Posts Tagged Full Circle Theater Company

A Conversation with Lara and Rick of Full Circle Theater’s ATACAMA

“Everyone I know has a story about how theatre chose them; once it catches your attention, you can’t look away.”

Picture of Lara Trujillo and Rick Shiomi. She has long dark hair and wears a red v-neck shirt. He has short hair and a gray sweater over a blue polo shirt.

Lara and Rick at a rehearsal of Atacama.

Theatre came to Lara Trujillo by way of music. The actor and director of Atacama, and Full Circle Theater core artist, began her theatre career in musical theatre and opera. Though she still is still an opera performer, Lara says that “a play without music was something new and challenging, and [she] loves to take on new challenges”. However, it was musical theatre that led her to meet Rick Shomi when she starred in a production of Into The Woods put on by Theatre Mu. 

Rick’s story is a little different. The successful playwright, Full Circle Theater core artist, and Park Square Artistic Associate originally wanted to be a prose writer. He says that he didn’t discover playwriting until he wrote Yellow Fever and realized that “theatre was a place where [he] felt at home.” It was this play that placed him as a key figure in Asian-American theatre. When Rick was growing up he had “no idea of theatre in the Asian-American sense.” Lifting up minority voices and stories and ensuring that theatre is diverse and inclusive is now a core part of all of the work that he does. 

When Full Circle Theatre was formed, centering diversity began with the formation of a core artistic leadership group that was intentionally composed of artists who represented a variety of different identities. Park Square’s new leadership core also reflects intentional diversity. This intentional diversity is then applied to all aspects of theatre, from selecting each season’s shows all the way to ensuring that each play is accessible to a diverse audience. As Lara notes, “plays that showcase underrepresented narratives and voices are often the ones that stay with the audience the longest.” Plays that touch on universal and social justice themes serve as conversation starters. She recognizes that audience members are often looking for more than entertainment, saying “Park Square audiences are hungry for great quality work and work that provides not just entertainment, but helps them to find meaning.”

One play that combines meaning and artistry is Atacama, an upcoming show that Full Circle is putting on in collaboration with Park Square (on stage April 20 to May 1). Though this show is set in Chile several years after the fall of the Pinochet Regime, it conveys universal messages about grief and connection, and draws parallels between history and the present, while warning about what can happen when a country and a people are deeply divided.

The combination of artistry and values is also something that occurs with collaboration between theaters. As Rick notes, “partnership allows theaters to combine values and resources, strengthening productions.” He also says that “it is always good for the community when theaters work together because it makes theater communities more active and stable.” Though Rick’s leadership role in both Park Square and Full Circle certainly serves as one driving force behind the partnership between the two theatres, he also says that, at least for Atacama, Park Square simply “felt like the right fit,” especially with the theatre’s increased focus on social justice themes.

For both Lara and Rick, the future of Twin Cities’ theatre lies in these ideas of collaboration and diversity. As Lara says, “theatre is now about sharing new narratives or unique stories, and anyone can throw their hat in the ring.” Through partnership between theaters, more stories can be told and “the universe of the theatre community can expand.”  And, with Rick and Lara’s help, Park Square and Full Circle will be at the forefront of this new wave of theatre. 

Interview and article by Marketing Intern, Rachel Christensen

ATACAMA is on the Park Square Proscenium Stage April 20-May 1, 2022.

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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.

Announcing Saint Paul Summer Sunlight

SAINT PAUL SUMMER SUNLIGHT PERFORMANCE SERIES WELCOMES WORKERS AND AUDIENCES BACK TO DOWNTOWN 

Media Contact – Rachel Wandrei wandrei@parksquaretheatre.org 

Saint Paul, Minn., June 22, 2021 – Park Square Theatre and the Saint Paul Downtown Alliance are celebrating the reopening of downtown Saint Paul with a free outdoor concert series aimed at welcoming returning workers, residents, theatre fans and music lovers back to the city’s cultural scene. SAINT PAUL SUMMER SUNLIGHT, a series of ten performances, will fill West 7th Place (the pedestrian mall between Wabasha and St Peter) with lunchtime and happy hour concerts from July 22 through September 23, 2021. 

An man in shiny red pants dancing and singing into a microphone.

Ready Freddie

“We have a varied and energetic lineup of concerts, from the glam rock-and-roll of Ready Freddie – A Queen Experience and the powerful R&B vocals of MsArnise, to Full Circle Theater Company’s recontextualization of The Mikado, a Gilbert and Sullivan opera classic,” says Park Square producer Kim Vasquez. “The Twin Cities has an array of eclectic, talented theatre makers and musicians who are ready to get back on stage, and audiences who are ready to come out and party a little. Our new team at Park Square Theatre and SteppingStone Theatre wants to play a collaborative leadership role in reconnecting community members and artists and adding to the vibrancy of downtown together.” Other acts in the series include Annie and the Bang Bang, The Champagne Drops, TaikoArts Midwest, an old-time radio show by the Mysterious Old Radio Listening Society and more (photo link below).  

A woman in red bluse and white blazer calmly looks into the distance. An industrial scene in the background

MsArnise

“As people return to downtown, we’ll be there to welcome them back and remind them of all the joy and excitement there is to be had in a vibrant urban center,” says Joe Spencer, president of the Saint Paul Downtown Alliance. “From our restaurants and shops to our music and theatre venues, our city is poised to bounce back better than ever.” Music will continue into the evenings with acoustic sets on the Loon Cafe’s patio on Thursday evenings throughout the summer.  

Park Square will be announcing their full reopening plans later in the summer, with a commitment to gradually producing shows that were canceled due to the pandemic (including a remount of the 2018 sold-out hit, MARIE AND ROSETTA), as well as sharing the Historic Hamm Building facility with other arts organizations. “The theatre may have been dark for over a year, but we’ve been busy behind the scenes and

Three drummers in blue tunics with drumsticks in the air surround three drumbs

TaikoArts Midwest

can’t wait to reconnect with people,” comments Mark Ferraro-Hauck, interim executive director of Park Square and artistic director of their partner theatre, SteppingStone Theatre for Youth. SteppingStone will be producing MADAGASCAR – A MUSICAL ADVENTURE JR, on West 7th Place from July 27- August 8. “Summer on the plaza is gonna be hoppin!” continues Ferraro-Hauck. “There will be an entertaining show for you here whether you are 3, 33, or 83. And then we’ll bring that energy inside and into the future. Join us!” 

TICKET PRICES: Free and open to the public. Limited chairs will be available, audiences are invited to bring their own chairs. Email tickets@parksquaretheatre.org with questions. 

CALENDAR INFORMATION*:

The Champagne Drops

The Champagne Drops

Thurs Jul 22, 12:00 pm – Full Circle Theater Company 
Thurs Aug 5, 4:30 pm – Ready Freddie: A Queen Experience
Thurs Aug 12, 12:00 pm – Legacy Arts Group
Thurs Aug 12, 4:30 pm – The Champagne Drops
Thurs Aug 19, 4:30 pm – MsArnise
Wed Aug 25, 4:30 pm – Victor Zupanc
Thurs Aug 26, 12:00 pm – TaikoArts Midwest

Thurs Sep 9, 4:30 pm – Annie and the Bang Bang
Fri Sep 10, 12:00 pm – Ben Cook-Feltz
Thurs Sep 23, 4:30 pm – The Mysterious Old Radio Listening Society 
*All performances subject to change. For continuous updates, visit parksquaretheatre.org. 

PHOTO LINK: Press Photos available at:
https://parksquaretheatre.org/media/photos/#1603933207367-806db2dd-4e8f 

Man in black fedora playing a red electric keyboard, a man at his side plays upright base.

Ben Cook-Feltz

SAINT PAUL SUMMER SUNLIGHT is sponsored by the Saint Paul Downtown Alliance, as part of its #WelcomeBackStPL campaign to safely celebrate reopening and welcome people back downtown. From outdoor trivia and art installations to pop-up events and concerts, the Downtown Alliance is partnering with downtown institutions, businesses, artists, and musicians to host more than 300 events and activations through the fall. Follow the Downtown Alliance on Facebook and Instagram or check out the hashtag #WelcomeBackStPL for updates. For the full calendar of events, visit WelcomeBackStPL.com. 

PARK SQUARE THEATRE. 20 W. Seventh Place, Saint Paul. www.parksquaretheatre.org 

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Jamil Jude, We’ll Miss You

Jamil Jude

Park Square Theatre was blessed to have Jamil Jude join its artistic/production team in December 2015 to begin a two-year mentorship with Artistic Director Richard Cook, made possible through a prestigious Leadership U[niversity] – One-on-One Program award of a two-year grant to fund Jamil’s professional development via a mentorship. Jamil was one of only six early-career leaders from all areas of theatre throughout the nation to receive such an award.

At Park Square Theatre, Jamil was given the title of Artistic Programming Associate, and he was placed in the foreground to help the organization remain a relevant theatre in a community with a demographic that will continue to shift towards greater diversity. During his mentorship, he would move forward the theater’s vision to be “intentionally diverse” and practice “radical inclusivity” (both terms appear in Park Square’s website).

Richard Cook

It has been nearly a decade-long journey to prepare Park Square for the 21st century and beyond. This mission was initially envisioned by Richard as he witnessed the impact of live theatre on students, particularly students of color, attending its Education programs. The long journey is not surprising as institutionalized exclusionary practices are difficult to dismantle to be able to support truly inclusionary practices. An organization must have strong leadership support and clear and consistent buy-in both from within and without to be able to broaden its scope.

In his short time here, Jamil especially impacted Park Square by being a skilled connector and unifier, doing the very hard work of fostering trust amongst diverse artist communities and giving generous access to his broader network. He has also provided crucial insights and suggestions to challenge the same old approaches in the theater’s programming and audience outreach. Some changes were made in tailoring post-show discussions for diverse student audiences, making script selections and recruiting and attracting more diverse talent to be onstage, behind the scenes, and as instructors for workshops. All his actions accelerated the impact of making real, lasting changes. However, there is still quite a bit to do even as Jamil’s mentorship comes to an end after June and the Artistic Programming Associate position dissolves.

While Park Square is a top employer of local stage talent, 64 percent of whom are women and artists of color, it still has no core staff (including leadership positions) and just one board member of color. But a few years ago, it created the role of Artistic Associate for the purpose of broadening the organization’s perspectives, and recruited Aditi Kapil, Carson Kreitzer, Ricardo Vazquez and James A. Williams to serve as ongoing Artistic Associates. Park Square has also invited local theatre companies, such as Girl Friday Productions, Sandbox Theatre Company, Theatre Pro Rata and Wonderlust Productions, to become Theatres in Residence and partnered with Mu Performing Arts to produce this season’s Flower Drum Song as mutually beneficial exposure to new audiences.

Currently, Park Square is partnering with the St. Paul Chamber of Commerce to create a Community Advisory Board made up of people of color to give ideas and feedback on what types of stories need to be told on stages and who to share them with–in short, to engage in honest dialogue to better understand how Park Square fits within an evolving community. On June 21 from 5-6 pm, Jamil will be a facilitator for “Cocktails and Conversation” in our Proscenium lobby for professionals of color to give such feedback.

Only time will tell what the future holds for Park Square Theatre without the transformational presence of Jamil. It’s more difficult to question and alter inherent biases and beliefs than to organically build from the ground up with that vision in mind the way that a new organization, such as Full Circle Theater Company, can do. It’s more difficult to transform an organization with individuals at different spectrums of cultural competency regarding issues of equity, diversity and inclusion. Any stall into complacency, regression into status quo or backslide into habituated ways of doing things negatively impacts the outcome. Park Square will steadily need to match good intent with continued action to move forward into its total vision.

Jamil himself will move forward to Atlanta, Georgia, where he will become True Colors Theatre Company’s Associate Artistic Director. At True Colors, Jamil will also get to direct a play each year and, for the first time in his career, focus his energy within one organization rather than be, as he described, “split-brained” amongst multiple organizations and freelance projects.

Darrick Mosley, Kevin West and Peter Thomson in The Highwaymen, directed by Jamil Jude
(photo by Scott Pakudaitis)

While Jamil has certainly left his mark on Park Square Theatre, what many may not know is the wider impact he has also had on the Twin Cities theatre scene since his arrival in Minnesota in 2011. From 2011 to 2014, he worked for Mixed Blood Theatre Company in Minneapolis’ West Bank as its National New Play Network Producer in Residence and created and facilitated artist/educator-audience discussions as its Free Speech Program Director. Jamil made another strong impression in 2013, receiving the year-long Playwright Center’s Many Voices Mentorship to help Minnesota-based playwright of color hone one’s craft. Within a few years, Jamil had further widened his circle and influence, joining the Board of Directors of the Minnesota Theatre Alliance (2012-16), the Minnesota Fringe Festival, and the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council (both since 2014). In 2015, he had founded the New Griots Festival to promote the work of Twin Cities black artists into the future; the festival will return this year at the Guthrie from July 6 to 16. In 2016, he directed the highly relevant and critically praised inaugural productions of Underdog Theatre’s Baltimore is Burning, written by local artist Kory LaQuess Pullam, founder of Underdog Theatre, as well as local playwright Josh Wilder’s The Highwaymen at The History Theatre in St. Paul.

Park Square Theatre and the Twin Cities theatre community will dearly miss Jamil Jude. Not only could he inspire us, but more importantly, he brought people together to get things done. Jamil Jude has left things better than when he’d arrived. What more could we ask for? We are very grateful and wish him well.

—-

(Note: Be sure to also read the previous blog post, “What’s That Got to Do With Jamil Jude?”)


 

What’s That Got To Do With Jamil Jude?

Jamil Jude
(Photo by Connie Shaver)

Last month, I attended a friend’s graduation at the University of Minnesota. Only two years before, I’d read her application essay explaining her motivation to pursue a Master’s in Public Affairs, despite her already heavy load of a full-time job and parenting as well as the economic and time sacrifices for the family. What drove her all boiled down to a personal value instilled in her by her father: “Always leave it better.”

Today I was involved in a brief discussion about the concept of transformational leadership with the sisters and consociates of the Order of St. Joseph of the Carondelet in St. Paul. Such leaders are change makers; they inspire, motivate and empower followers toward making lasting change through a common vision, and they do so by changing expectations, perceptions and motivations. Unlike traditional transactional leaders who are more concerned with processes and foster compliance through rewards and punishment, transformational leaders challenge the status quo to build a personally and collectively meaningful and productive environment for the common good. The transactional style is less apt to make lasting change, though effective in getting specific projects or tasks done and in dealing with crisis and emergencies

Recently I saw Full Circle Theater Company’s 365 Days/plays by Suzan-Lori Parks: A 2017 Remix. This is a company that I’ve been following since it fell under my radar last year when I saw its inaugural production, Theater: A Sacred Passage. It is a forward-looking multiracial, multicultural and multigenerational company that “artfully addresses issues of human nature and social justice for 21st century audiences.” Led by five highly experienced theatre professionals (Rick Shiomi, co-founder and former artistic director of Mu Performing Arts; Martha B. Johnson, co-founder of Mu Performing Arts; James A. Williams, co-founder of Penumbra Theatre; Lara Trujillo, seasoned vocalist, actor and music educator; and Stephanie Lein Walseth, longtime theatre scholar, artist, educator and administrator), this company does the hard work of “walking the talk” in its commitment to intentional diversity that will impact the Twin Cities theatre community of artists and audience well into the future.

What do any of these seemingly random reflections have to do with Jamil Jude, Park Square Theatre’s Artistic Programming Associate since December 2015? Well, everything.

Find out more in an upcoming post about Jamil!

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Please call 651.291.7005.

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