Rawls. Joe is a freelance pianist, singer and songwriter who has been passionate about music since the age of five.

For the title of this unique show, Judy chose the phrase “warm dark dusk” from the first line of the poem A Young Negro Girl. She did so, Judy said, “For the beauty of the dark skin and the pride of black people as they have fought, so hard and so long, for equality.”

Judy’s choice to feature Langston Hughes rather than another poet is also personal: “I think he was one of America’s greatest poets. He wrote of the lives of his people realistically, politically and with passion.”

In creating the Urban Spectrum Theatre Company in 1974, Judy was fulfilling an earlier dream and passion to provide quality, multi-cultural and accessible theatre to the inner city and to give community residents, especially young people, the chance to work with more experienced performers. The company is now 44 years old and has produced over 75 plays.

We are proud to present the Urban Spectrum Theatre Company as a guest performing company at Park Square Theatre this April. Come see for yourself why Warm Dark Dusk earned such raves the first time around.

 

More information here.

Purchase tickets here.

 

 

Meet Mackenzie: the force behind the gala!

When you hear the word arts, what’s the next word that pops to mind?

The younger me may have said, “Crafts”; but the older me says, “Funding!” For any arts organization to stay afloat, it needs adequate funding through multiple revenue sources, from ticket sales to donations. Key to Park Square Theatre’s fundraising efforts is Annual Fund Manager Mackenzie Pitterle, a self-professed lifelong “theatre nerd” who came aboard last December and is spearheading the upcoming Shakespeare Soiree: the Streets of Verona, named for the education production of Romeo and Juliet, currently on stage. But as with all who have ever landed at Park Square Theatre, Mackenzie’s journey here had actually started long ago.

Mackenzie Pitterle at her desk
(Photo by T. T. Cheng)

Mackenzie grew up in Verona (no connection to the Montagues and Capulets), a suburb of Madison, Wisconsin, in a family and school community that valued the arts. She herself plays the horn and performed in school bands and pit orchestras for musicals, but she eventually to realize that her passion for the arts lay in supporting rather than producing art. This led her to pursue a degree in Arts Management at University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, where she paid her way through college with no loans and finished in three years with honors.

With a specific interest in learning how to manage nonprofit arts organizations, Mackenzie acquired internships with an orchestra, a theatre and the Wisconsin School Music Association (WSMA), which lead to a position as the Development and Marketing Associate for the Wisconsin Foundation for School Music.

“My job included getting up at 4 am to set up the route for a fun run and anything else to keep music in our schools,” Mackenzie said. “I loved helping to raise money to pay for that.”

Eventually Mackenzie was ready for change and a new challenge, setting her sights for a move to Minnesota after having lived in Wisconsin all her life (yes, she’s a diehard Packers fan) which brought her to Park Square!

“Over a year into my position, I can’t imagine a better fit for me. Being onsite at Park Square, I get to be immersed in theatre. I witness school group visits; I get to see each play. I got so excited about Hamlet after sitting in on the first rehearsal. That immersion keeps me grounded in what we’re doing.

I also truly enjoy getting to know donors, patrons, staff and volunteers and learning about what they love about Park Square Theatre. My job isn’t just all paperwork; I get to meet with people and hear stories about what’s important to them and how we impact them on such a deep level.”

Mackenzie revels in how she is, in her words, “impactfully utilized” and must keep “wearing different hats” to adjust to the different needs of each day. She loves that she gets to be in the room to discuss campaigns and big changes as well as learn how decisions affect every department. Currently, Mackenzie is hard at work organizing Park Square’s annual benefit gala, Shakespeare Soirée: The Streets of Verona, coming up on April 30. “We have incredible team of volunteers, committee members, interns and artists all working together to make this best party Park Square has ever thrown. It’s a night you won’t want to miss.”

At Park Square Theatre, words such as commitmententhusiasm and possibility bring to mind several people. One of them is definitely our very own Annual Fund Manager, Mackenzie Pitterle.

Jane Froiland Knows No Bounds!

For many actors, simply living by your stage chops alone isn’t enough to keep the bills paid. Not in the Twin Cities and definitely not in the other single cities out there. Even in New York, the actors fortunate enough to do it “full time” do most of their work outside of the city, in the regional centers of the country. Despite this, however, actors constantly prove that they are a flexible and hardened group of people; where there’s a will, you can bet they’ll find a way!

Jane Froiland studies hard for the part. (Photo by Connie Shaver)

One mark of a smart artist, like anyone in charge of their own business, is to diversify one’s talent. “Oh, you don’t need an actor this time? That’s fine. How about director? I can offer my services as an experienced stage director! Or manager! Or playwright. Or costumer. Lighting designer? Ok, ok… seriously, can I just sell concessions or help the actors learn their lines?”

This sort of resourcefulness is almost the only viable way *most* actors truly make a “living” in the theatre. Jane Froiland is one such multi-talented artist who is often balancing her performance schedule with her gigs as a stage director. She can currently be seen in Park Square Theatre’s The Diary of Anne Frank while gearing up for a run of You Can’t Take it With You at Woodbury High School. Performing in the mornings and directing in the afternoons? Sounds like a full time job to me! Of her days this spring, Froiland states: “… what a dream to be able to be a part of telling such an important story and be able to foster the next generation of artists all in the same day.”

More than that, it “legitimizes” her standing as a director in the eyes of her students. When they are able to work with a creator who “walks the walk” and is able to express her knowledge from a very real and first-hand professional experience. Not only does this create a high bar from those student-performers to meet, but helps Froiland in her own lifelong education as an actor/director. After all, who knows if some of those Woodbury students are in the audience at Park Square watching their esteemed director perform?

You can watch Jane Froiland yourself in The Diary of Anne Frank, playing select dates in April at Park Square Theatre. More information and tickets can be found here at parksquaretheatre.org!

Would You Save Anne Frank?

Park Square is partnering with World Without Genocide and the Germanic American Institute to host a lecture on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day. Join us Wednesday, April 11 at 7:00 p.m. Learn More.

Would you Save Anne Frank?

Guest Writer: Ellen J. Kennedy, Ph.D., Executive Director, World Without Genocide.

On August 4, 1944, Anne Frank, her family, and the others hiding in that tiny attic in Amsterdam were discovered by police.  Someone had turned them in because they were Jews.

Four days later they were all taken to Westerbork detention camp, where they worked at hard labor and lived in the punishment block.  On September 2 they were sent to Auschwitz.

They had already been stripped of their citizenship.  The Dutch people had been told that all Jews were to be hated, despised, denied all rights, and, ultimately, denied even the right to life itself.

On August 25, 2017, people in Texas were trying to get to safe ground out of the path of Hurricane Harvey.  The Texas Border Patrol set up immigration checkpoints throughout the southeast part of the state, and motorists at every checkpoint were asked if they are U.S. citizens.

Undocumented immigrants couldn’t escape from the storm because they feared detention at the checkpoints and then deportation because of their immigration status.

Texas boarder patrol checkpoint

“By keeping checkpoints open, the Border Patrol is putting undocumented people and mixed-status families at risk out of fear of deportation,” Lorella Praeli, director of immigration policy at the American Civil Liberties Union, said. “This is a disgusting move from the Border Patrol that breaks with past practices. The Border Patrol should never keep checkpoints open during any natural disasters in the United States. Everyone, no matter the color of their skin or background, is worth saving.”

What would Anne Frank think? What would she have written in her diary?

The Germans and the Dutch decided in 1944 that Anne Frank was not worth saving.  Our administration decided in 2017 that undocumented immigrants are not worth saving.

We all think that every one of us would have stood up to save Anne Frank and the others in that Secret Annex – even though they weren’t citizens any more.  Today, we must stand up to protect the people who aren’t citizens in our country.

The moment is here to stand up, speak out, and to say that everyone is worth saving.  Everyone.  Contact your elected officials, in the name of Anne Frank.  Do it now.

Dr. Ellen Kennedy is the Executive Director of World Without Genocide, a human rights organization at Mitchell Hamline School of Law. 

Leslie Vincent Portrays Margot Frank

Leslie Vincent certainly has a history with The Diary of Anne Frank at Park Square Theatre. If you saw the show in 2015, you would have seen her play the role of Anne. However, due to scheduling conflicts the following year, Vincent was unable to return in that capacity until 2017 when another character called for Vincent’s talents – that of Margot Frank, Anne’s older sister.

For those unfamiliar with the history of events detailed in Anne Frank, Margot is the eldest daughter of parents Otto and Edith Frank. She is three years older than Anne and is often described as quiet, studious and obedient. In her life, she was an excellent student in all the schools she attended, especially in Amsterdam after the family emigrated following Adolf Hitler’s appointment as Chancellor in 1933. Soon after Margot started high school, however, she was called to report to a “work camp” in Germany in 1942. This is what prompted the family then to find refuge in the secret annex where they lived in hiding for two years. During that time, Anne would both resent and love her sister as they grew close and remained physically together until they both succumbed to typhus while at Auschwitz.

Margot Frank,1939. Anne Frank House.

Having played both characters is definitely unique and Leslie Vincent is grateful for the opportunity. She has been living and working in the Twin Cities since 2013, moving here from Washington, D.C.. Outside of Park Square, Vincent can often be found performing in comedies and musicals, as well as her own cabaret nights featuring folk music and jazz, with performances by various local artists. She will be a part of the original musical  Jefferson Township Sparkling Junior Talent Pageant at Park Square in the spring of 2019, working with many friends and long-time collaborators. This sense of ensemble is something that she values and brings to her work on The Diary of Anne Frank, noting that, “… we love each other, look out for each other, and lift each other up. It’s a heavy show to carry, and sharing the burden makes it easier.”

One can imagine with a show like The Diary of Anne Frank, it could be easy to get lost in the sorrow of portraying such tragic characters. The fact that these were real people whose experiences actually happened, would be a challenge to convey positively for any actor. Yet, there really is a beauty in the story that the cast is sure to mine from the depths.

I hope people see the beautiful uniqueness of each character onstage. Too often, we resort to generalizations. But this show breaks it up and allows the audience to see so many reactions to a horrifying event. When those in power try to spread fear and distrust, they want us to forget that we are talking about humans. Each with individual and unique hopes, dreams, fears, faults, insecurities. I hope that the students see themselves in us, and fight back against those who would rather divide us.

In rehearsals for The Diary of Anne Frank (l to r): Laurie Flanigan Hegge, Michael Paul Levin, Sulia Altenberg and Leslie Vincent
(Photo by Connie Shaver)

When audiences see The Diary of Anne Frank, they’ll be treated to those sentiments and Leslie Vincent’s rich portrayal of Margot Frank. The show plays select dates until April 28.

Tickets and information can be found here.

Elizabeth Hawkinson: A Soprano and “Everything Else”

Elizabeth Hawkinson is part of Park Square Theatre’s energetic nine-member cast of The Pirates of Penzance, playing multiple roles and loving it. Twin Cities critics have also captured its joyful spirit in their reviews, describing this modern spin on Gilbert and Sullivan’s hit musical as “see-worthy” and “arrr worth checking out.”

Yo, ho ho! Here’s Elizabeth to let us in on the fun:

1. What is the best part of being in this show?

My favorite part of our Pirates of Penzance is how free you are to react to any and everything. There is no fourth wall between us players and the audience, which means you can acknowledge they are there! You can look at them, speak to them and laugh with them, all while the action of the play is happening on stage. The story of The Pirates of Penzance is oh so silly and ridiculous, so you are free to ham it up and have fun! Nothing can be taken too seriously! To play such lighthearted, whimsical comedy is a treat.

Cast of Pirates of Penzance at Park Square Theatre in Saint Paul, Minnesota - 2018

Elisa Pluhar, left, Alice McGlave, Victoria Price (seated), Elizabeth Hawkinson, Zach Garcia, Charles Eaton, Max Wojtanowicz and Bradley Greenwald are in “Pirates of Penzance” at Park Square Theatre. (Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma)

2. But behind the fun is a ton of hard work. What’s the biggest challenge for you?

The biggest challenge I have in the show is pacing out my energy and maintaining proper breath support. With only nine actors, we are literally running around to cover all bases of the story. It is fun and definitely lends a silly-ridiculous quality that makes Gilbert and Sullivan enjoyable, but it is a physical challenge! You need to pace yourself through the show so you can have fun with the story rather than the story have fun with you.

3. Can you share something about your background pertaining to your decision and journey to becoming an actor?

L to R: Victoria Price, Elizabeth Hawkinson and Brian Sostek in rehearsal
(Photo by Connie Shaver)

I’ve pursued performing because I love it. To sing and act for people is a privilege and a joy. As you continue to perform, you always want to get better and better at your craft and, at the same time, are constantly meeting and working with new people, a new cast. It is a challenge physically, mentally and spiritually, and I wouldn’t be happy doing anything else.

4. What’s your favorite piratey thing?

Peg legs.

5. What’s coming up next for you after The Pirates of Penzance?

Up next for me is a film with good friend and director, Sam Fiorillo.

 

 

Tickets and information here.

Will Charles Eaton Keep a Straight Face?

Charles Eaton has been having a blast as part of the cast of The Pirates of Penzance on our Proscenium Stage through March 25. It’s been one of those gigs when work is truly play, and the hardest part may well be to keep a straight face on stage. Here he is to tell us about his experience in this hilarious Park Square production:

1. What has it been like for you to be a singing pirate and police officer in this production? Tell me all about the good, the bad and the silly!

It’s been a tricky but mostly hilarious challenge to keep the two straight. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to think, “Okay, are you a policeman here, or a pirate, or just an actor in the troupe?”

The police officers of Penzance!
(Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma)

2. Actors were cast primarily for their singing and acting abilities. How has it been for you to learn the physical moves in the dance sequences?

I, by no means, consider myself a dancer; but it has been a really good experience for me. It’s especially exciting to be constantly thinking about physicality on stage–being a pirate is a totally different persona than being a policeman.

3. What sparked your passion for singing and acting, and how long has this obsession been going on?

I’ve always loved music and always sang in choirs in school. My first musical was in 6th grade (Cornelius in Hello, Dolly!), but it wasn’t until college that I started taking voice lessons. I started music education; but after seeing La Boheme at the Metropolitan Opera, I knew that performing is what I wanted to do.

The pirates of Penzance!
(Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma)

4. What is your favorite “piratey” thing?

I parrot sit a lot and have formed quite the bond with the little guy, so I guess . . . parrots?

5. Why should people come to see The Pirates of Penzance?

There are SO many moments on stage when I have to truly hold back my laughter because of the hilarity that my awesome colleagues create. Anyone who doesn’t see it is missing out on some belly laughs!

 

Tickets and information here.

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