Posts Tagged Flying Foot Forum

2020-2021 SEASON ANNOUNCEMENT

Park Square Announces 46th Season

Fresh and Forward Looking Series Features Artistic Collaborations and Three World Premieres

MEDIA CONTACT
Connie Shaver, shaver@parksquaretheatre.org

Saint Paul, Minn., Feb 28, 2020 – Park Square Theatre announced the Harris Family 2020-2021 Theatre Season today, the company’s 46th.  The coming season is supported by a major gift from the John W. Harris family. The series kicks off in fall with a rebellious comedy rescheduled from the summer, and continues with artistic collaborations, three world premieres, one musical and two mysteries.

The season opens on the Proscenium Stage with guillotines and a cry for liberty with the regional premiere of THE REVOLUTIONISTS by Lauren Gunderson (Oct 2 – Oct 25, 2020). Produced with PRIME Productions, the show will be directed by PRIME co-founder Shelli Place in her Park Square debut. Four spirited women lose their heads in this irreverent 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 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.

Two white women sit in directors chairs. They are drinking whiskey and have two whiskey barrels at their feet.

Carolyn Pool (L) and Shanan Custer (R) in Bad Things, Good Whiskey. Photo by Richard Fleischman, hair and make-up by Jancyn Bindman.

Woman-centered writing continues on the Boss Stage with the world premiere of BAD THINGS, GOOD WHISKEY by Shanan Custer and Carolyn Pool (Oct 23 – Nov 22, 2020). Directed by Elena Giannetti and featuring music by Rhiannon Fiskradatz, this “comedy on the rocks” is the final installment in their beverage-inspired trilogy from the creators of 2 Sugars, Room for Cream and Sometimes There’s Wine. The comedic duo weave together “scenes from life and stuff we think is funny” – only this time the drink is a spirit as strong as the women who drink it!

November brings a special season add-on presentation of Katha Dance Theatre’s world premiere of SHAAMYA – OF EQUALITY (Nov 5-8, 2020) with choreography by Rita Mustaphi. Inspired by the poem “Of Equality” by Bengali revolutionary poet Kazi Nazrul Islam, this multicultural dance piece infuses poetry, gospel and R&B music with original Kathak choreography. This new work, with music composed and performed by J.D. Steele and poetry by Somali poet and playwright Ifrah Mansour, makes parallels between the experiences of today’s communities of color and those of Nazrul Islam’s era.

Winter brings the regional premiere of AIRNESS (Jan 29 – Feb 28, 2021) by Chelsea Marcantel. Five oddball rock fanatics go to dingy bars and cramped stages all across the nation to express their inner shred genius as they vie for a place at the National Air Guitar Championship. Following them on their quest to achieve ‘airness’ on the long road to qualification, this righteous and smile-inducing comedy shows how community is forged in unexpected places. “This show was the unexpected and universal hit for the group of Twin Cities theatre goers who accompanied us to the 2017 Humana Festival of New American Plays in Louisville, KY,” says Park Square executive director Michael-jon Pease.

Park Square and the Ordway, who first collaborated in 2009 on an acclaimed production of the off-beat Broadway musical Grey Gardens, present TRIANGLE (Apr 2 – May 9, 2021), with music by Curtis Moore, lyrics by Thomas Mizer, book by Curtis Moore, Thomas Mizer and Joshua Scher. Directed by Rod Kaats, this area premiere musical is original and compelling,  full of mystery and romance, with songs by two of America’s hottest new musical theatre writers. Two parallel love stories separated by a hundred years are woven together by the thread of the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City.

Summer in Saint Paul kicks off with two very different mysteries by local writers. First Park Square presents the Full Circle Theatre world premiere production of FIRE IN THE NEW WORLD written and directed by R.A. Shiomi (May 28 – Jun 20, 2021). In the third installment of Shiomi’s popular noir-style detective stories, Sam Shikaze, hard boiled private eye, fights crime in Vancouver’s Japantown and beyond in the years after WWII.  This time the beautiful Japanese American wife of an ambitious real estate developer goes missing, and Sam is on the case. The show is smart and fun with a dash of social commentary and plenty of sly intrigue.

The final mystery of the season is at press time, still just that – a mystery. What is known is that the writer and director will be award-winning playwright Jeffrey Hatcher (Holmes and Watson, Sherlock Holmes and The Ice Palace Murders, Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Suicide Club) and that the dates will be Jul 9 – Aug 15, 2021. “One of the projects we’re working on should get confirmed in the next few weeks,” says Pease. “It will be a treat to have Jeffrey direct one of his own edge-of-your-seat scripts. After all, Park Square has produced three of his mysteries over the years and Jeffrey even wound up making his Park Square stage debut for one weekend in Sherlock Holmes and The Ice Palace Murders, so it’s about time to get him on as a director as well to round out his Park Square resume.”

In addition to the full season of public performances, Park Square will continue to serve the region’s largest teen theatre audience with daytime matinees for students in 7th-12th grade of THE REVOLUTIONISTS and SHAAMYA – OF EQUALITY 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.

Beyond Park Square’s theatre season, its two stages will continue to be a home for productions by companies from across the Twin Cities, such as Flying Foot Forum, Trademark Theatre, Zorongo Flamenco, Theatre 55, and the Mysterious Old Radio Listening Society. “The Boss and Proscenium stages are amazing assets,” says Pease. “Sharing them with our area’s amazingly varied artists helps make Saint Paul a vibrant destination for all ages and tastes. I’m particularly excited by a brand new partnership with Metropolitan State University’s Playwriting Program that showcases staged readings and workshops of new plays by their diverse student writers on the Boss Stage. Each season and each partnership reveals new ways to center our community’s multiplicity of voices.”

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 six plays and three add-ons in the season to a choose-your-own series of three or more. Subscription package prices begin at $66.

Purchase Tickets Here

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

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

Film and Talk, Rape: A Crime Against Humanity

Film and Talk, Rape: A Crime Against Humanity

Event Notice and Special Guest Blog by Ellen J. Kennedy, Ph.D., Executive Director, World Without Genocide

Please join Park Square on Sunday May 19 at 1:30 pm, for a screening of the documentary film I Came to Testify, followed by a conversation with Judge Peggy Kuo, one of the lead prosecutors at the International Criminal Tribunal of former Yugoslavia (ICTY), who is featured in the film.

Film and Talk, Rape: A Crime Against Humanity

Sunday, May 19, 1:30 pm
Park Square Theatre, Proscenium Stage

Screening: I Came to Testify. Run time, 50 minutes
Talk: Magistrate Judge Peggy Kuo, Eastern District of New York
Interviewed by John Docherty, Assistant United States Attorney in Minnesota

I Came to Testify is the moving story of how a group of 16 women who had been imprisoned by Serb-led forces in the Bosnian town of Foča broke history’s great silence – and stepped forward to take the witness stand in an international court of law. This historic trial changed international law, designating rape as a crime against humanity and a crime of genocide. We are honored to be joined by Judge Peggy Kuo, who played a critical role in the trial.

This event is part of the series Justice After Genocide*, a series of events presented in anticipation of the upcoming play Heaven, Theatre in Residence Flying Foot Forum’s theatrical look into war-torn Bosnia through music, dance, and story. To deepen our collective understanding of the conflict and of the challenges faced in the war’s aftermath, Park Square is collaborating with World Without Genocide and The Flying Foot Forum to offer this series.

Tickets:
$10 general public, $5 seniors and students; $25 for lawyers’ CLE credits at most programs; ‘clock hours’ for educators. Purchase tickets at the door, no advance registration is required.

Rape Camps

by Ellen J. Kennedy, Ph.D.
Executive Director, World Without Genocide

People do unspeakable things during war. They view the ‘other’ as less than human and behave in ways that most of us could not even imagine. That was the situation during the war in Bosnia in the 1990s.

Bosnian Serbs abducted Muslim women and girls, brought them to unused schools, hotels, and other buildings, and imprisoned them for months at a time, subjecting them to sexual slavery and cruelty. These places of horror became known as ‘rape camps.’

As the war escalated, an international court was created for the first time since World War II to prosecute the worst perpetrators of the conflict. This court, known as the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia, was operated by the United Nations.

One of the many cases was the trial of three leaders of the ‘rape camps.’ The prosecution team was led by three remarkable women: Tejshree Thapa from Nepal, Hildegard Retzlaff from Germany, and Peggy Kuo, an American.

These prosecutors were determined to seek justice. First, however, was the very difficult challenge of finding women survivors who were willing to testify. To speak about their horrors meant reliving the trauma. It also meant that, like women everywhere who have been subjected to sexual violence, they felt shamed and ruined; and now they were being asked to publicly acknowledge what had happened to them. In addition, these women were likely to face deadly intimidation or retribution if they testified. Ultimately, many women came forward and spoke the truth of what had been done to them.

All three defendants were found guilty. More than that, however, the prosecutors changed international law. Rape is now a crime against humanity and a crime of genocide. These women prosecutors, like other women in the legal profession, brought a gendered perspective into that courtroom – and influenced gendered justice around the world.

Peggy Kuo, one of those fierce and determined prosecutors at that trial, will be here on May 19. Join us at Park Square Theatre to meet her and to see the remarkable documentary about the trial.

Ellen J. Kennedy is the founder and Executive Director of World Without Genocide, a human rights organization headquartered at Mitchell Hamline School of Law, St. Paul, MN.

Through World Without Genocide, Kennedy promotes Holocaust and genocide education in high schools, colleges, faith-based organizations, and civic groups and advocates with elected officials at city, state, and national levels. Kennedy was a professor at the University of St. Thomas for nearly twenty years and the Interim Director at the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, University of Minnesota, for three years. She began as an adjunct professor at Mitchell Hamline School of Law in September 2010 and remains today.

Information about JUSTICE AFTER GENOCIDE at: https://parksquaretheatre.org/programs-justice-after-genocide/
Information about HEAVEN at: https://parksquaretheatre.org/box-office/shows/2018-19/heaven/

Justice After Genocide is co-sponsored by the Minnesota Chapter, Federal Bar Association; the Human Rights Committee, Minnesota State Bar Association; DKG, an international women educators’ society; ILSA, the International Law Student Association at Mitchell Hamline School of Law; and the St. Paul and Minneapolis-University Rotary Clubs.

Searching for Justice with Ellen J. Kennedy Ph.D.

Searching for Justice with Ellen J. Kennedy Ph.D.

In the early 1990s, the country of Yugoslavia imploded, collapsing into genocide and mass atrocities. This May, Park Square Theatre presents Flying Foot Forum’s  Heaven, a theatrical look into war-torn Bosnia told through percussive dance, music, and storytelling.

To deepen our collective understanding of the conflict, Park Square Theatre and Flying Foot Forum are collaborating with World Without Genocide to offer a series of programs that include films, talks, and a compelling personal story of a survivor of one of the 20th-century’s worst massacres. We’ve invited Ellen J. Kennedy Ph.D., Executive Director of World Without Genocide to share a personal account of her visit to Bosnia, and to invite you to the programs.

For tickets and information about Heaven, click HERE.
For a more a detailed history of the Bosnian Genocide, click HERE.
For a complete listing of the Justice After Genocide programs, click HERE.

 

Searching for Justice

By Ellen J Kennedy, Ph.D.

In the summer of 2010 I went to a funeral for 775 people.

Bosnian Serb troops had massacred more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica, Bosnia in July 1995. Their bodies were buried and hidden in mass graves. In the years since that tragedy, remains have been discovered, exhumed and, through painstaking DNA analysis, nearly 6,000 individuals have been identified and buried at a memorial site in Srebrenica.

In July 2010 I was at the memorial ceremony when 775 bodies, identified by DNA since the past year’s mass funeral, were held aloft in a parade of coffins and grief and brought to rest in row after row of graves.

I had met women at the Association of the Mothers of Srebrenica, some of the mothers, wives, and daughters who lost husbands, fathers, and sons at the massacre. These women, most of whom are from small villages, developed a strong network and a vigorous political presence.  They created Srebrenica’s annual ceremony of remembrance, pressed for ongoing exhumation and identification of remains, and advocated for government support for the widows and children of the men who perished.

This is part of the process of finding justice after genocide – locating the loved ones and caring for those who remain.

Justice also involves documenting the truth.  This is the function of a trial, which punishes the perpetrators and creates an accurate record of the events.

Hasan Hasanović survived that massacre in 1995. His father, his uncle, and his twin brother perished. He lives in Srebrenica and he is dedicated to shining light onto the truth – not only onto what happened to him and his family, but to those who suffer in conflicts today.

Meet Mr. Hasanović at Mitchell Hamline School of Law on Tuesday, April 16, 7:00 pm. Joining him will be Dr. Andrew Baker, forensic pathologist who conducted exhumations in the region, and John Docherty, prosecutor of genocide perpetrators at the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia.  Hear about the search for justice after genocide.

Ellen J. Kennedy is the founder and Executive Director of World Without Genocide, a human rights organization headquartered at Mitchell Hamline School of Law, St. Paul, MN.

Through World Without Genocide, Kennedy promotes Holocaust and genocide education in high schools, colleges, faith-based organizations, and civic groups and advocates with elected officials at city, state, and national levels. Kennedy was a professor at the University of St. Thomas for nearly twenty years and the Interim Director at the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, University of Minnesota, for three years. She began as an adjunct professor at Mitchell Hamline School of Law in September 2006 and remains today.

Programs, Justice After Genocide

Programs, Justice After Genocide

For Immediate Release

Programs, Justice After Genocide

(St. Paul, MN; February 22, 2019) The country of Yugoslavia imploded during the early 1990s, collapsing into genocide and mass atrocities perpetrated by individuals, government armies, and paramilitary militias against one-time friends and neighbors.

Park Square Theatre, St. Paul, is presenting Heaven, a theatrical look into war-torn Bosnia told by playwright/director Joe Chvala in music, dance, and story. The work will be produced by theatre in residence, Flying Foot Forum.

To deepen public understanding of the conflict and of the challenges faced after genocide, Park Square Theatre, in collaboration with World Without Genocide and Flying Foot Forum, offers a series of programs that include films, talks, and a compelling personal story of a survivor of one of the 20th-century’s worst massacres.

The events are open to the public:  $10 general public, $5 seniors and students; $25 for lawyers’ CLE credits at most programs; ‘clock hours’ for educators.  No advance registration is required.

Programs:

Film, Men Don’t Cry. War trauma in Bosnia.
Thursday April 4, 7:00-9:00 pm
Park Square Theatre, Andy Boss Thrust Stage.

Panel, A Survivor, a Prosecutor, and a Forensic Pathologist
Tuesday, April 16, 7:00-9:00 pm
Mitchell Hamline School of Law

Talk, Bosnia, Genocide, and Climate Change
Thursday, April 25, 7:00-9:00 pm
St. Anthony Park Public Library

Film and Talk, Rape:  A Crime of Genocide – The Foča ‘Rape Camp’ Trials
Sunday, May 19, 1:30-3:30 pm
Park Square Theatre, Proscenium Stage

Film and talk, Sex Trafficking and Genocide with FBI Special Agent
Tuesday, June 11 7:00-9:00 pm
Mitchell Hamline School of Law

Exhumations and Justice, Post-show discussion
Sunday, June 16. After 2:00 pm performance of Heaven
Park Square Theatre, Proscenium Stage

“Genocide and Justice:  From Nuremberg to the International Criminal Court,” an exhibit by World Without Genocide, will be on display at Park Square Theatre during this time.

The series is co-sponsored by the Minnesota Chapter, Federal Bar Association; the Human Rights Committee, Minnesota State Bar Association; DKG, an international women educators’ society; ILSA, the International Law Student Association at Mitchell Hamline School of Law; and the St. Paul and Minneapolis-University Rotary Clubs.

Tickets for Heaven, running May 31 – June 23, can be purchased here

More information – info@worldwithoutgenocide.org , www.worldwithoutgenocideorg , 651-695-7621.

World Without Genocide promotes education and action to protect innocent people, prevent genocide, prosecute perpetrators, and remember those affected by genocide.

Contact: Ellen J. Kennedy, Ph.D.
Executive Director
651-695-7621
kennedy@worldwithoutgenocide.org

 

      Graphic logo for Park Square Theatre - deep red type on white background      

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Flying Foot Forum presents two nights of Works in Progress

While in residence at Park Square Theatre with French Twist, their homage to all things Parisian, Flying Foot Forum will also be presenting two nights of Works in Progress. On Mondays, July 2 and 9, at 7:30 pm Flying Foot Forum premieres their film-in-progress Split Rock Shuffle and a new work-in-progress for the stage based on Dreamland: The Novel by Kevin Baker. Company members will also introduce their own works in progress on the Andy Boss Thrust Stage. The entrance to this event is pay what you can.

The Glamorous Vampires in James J. Hill House
(Photo by Steve Campbell)

For the last two years, Flying Foot Forum has been steadily working on a new film project called Split Rock Shuffle, which follows dancer Galen Higgins during a wild day spent chasing and being chased by various people. The chase motif serves as the common connector to scenes filmed at many well-known Minnesota locales, such as the American Swedish Institute, James J. Hill House, St. Olaf College, Canal Park Lighthouse, SS William Irvin Freighter, Lake Superior Railroad Museum and, most significantly, Split Rock Lighthouse.

The Silly Chefs of La Cuisine at St. Olaf College
(Photo by Steve Campbell)

With Steve Campbell in tow as collaborator and camera man, Flying Foot Forum’s founder and artistic director Joe Chvala initiated the adventure to make this low budget/low tech film, learning as they went along. But Joe was not totally inexperienced, having worked in Italy during the summer of 2015 as a choreographer and dancer on a new feature film, Smitten, written and directed by the Academy Award-winning writer Barry Morrow. From that gig, Joe had picked up some useful technical know-how while himself steadily becoming smitten with filmmaking.

A feast for the eyes in “Split Rock Shuffle”
(Photo by Steve Campbell)

Joe’s approach was further influenced by the cinematic genius of French filmmaker, director, writer and actor Jacques Tati, whom Joe described as “the Charlie Chaplin of France, but not.” Tati managed to raise sight-gag comedy to a level of high art in his total of six feature and seven short films. You can also spot his influence in Tati-admirer Wes Anderson’s movie The Grand Budapest Hotel, which garnered nine Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, in 2014.

Besides Split Rock Shuffle, Flying Foot Forum will unveil yet another new work in progress–this one inspired by Dreamland, author Kevin Baker’s work of historical fiction set in early 20th-century New York during the Dreamland (a Coney Island amusement park) and the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fires. In this case, audiences will experience a barebones staged reading with no sets or costumes.

Dreamland is a very timely story,” said Joe. “It’s about immigrants and people who are treated as outsiders by society and the terrible conditions they must struggle through in order to live. It’s about the illusion of a land of golden dreams and what people do when they realize that the promise of a dream land is not the reality of the world.”

Throughout each Monday evening, company members also plan to introduce their own new works in progress. These include a piece set to folk music by Karla Grotting, a tap-ballet combination by Jeremy Benussan, a flamenco dance by Molly Kay Stoltz, a drumming duet by Rush Benson and Charles Robison and more.

Be sure to catch Flying Foot Forum’s French Twist – Playing through July 15 – Information here

Come prepared to see the unexpected!

Upcoming Events By Flying Foot Forum

Flying Foot Forum’s French Twist
(Photo by V. Paul Virtuccio)

The irrepressible percussive dance troupe, Flying Foot Forum, graces Park Square Theatre’s Andy Boss Thrust Stage in two ways this summer:

In celebration of its 25th anniversary, French Twist, a hit show previously performed in 2008 at the Guthrie, returns as a new production at Park Square from June 22 to July 15.

There will also be two Works in Progress nights, which are pay-what-you-can — Mondays, July 2 and 9, 7:30 pm — for audiences to view company members’ works in progress, including Flying Foot Forum’s own film project, Split Rock Shuffle.

Created as an incubator for percussive dance, Flying Foot Forum was founded by Joe Chvala, which only seems apt considering that his surname represents “understanding, imagination, cooperation, artistic talent, tact and patience.”* Joe still reacts with delighted amazement at the Forum’s longevity, though fans are decidedly less surprised.

Come to the cabaret of French Twist
(Photo by V. Paul Virtuccio)

French Twist is the right show to do to celebrate our 25th year because it represents so much of what we do,” Joe said. “It’s a showcase of the fun, crazy, comic and sentimental things that we do and offers a comprehensive picture of certain aspects of our work.”

The feel of the production is much influenced by Joe’s love of An American in Paris, the 1951 movie starring Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron, which was the first musical he’d ever seen on screen at the tender age of nine.

“One summer, my parents–both teachers–got a grant to study in Ohio. They’d simply drop my seven-year-old sister and I off at the movie theater and go off to do what they had to do,” Joe recalled. “I loved the idealized picture of France–the rosy aspects of Parisian France–that the movie presented. There were so many different artists in the popular French culture of that period, and we were able to incorporate their influences through the cabaret format of our show. For instance, we give a nod to legendary actress and dancer Loie Fuller, who originated the Serpentine Dance, in one of our own dance numbers when the dancer’s long swirling fabric, with the use of colored stage lighting, dramatically unfurls into an impressionistic Paris sky.”

Although French Twist had been staged in the past, returning to it was like creating a new production. With new cast members joining some of the original ones, dances were altered to fit their personalities as well. The open structure of a cabaret additionally allowed for the reimagining of sets, scenes, dances and costumes.

A scene from Split Rock Shuffle
(Photo by Steve Campbell)

True to the ever-evolving spirit of Flying Foot Forum is also its current jump into filmmaking. You can sample their first effort during those two Monday evenings of works in progress, with a premiere of the latest cut of Split Rock Shuffle, which is somewhat of an homage to Minnesota.

“I love the magic of seeing movies and wanted to be involved in that,” said Joe. “In theatre, you do the show, and it’s over. The experience of each performance can’t be replicated, and recordings can’t capture the overall magic of them. With film, you can go back to watch or share it, plus reach a larger audience, now or even ten years later.”

La Cuisine in Split Rock Shuffle
(Photo by Steve Campbell)

But if you haven’t already experienced Joe Chvala and the Flying Foot Forum, be sure to do so now and not ten years from now! Innovative zaniness, fast-flying footwork, verbal calisthenics, side-splitting humor and breathtaking gorgeousness: that’s what to expect to top off your summer day.

Tickets and information about French Twist here.

* definition from www.meaningslike.com

Flying Foot Forum celebrates an American’s View of Paris

PARK SQUARE PRESENTS FRENCH TWIST
Flying Foot Forum’s 25th Anniversary production celebrates
an American’s view of Paris from the Can-Can to Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron

Park Square Theatre’s Andy Boss Thrust Stage is once again the home to Flying Foot Forum’s signature storytelling with FRENCH TWIST, a cabaret of gorgeous music, theatrical storytelling and percussive dance set in a Paris Nightclub that runs from June 22 to July 15, 2018. This 25th anniversary production starts with the premise of the company’s original production which premiered at The Guthrie in 2008, but now includes new characters, melodic new songs and inventive dances. Director/choreographer Joe Chvala fuses vaudeville, tap, cabaret, follies, opera, and percussive art forms to evoke American’s wildest imaginings of life in the City of Light.

The piece opens with “All Creatures Are Now Merry-Minded,” a riotous medley of caricatures of familiar characters from a myriad of operas. With boundless energy, the company dances its way through an amazing variety of classical music, including a Bach fugue danced on and off chairs. Act II introduces a medium who conjures up the spirits of bygone Paris, from the jazz artists of the 1920’s American expat scene to Edith Piaf and Maurice Chevalier. “It’s eclectic, fun, wild, and of course there’s the Can-Can,” says founding Artistic Director Joe Chvala. “Some of us oldsters in the company have been doing the Can-Can for decades, so we have to remember to give the young dancers the truly gymnastic moves and try not to kill ourselves,” he laughs.

One of the new numbers depicts Loie Fuller, considered by many to be the godmother of modern dance, even before Isadora Duncan. Loie was an American actress who became a sensation at the Exposition Universelle with her Serpentine Dance, using long flowing fabric and colored stage lights. In Joe Chvala’s talented hands, her swathes of fabric suddenly turn into the sky above the city and the setting for a great tap number in the spirit of Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron from the 1950s movie AMERICAN IN PARIS. There will even be a little Flamenco woven into the evening courtesy of Molly Kay Stoltz of Zorongo Flamenco.

“This show is perfect for the Boss Stage,” says Chvala. “It transforms beautifully into an intimate nightclub setting, as we learned with PASSING THROUGH PIG’S EYE last summer. More than that, the lobby, its proximity to the Dakota’s Vieux-Carrė jazz club and the whole ambiance of the Historic Hamm Building put you in the right mood for the atmosphere we’re creating.”

The fact that Flying Foot Forum is celebrating 25 years comes almost as a surprise to its founder. “What became a company started first as a big performance, and then we just kept going,” Chvala says. “Once we established ourselves as a company, I remember going to the 20th anniversary concert of an African Dance company and thinking ‘I wonder if we’ll ever make it 20 years.’ It’s truly wonderful that three of our original dancers and musical collaborators like rhythm-wizard Peter O’Gorman are still creating with us. Each generation of new dancers, like the amazing Brandon Jackson who plays La Bijoux in French Twist – keep adding to our aesthetic as they bring their unique energies to the process.”

Flying Foot Forum’s unique style of percussive dance continues to ripple out through choreographers and companies in Minnesota and beyond. “Over the years, we’ve worked with so many great dancers and choreographers like Brian Sostek and Tamara Kangas Erickson,” confirms Chvala. “Sometimes I see a show and think ‘I wonder if that idea was inspired by something we did?’ After 25 years, we are still finding new ways to explore our art form. It’s been a tremendous gift to have this crazy idea take off.”

***

Celebrate 25 years of Flying Foot Forum with their new production of FRENCH TWIST, featuring the fabulously furious feet of founding members Jan Campbell, Joe Chvala, Karla Grotting and veterans Jeremy Bensussan, Peter O’Gorman and Charles Robison are joined by Brandon Jackson, Falicia Cunningham, Molly Kay Stoltz, Kaleena Miller and Michael Hasenmueller.

The creative team for the production includes Cynthia Forsgren (Costume Designer), Robin McIntyre (Scenic Designer) and Eric Jensen (Music Director)

Flying Foot Forum’s FRENCH TWIST Performance Schedule: Previews begin Friday, June 22, and continue through Thursday, June 28. June 29 is Opening Night, and the run continues through July 15. Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. except for Saturday and Sunday matinees, which begin at 2 p.m. All performances are on Park Square’s Andy Boss Thrust Stage in Saint Paul’s historic Hamm Building, 408 St. Peter Street.

There will also be two nights of works in progress created by Joe Chvala and company members including a work in progress premiere of a Flying Foot Forum film project Mondays, July 2 and 9.

Personal Highlights of the Past Season

The Diary of Anne Frank at Park Square Theatre in Saint Paul, MN - 2018 - Actors playing Anne Frank & Father

It has been 75 years since Anne Frank was given a diary by her father. The Diary of Anne Frank remains a perennial favorite of school groups. This coming season, limited evening performances will also be available. (Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma)

Always, the Education Program

Park Square takes great pride in its Education Program for good reasons. It’s a powerfully transformative program, not just for its effect on its young audiences but also as an inspiration within our own organization. Mindfully created and led by the incomparable Mary Finnerty since 1994, the Education Program has often served as first exposure of professional theatre to young audiences. But you can see how it’s much more than that in such defining moments as when the lightbulb of understanding lit up for a student while Sulia Rose Altenberg, who played Anne Frank, answered his question as to why the Jews didn’t simply pretend to be Christians or the teacher of a Somali group explained that they came to be exposed to a broader community. Our Education Program provides a safe venue for our young patrons to grapple with self-discovery, self-definition and social interconnectedness. It has also been a catalyst for Park Square to consider those very same issues within its own walls. Impactful is only one adjective that best describes “The Program That Mary Built” (see the August 16, 2016, blog post).

A Raisin in the Sun at Park Square Theatre in Saint Paul, MN - 2018

A Raisin in the Sun knocked our socks off and will be back for another season by popular demand. (Photo by Connie Shaver)

Staying In the Thick of It

Park Square Theatre, with its long-held reputation as a white mainstream institution, has had to do much organizational soul-searching to embrace change. Is having to grapple with equity, diversity and inclusion a long and messy process? Does building trust feel hard-won or, more aptly, simply hard? Do they sometimes get things wrong (and, of course, right)? Have they kept forging ahead? The answer is a resounding “Yes!”

Mu Performing Arts co-produced Flower Drum Song with Park Square Theatre and returns with another production in the upcoming season.

The Independents

Collaborations with smaller independent companies through its co-production of Flower Drum Song with Mu Performing Arts and productions by its Theatres in Residence–Sandbox Theatre, Theatre Pro Rata and Girl Friday Productions–broadened the season’s scope. I loved the “one-stop shop” to be able to try out new companies and see what they’re all about. Look forward to French Twist by Flying Foot Forum and the return of Mu Performing Arts for A Korean Drama Addict’s Guide to Losing Your Virginity in our upcoming season.

H. Adam Harris and Kathryn Fumie in this past season’s The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence
(Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma)

The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence

Having been one of the volunteer script readers to consider this complex, time-jumping, contemporary play for production, it was exciting to see it finally come to fruition on stage. The thumbs up on the script was actually a tough call, surmising its challenge for audiences to grasp–both its pro and con. The play really made me think about the state of human relationships in our techno-world. Did it do the same for you? It also had one of the most beautiful sets ever by Set Designer Lance Brockman and moving performances by actors Kathryn Fumie, Adam Whisner and H. Adam Harris in roles that let their own true souls shine through their fictional facades. Hope you were there! Note: Contact John White, Literary Management Volunteer (white@Parksquaretheatre.org), to discuss your interest to become a volunteer script reader.

Jamil Jude with Hope Cervantes, who was in this past season’s The House on Mango Street
(Photo by Connie Shaver)

Jamil Jude, Park Square’s former Artistic Programming Associate

When Jamil had just been on board for several months, someone asked me, “Do you even know what he does here?” Guess what a young man with an expansive heart and the passion to build bridges and break down walls has done within his relatively short time in the Twin Cities community? Break a leg at your new gig in Atlanta! (Refer to past blogs “Jamil Jude, Artist Plus,” “What’s That Got to Do With Jamil Jude?” and “Jamil Jude, We’ll Miss You.”)

The Conversations That Became Real

Eric "Pogi" Sumangil

Eric “Pogi” Sumangil

In an industry that endlessly tries to grab a piece of you, remaining guarded is an act of self-care and self-preservation. You’re constantly navigating the minefields of others’ self-interests and being put in compromising situations. Who do you want to be in those circumstances? Who must you become? Who are you really? Whenever you get a glimpse into a theatre professional’s inner humanity, it’s a golden moment for sure! Theatre professionals rock!

Vincent HannamMy Fellow Bloggers

Getting Eric “Pogi” Sumangil on the team for this past season and blogging for another year with the wholehearted Vincent Hannam were awesome, to say the least. As the only blogger without a theatre background and career, following these two’s works online and onstage served as terrific learning tools. Each of us wrote around complex schedules due to multiple gigs and personal responsibilities. Thanks for being there!

 

Two Stages, Sheer Fun

For many Minnesotan families such as mine, Labor Day marks the end of summer. There is a nervous excitement in our household as another school year begins. What will it bring into our lives? Surely, loads of laughter, tears; much clarity, but just as many misunderstandings; personal highs, and emotional lows. Life is like that–filled with drama, comedy and everything in between.

Excitement also runs high at Park Square Theatre as we begin our 2016-2017 season. This coming week, both our stages will be crazy-busy with marvelous, energetic fun. Park Square presents the area premiere of David Ives’ The Liar on the Proscenium Stage from September 9 to October 2; while Joe Chvala and the Flying Foot Forum complete their run of Passing Through Pig’s Eye from September 7 to 11, a roving performance that starts and ends at the Boss Thrust Stage.

Mounting the production of The Liar has been incredible fun for those who can’t wait to bring it to you live on stage. This summer, I have connected with many of the show’s actors and designers for glimpses of the mischievous world that they plan to entangle us in–a world of intricate wordplay, deceptive scenery, twisty plot and fast-paced humor. In the spirit of the show, individuals also shared their own funny stories about lying. (Be sure to read past blog posts and future ones about The Liar.) Everyone’s enthusiasm has been infectious, and I cannot wait to see this play.

The Liar in Dress Rehearsal

Last week, I brought my entire family to see Passing Through Pig’s Eye. We came not knowing much beyond the fact that we would learn some Saint Paul history but were absolutely WOWed by the inventive dance numbers and often gut-busting humor. All I can say is, “Go see it NOW before you can’t!” In my mind’s eye, I can still see those “crazy legs” of the loose-limbed gangster, tap dancing away in bright red shoes, and the hilarious image of a stage full of dancers holding dodge balls. I can still feel the adrenaline rush of watching anything-goes street dancing, followed by Joe Chvala and longtime Forum member Karla Grotting “dust up the floor” like those movie greats, Astaire and Rogers or Kelly and Reynolds. What hit my whole family hardest about the performance that night was the sheer joy of the dancers on the stage and on the street, having so much fun doing what they love most.

Passing Through Pigs Eye

The end of summer doesn’t mark the end of fun, just anticipation for more to come. Consider coming down to Park Square Theatre soon to share in the fun–our fun, your fun, sheer fun!

What Will You Do With It?

Joe Chvala

It is a sunny but cool morning when I visited Joe Chvala.  I pass through the wooden gate to enter a green world loosely guarded by two gargoyles. It’s something to do with how the light filters through his yard that makes me expect something magical to happen. The White Rabbit from Wonderland may scamper past in a rush, or the Cheshire Cat may show himself on a tree branch. Calmly seated outside by a table on the porch is Chvala himself, like his garden, kind of otherworldly and timeless.

I have come to interview Chvala about Passing Through Pig’s Eye, a roving performance through historic Saint Paul by his percussive dance company, Flying Foot Forum, and guest performers. The show runs from August 25 to September 11, with its start and end points at Park Square Theatre’s Boss Thrust Stage within the historic Hamm Building. Audiences will divide into smaller groups for an immersive experience of dance and music at key locations in downtown Saint Paul. The audience will be moving around a great deal and sometimes standing so consider wearing comfortable shoes and clothing and not carrying large bags. The show is wheelchair accessible and appropriate for all ages.

For someone who’s on deadline to launch a new production by August 25, Chvala looks like he has all the time in the world, relaxed and still, ironic for a man known for perpetual motion on stage. And can Chvala move! He has done it all: jazz, ballet, tango, tap, folk, . . . you name it! Ultimately, percussive dance won his heart; but unwilling to settle on any one form–no, not simply tap; not just clogging–he draws from them all then adds his own percussive twists, letting loose his creative inventions.

Chvala admits to having lived a charmed life, able to spend much of it creating his own internal and external worlds since childhood. He grew up in Madison, Wisconsin, enjoying languid summers at a cabin by the lake, immersed in nature and his own wild imagination. He first became involved in theatre as a teenager, thrilled to now make believe to live audiences. Getting hooked on musical theatre as a child started him down the path to dance, which he pursued more seriously after moving to New York.

Chvala’s journey has led him to travel widely and even sometimes stay for longer spells. He is a Midwesterner who became a New Yorker (seven years) who then lived and taught dance in Gothenburg, Sweden (two years). Living overseas expanded his worldview and further deepened his artistic development. What finally drew him back full circle to the Midwest are close family ties which ground him. Despite his need for solitude to create, Chvala is, at heart, a connector, which makes it unsurprising that he had created Flying Foot Forum in 1991, a means for artists to share and invent together.

Chvala also feels most grounded when dancing, literally connecting with the earth. While he may have tendrils into other worlds, each of them having their own appeal, this is the world that feels the most immediate. As Chvala continues to uncompromisingly create the life that he wants to live and to gift–and as he sits in the radiant sunlight in the morning–he brings to mind these final lines from poet Mark Doty’s “Long Point Light”:

Here is the world you asked for,
gorgeous and opportune,

here is nine o’clock, harbor-wide,
and a glinting code: promise and warning.
The morning’s the size of heaven.

What will you do with it?

Tickets

To ensure the health and safety of Park Square patrons and staff, the ticket office is temporarily closed for in-person and phone service.

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Thanks, and stay well!

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