Posts Tagged Agatha Christie

A Season of Perspective and Sharing

Park Square and SteppingStone Theatres Announce Joint Season

MEDIA CONTACTS
Mark Ferraro-Hauck: 952.220.2178 mark@steppingstonetheatre.org
Rachel Wandrei: 617.543.5770 wandrei@parksquaretheatre.org

Saint Paul, Minn., April 20, 2022 – Park Square Theatre and SteppingStone Theatre for Youth announced their 2022-2023 season plans today, continuing the process of bringing the two companies together in one downtown Saint Paul home. The two organizations will retain their names for their first united season, but are planning to become a single legal entity this fall.

For Park Square’s 48th season, the cohort of five artistic associates has worked to select plays that come from many points of view, with the goal of creating theatre filled with both meaning and entertainment. “We strive to be a place where everyone is able to tell their story, and where we can hear and see each other with open hearts, particularly as we rebuild connections and communities after these years apart,” says Executive Director Mark Ferraro-Hauck. The season includes two world premieres, two regional premieres, a Tony Award winner, a Pulitzer Prize winner, and the 25th anniversary of a play that has become central to Park Square’s youth education programs. The SteppingStone performance calendar will include a winter-themed play, Shakespeare performed by young people, and a touring production for very young audiences.

A slightly smaller season than in previous years, the theatres are aiming to reset and organically rebuild after the pandemic. Each play will have a slightly shorter run, have fewer preview performances and a modified rehearsal schedule that eliminates the “10 out of 12” rehearsal days that are notoriously grueling for the artists involved. 

The theatre year will open with the 2016 Tony Award winner for Best Play, THE HUMANS (Sept 14 – Oct 9, 2022), by Stephen Karam. Three generations of the Blake family have assembled for Thanksgiving and everyone is determined to make the best of it, but as they attempt to focus on the positive, old wounds, current mistakes, and future fears threaten their stability. Both blisteringly funny and deeply chilling, the play offers a stunning portrayal of the human condition; a family at its best and worst navigating the challenges of everyday life.

Next, Park Square deepens its relationship with Full Circle Theater Company with a co-production of FIRE IN THE NEW WORLD (Oct 19 – Nov 6, 2022), written by Rick Shiomi, who is a co-founder of Full Circle and serves as an artistic associate for Park Square. In this world premiere noir mystery, Sam Shikaze, hard-boiled private eye, fights crime and discrimination in Vancouver’s Japantown in the years after WWII. When the beautiful Japanese American wife of an ambitious real estate developer goes missing, Sam is on the case in a savvy detective caper that mixes social commentary with plenty of sly intrigue.

For the holiday season, SteppingStone will present THE SNOWY DAY AND OTHER STORIES BY EZRA JACK KEATS (Dec 1 – 23, 2022). With a script by Jerome Hairston, and based on the books by Ezra Jack Keats, this magical tale will explore the wonder of a fresh snowfall, the delight of whistling for the first time, the awe in finding special treasures, and the joy of making new friends. A timeless classic, THE SNOWY DAY is the most checked-out volume of all time at the New York Public Library and is known for being the first book featuring an African American child to win the Caldecott Medal. This new ensemble-driven production will explore connections to water and the changing of the seasons through movement and storytelling.

Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett’s adaptation of THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK has become a core part of Park Square’s educational offerings over 25 years, with over 265,000 students having experienced Anne Frank’s story at the theatre. To commemorate the anniversary, the company will present an all-new production. As the Frank family hides in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam, Anne shares both her everyday teenage challenges and the terror of the Holocaust. Now more relevant than ever, this resonant story of hope and imagination in the darkest of times illuminates a part of history that must not be forgotten. On the Park Square Theatre mainstage for all audiences Jan 18 – Feb 12, 2023, with an extended run for education groups.

In February, SteppingStone will produce its first ever Shakespeare featuring a cast of actors ages 16-21. A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM (Feb 8 – Mar 5, 2023) will bring a genuinely youthful perspective to some of the bard’s most well-known young characters. Available to both school and public audiences, this production will be a new variation on the theme of literary classics that have been at home on the Park Square stage for many years. 

Collaboration continues in the spring with a co-production with PRIME Productions of THE REVOLUTIONISTS (Mar 29 – Apr 16, 2023), by Lauren Gunderson. In this riotous comedy four women find themselves caught up in the French Revolution: an assassin, a spy, a playwright, and, of course, Marie Antoinette. They plot murder, find friendship (and do some good writing), in an irreverent, poignant comedic romp that considers how we go about changing the world.

A comedy-drama exploring fatherhood, loneliness, and the complexity of justice, BETWEEN RIVERSIDE AND CRAZY (May 24 – Jun 18, 2023), by Stephen Adly Guirgis, won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The New York Times describes it as “a rich new play… Mr. Guirgis has a splendid ear in blurring lines between the sacred and profane and it is a dizzying and exciting place to be.” Surrounded by a beautiful and eclectic stream of family and houseguests, ex-cop and recent widower “Pops” is barely holding on to his stability and his once-grand apartment on Manhattan’s Riverside Drive. This production features a cast of well-known local artists led by James A. Williams as Pops.

SteppingStone has two titles yet to be announced for the spring and summer. In May, the theatre will devise a new work for very young audiences. The work will be hugely interactive and travel to schools, libraries, museums and other hot-spots of the under-5 set. Later, SteppingStone will bring back its annual summer musical performed by some of the Twin Cities’ most talented young performers.

The classics get a summer shake-up as Park Square presents FOOLS AND LOVERS (Jun 7 – Jul 2, 2023), adaptations of Shakespeare by Gregory Wolfe and Gregory Sherman, with original music by Andrew Sherman. MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING meets TONY AND TINA’S WEDDING in a beguiling mashup of the classical and comedic. With text drawn entirely from Shakespeare’s plays, some set to music, the play invites the audience into an immersive wedding experience where love can be found in all its guises – young, questioned, rejected, rediscovered – and ultimately conquering all.

Finally, Park Square concludes its season with a world premiere mystery by Jeffrey Hatcher and Steve Hendrickson. HOLMES/POIROT (Jul 19 – Aug 20, 2023) is based on “Murder on the Links” by Agatha Christie with characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, bringing not one, but two of the greatest detectives of all time to the stage in a tour-de-force of cunning plot twists and deft storytelling. Separated by 25 years, the two master sleuths examine a related case, each employing their signature methods and indelible personalities. 

SEASON TICKETS are on sale now for the Park Square season. Subscriptions include seven or five show packages, as well as choose-your-own packages. Subscription prices begin at $66 and offer discounts up to $100 over single tickets. SINGLE TICKETS will be available on a rolling basis, with the fall productions becoming available July 5. SteppingStone’s THE SNOWY DAY is available for school bookings now. General audience tickets will become available July 5. 

The ticket office is open Wednesday and Thursday, noon-5pm, at 651.291.7005, or at tickets@parksquaretheatre.org.

Cozy Reads (and Watches) for Mystery Lovers

Recently, Park Square’s Mystery Writers Producer’s Club had a virtual cocktail party with playwright Joe Goodrich (The Red Box, Might As Well Be Dead, Panic). Joe introduced his new book Unusual Suspects: Selected Nonfiction published by Perfect Crime Books. This scintillating collection runs the gamut from cozy to noir and celebrates the achievements and personalities of mystery writers working in print, film, television and radio. The collection concludes with a biographical study of Derek Marlowe, forgotten author of the 1960s espionage classic, A Dandy in Aspic.

Joseph Goodrich, pictured in a black fedora and thick glasses.

Mystery writer and playwright Joseph Goodrich.

Joe read a charming autobiographical piece from the book about himself as a young boy growing up in Marshall, MN working up the courage to call ALL THE WAY to New York City.  The call was to Dilys Winn, the owner of Murder Ink, the nation’s first bookstore dedicated to mysteries.

“‘She’d been impressed by expatriate bookseller Sylvia Beach, founder of the original Shakespeare & Co in Paris, and Beach’s example offered a way out of Madison Avenue. ‘I’ll open a bookstore, and call it Murder Ink,’ Winn said. ‘That was on a Wednesday. I found the store on Thursday, and signed the lease Friday. I opened six weeks later.'”

Cover of book titled Unusual Suspects: Selected Non-Fiction by Joseph Goodrich.Back in 1976 Murder Ink offered a “Magical Mystery Tour” to London for only $800 that included meetings with authors and “cocktails with firearms experts.” Alas, the packet of information she mailed to young Joe in Minnesota “went missing.”  (The chief suspects being Mr. and Mrs. Goodrich who most likely thought a London adventure was too much for a 13-year-old boy who’d never been further away than Sioux Falls.)

Before the Zoom call ended, club members did a “round robin” to share what everyone was reading or watching. The list below is mostly mysteries to read, watch or listen to, but there are also a couple of other topics thrown in for variety.

First on the list, of course, is Joe Goodrich’s Unusual Suspects: Selected Nonfiction which can be ordered from the Twin Cities’ own brick and mortar bookstore dedicated to mysteries: Once Upon a Crime, in Minneapolis.

As we all turn to art in all forms to weather the pandemic and continued shutdown of theatres, we hope you enjoy these recommendations from your fellow Park Square Theatre fans.

Cozy Recommendations from the Mystery Writers Producers’ Club

Happy reading, watching and listening!

Park Square’s Love Affair with Mystery

Park Square’s Love Affair with Mystery – From Dial M For Murder to Rule of Thumb

Hercule Poirot, the well-known Belgian detective created by Agatha Christie, made his debut on the Park Square Theatre Proscenium Stage on July 19th along with a cast of intriguing (and often, wonderfully despicable) characters.  Agatha Christie: Rule of Thumb, by the much loved mystery writer unfolds in three intricate one-acts and runs through August 25!

E.J. Subkoviak, Michael Paul Levin and Derek Dirlam in Might as Well Be Dead: A Nero Wolfe Mystery, 2017.

Park Square has a long history of producing theatre from the diverse mystery canon, including Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery, Might as Well Be Dead: A Nero Wolfe Mystery, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, among others. Many of these plays were championed by our Mystery Writers Producers Club (MWPC), a devoted community of mystery genre lovers who help support our mystery show each season.

We reached out to Executive Director C. Michael-Jon Pease to talk about Park Square’s legacy of producing mystery plays and why our audiences love them.

What was the first mystery play ever produced at Park Square?

Picture of a newspaper article.

Review of Dial M for Murder, 1975.

Michael-Jon: Park Square produced its first mystery in its first season (Dial M For Murder, 1975), but didn’t produce one again until 1993 with Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap. Park Square rented the Historic Hamm Building Theatre (now our current Proscenium stage) for the first time for that production to test out the location with a “Summer on Seventh” promotion in partnership with the Ordway, the City’s Cultural STAR program and (this really dates you!), Dayton’s River Room Restaurant. The show was a hit and was extended, breaking all previous PST box office records. One of the company members from that show who really made a name for herself was Teresa Sterns, who became the project manager for huge nonprofit development projects like the Science Museum of Minnesota, the new “M” (Minnesota Museum of American Art) as well as more modest projects like Park Square’s Andy Boss Stage.

Bob Davis in Spider's Web

Bob Davis in Spider’s Web, 2009.

This year’s Rule of Thumb is only the third time we’ve produced Agatha Christie, the last time was in 2009 with Spider’s Web, which also featured Bob Davis — as the murder victim.

Why do you think mystery plays are so popular?

Michael-Jon: Mystery fans tell us that they really enjoy the mental stimulation of keeping up with the clues and trying to outwit the detective. It’s also delicious when the production reveals something to the audience that it hasn’t yet been revealed to the characters themselves. Don’t be fooled though, those clues might be red herrings. A period mystery has the added layer of putting the audience in another place and time when the social and environmental cues were so different from today. We often put “Easter eggs” in a production for true fans or history buffs to find. For example, in The Red Box, the paintings on set were the exact images described in the books as being in Nero Wolfe’s study. Following one of those performances, there was a lively debate about the clue of masking tape; the audience member insisted that masking tape hadn’t been invented then. Thanks to a 3M employee who was in the audience, however, we didn’t even need to resort to Google to learn the exact year when the St Paul Company introduced masking tape.

We do sometimes get caught out by a sharp eye, however. During that same production of The Red Box, one fan noticed that the telephone cord was a few years off of the time period.

With the exception of 2012, each of the last 11 seasons has included a mystery, usually in the summer. The mystery genre has also inspired three commissions: The Red Box and Might As Well Be Dead (both Nero Wolfe adaptations by Joseph Goodrich) and Sherlock Holmes and the Ice Palace Murders by Jeffrey Hatcher, adapted from Larry Millett’s novel about Sherlock in Minnesota. So far, nearly 80,000 people have seen mysteries at Park Square and they have definitely become our answer to A Christmas Carol – a fun, intergenerational outing for families, literature and mystery fans. I remember when the movie Murder on the Orient Express came out starring Albert Finney as Poirot in 1974 when I was just 7. That was our family outing for Mother’s Day and my very first mystery. I was hooked!

Get tickets to Agatha Christie: Rule of Thumb HERE.

rule-of-thumb-220-by-richard-fleischman.

Audrey Park, Bob Davis and Rajané Katurah in Rule of Thumb, 2019.

Coming Summer of 2020 – Holmes and Watson. Sherlock Holmes is dead, or is he? Dr. Watson receives a telegram from a mental asylum: three patients are claiming to be Sherlock Holmes. Did the world’s greatest sleuth fake his own death? Who’s the real detective and who are the impostors? Tight, clever and full of suspense, this is Jeffrey Hatcher (Sherlock Holmes and the Ice Palace Murders, Mr. Holmes) at his best. Season Tickets available now.

Interview by Rebecca Nichloson.

Tickets

The Park Square Ticket Office is open for phone calls Wednesday and Thursday from noon to 5:00 pm.
Please call 651.291.7005.

For service other days of the week, please email tickets@parksquaretheatre.org.

Tickets can be purchased online at anytime.

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