Park Square Announces 44th Season

Park Square Announces 44th Season

Premieres and partnerships will greet a new Artistic Director

Saint Paul, Minn., Feb. 12, 2018 – Park Square Theatre announced its 44th theatre season for 2018-2019 today. A wide-ranging mix of projects, including a regional premiere celebrating the origins of Rock n’ Roll, a brand-new musical created by and for millennials, a Greek tragedy, an American classic comedy and a just-released trio of Agatha Christie murder mysteries.

Park Square’s new season continues the theatre’s commitment to present area, regional, Midwest and world premieres, as well as supporting key partnerships with both new and established local theatre producers.

This is the final season to be created by Artistic Director Richard Cook, whose retirement after 43 years at the theatre begins as the season opens in September.

“The new season line-up is a wonderful launch for our next Artistic Director, who should be in place later this summer,” says Jewelie Grape, Park Square’s Vice President and co-chair of the board’s succession committee. “The range of stories and artistic partnerships build on Richard’s legacy and put us squarely in the current moment with projects created by today’s Gen X, Gen Z and Millennial artists. This is a season created with our current and emerging audiences in mind, offering experiences that can engage their minds and delight their spirits.”

“Whether gently humorous or intentionally challenging, these stories explore our human resilience and the many ways we help support and push each other to be our best,” says Cook. He continues, “Gender parity, diversity, equity and inclusion are energizing goals of our Generations Forward strategic plan which inform this season—on stage and off. In this transitional season, I’ve sought to introduce our new artistic director to a sampling of the writers/adaptors, directors and producing partners I trust and respect.”

The season opens on the Andy Boss Thrust Stage with a new production of Sometimes There’s Wine (Sept 14 – Oct 14, 2018). The follow-up to 2 Sugars, Room for Cream, which was featured in the debut season of the Boss Stage, is written and performed by Shanan Custer and Carolyn Pool. Custer and Pool were both in Dead Man’s Cell Phone and Calendar Girls at Park Square. “In the era of #MeToo, we feel women-driven comedy has a unique role to play,” says Custer. “Creating roles for women that say the things we normally don’t get to hear onstage is why we do what we do and, after the last couple of years, there’s even more to say.“

The piece’s debut at the 2016 Fringe Festival was a favorite for both critics and audiences, who laughed along with the creators at the often mundane circumstances that happen in “that little sliver of time in a woman’s life when she can either get pregnant or break a hip.”

The season continues on the Park Square Proscenium Stage with the regional premiere and second production of The Agitators by Playwright’s Center Fellow Mat Smart (Sept 21 – Oct 28, 2018). The show, which had its world premiere just last November at Geva Theatre in Rochester, NY, charts the enduring and often tempestuous friendship of 19th-century activists Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass. “It can be easy to think, ah, an historical drama, that will be tidy and pat,” says Park Square’s Associate Artistic Director Laura Leffler. “But Mat writes with such muscle – the characters just leap off the page – and the script calls for what should prove to be some really powerful designs. Signe V. Harriday, who directed the theatre’s current powerhouse production of Cardboard Piano will helm the production. “Signe has such a beautiful, tight directing style. I can’t wait to see what she does with the piece,” says Leffler.

In December, Park Square continues its tradition of “counter programming” for the holiday season by featuring another strong story about women: the area premiere of Marie and Rosetta written by George Brant and directed by Frank Theatre’s Wendy Knox (Nov 23 – Dec 30, 2018). “The Godmother of Rock n’ Roll” and 2018 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Early Influence Inductee Sister Rosetta Tharpe — who influenced performers from Elvis to Hendrix — plucks prim-and-proper Marie Knight from a rival gospel show. The two challenge one another on music, life, and The Almighty. This story of letting loose, finding your voice, and freeing your soul is a soaring music-theatre experience chock full of roof-raising performances.

2019 kicks off with Theatre Coup d’Etat’s production of the Greek tragedy Antigone, directed and designed by Meagan Kedrowski (Feb 1 – Mar 3, 2019). Originally written by Sophocles, the play explores the timeless debate of which law is greater: man’s or the gods’. This critically praised production, which premiered in 2016, is a devised adaptation that propels the action through powerful, ritual-infused scenes heightened by fight choreography and percussive sound.

“Early in the story, Antigone is told by her sister: ‘We are only women. We cannot fight with men who create laws,’” notes Kedrowski. “In a time where a serious cultural shift is happening in how we listen to women’s voices, and what they are saying, it’s important to see women standing up and fighting for what they believe — fighting for their truth.”

A first for Theatre Coup d’Etat, this partnership will also feature several weeks of daytime matinees for students as part of Park Square Theatre’s 3M Student Series, which reaches 30,000 teens annually.

At the same time, the Proscenium Stage will feature a production by theatre in residence Girl Friday Productions, under the leadership of Kirby Bennett, of Thornton Wilder’s The Skin of Our Teeth (Feb 7 – Mar 3, 2019). This new production will be directed and designed by Joel Sass.

The Skin of Our Teeth is a surprisingly modern and optimistic tribute to the invincibility of the human spirit,” says Girl Friday’s Artistic Director Kirby Bennett. “Through the adventures of an eternal American family who prevail over a series of catastrophes, the play examines the cyclical nature of human existence.”

“When Girl Friday first explored this work in 2009, our country was in the depth of economic crisis,” Bennett explained. “Ten years later, we find ourselves facing different and more challenging circumstances. The Skin of Our Teeth explores the nature of human resilience and hope in ways that are unexpected, hilarious and profoundly moving.”

The season continues with Park Square’s first Chan Poling musical, Heaven (May 31 – Jun 23, 2019), created and directed by Joe Chvala and originally staged in 2011 at The Guthrie’s Dowling Studio. The first production was a sell-out and Chvala and Poling have been eager to revisit this story set during the Bosnian War in the 1990s. Photographer Peter Adamson finds himself on a journey with his translator Faruk to save Faruk’s wife. Friendship, love and painfully beautiful moments come to life with full-ensemble street dance and driving songs by Chan Poling (GLENSHEEN, The Suburbs).

“Heaven is in part a cautionary tale about how unchecked divisiveness among people of any nation opens an opportunity for leaders seeking power to manipulate people based on their fear, resentment, and anger, sometimes leading an otherwise peaceable nation to violence and even civil war,” says Chvala. “The timely point Heaven makes is that it can happen anywhere if we are not careful.”


Park Square’s summer fare kicks off on the Boss Stage with the world premiere of Jefferson Township Sparkling Junior Talent Pageant (Jun 14 – Jul 28, 2019), with book, music and lyrics by Keith Hovis. Described as Avenue Q meets The Book of Mormon with a little bit of Heathers mixed in, this newly created musical satire reflects the quirks of small town life. In 1997, a contestant died onstage and permanently ended the popular local talent pageant. Twenty years later, Frannie Foster Wallace still blames all her failures in life on losing out on the chance to become Jefferson’s Sparkling Junior Champion. That is, until she gets the chance for a rematch with the surviving contestants.

The work, which had its first stage of development as part of the 2017 Fringe Festival, will be directed by Park Square’s Associate Artistic Director Laura Leffler. “When I saw Jefferson at the Fringe, I was elated,” says Leffler. “Here was this hilarious musical with a story that really is as heart-wrenching as it is heart-warming, and it was just shimmering with potential. I’m very excited to get to dig into the lives of these zany, yet relatable characters with Keith and allow the story to continue to blossom.”


Park Square Theatre’s first season in 1975 featured a mystery (Dial M for Murder), so it is fitting that Richard Cook’s final season ends with Agatha Christie’s Rule of Thumb (Jul 12 – Aug 25, 2019). This is actually three one-act murder mysteries by the most-read mystery writer of all time: In The Wasp’s Nest, Hercule Poirot comes between a bitter triangle of lovers to prevent a sinister murder; in The Rats, adulterous lovers find themselves lured to a flat, only to be trapped like rats and framed for murder; and completing the triple bill is a tense thriller about a woman who is hospitalized after seemingly falling from her balcony in The Patient. “I think this community’s devoted mystery fans will enjoy an evening of three different styles of mystery stories – and of course the first time Hercule Poirot will be seen on our stage,” says Richard Cook.


There is one title in the season yet to be announced when the rights are confirmed as the new theatre company PRIME Productions joins Park Square as a theatre in residence. Dates will be April 19 to May 19, 2019, on the Andy Boss Stage. PRIME Productions, co-founded by Alison Edwards, Elena Giannetti and Shelli Place, explores, illuminates and supports women over fifty and their stories. Park Square has hosted two readings by PRIME over the past two years. PRIME’s debut production of Little Wars was mounted at Mixed Blood Theatre in spring 2017.


In addition to the full season of public performances, Park Square will mount 146 daytime matinees for students in 7th-12th grade from its repertory of literary classics Of Mice and Men, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Romeo & Juliet, and The Diary of Anne Frank. Student matinees of The Agitators and Marie and Rosetta will also be offered to the region’s largest teen theatre audience.


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 nine plays in the season to a choose-your-own series of three or more. Subscription package prices begin at $75. SINGLE TICKETS will go on sale this summer.


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



Richard Cook’s headshots by Petronella Y. Ytsma HERE

ANTIGONE courtesy Park Square Theatre


SOMETIME THERE’S WINE by Richard Fleischman

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