Posts Tagged Historic hamm Building

Park Square and SteppingStone Theatre to Join Forces

PARK SQUARE THEATRE AND STEPPINGSTONE THEATRE ARE
JOINING FORCES
TO CREATE “THEATRE FOR LIFE”

Media Contacts:
Connie Shaver,  shaver@parksquaretheatre.org
Kiersten Birondo kiersten@steppingstonetheatre.org

This fall, Park Square Theatre and SteppingStone Theatre for Youth join forces to create “your theatre for life” in downtown Saint Paul. The two companies have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding that will lead to more robust regional theatre programming for all ages. Through joint management and mission, though operating as separate legal entities with separate boards and finances, the two companies will provide a full range of theatre experiences out of the Historic Hamm Building. 

Those experiences will encompass all ages and the best that both theatres have to offer: classes and camps for young people, workshops for adults and intergenerational groups, family-oriented productions for young audiences, and Park Square’s full mainstage season of new works, classics, mysteries and beloved musicals. In tandem the two partner organizations will serve an audience of 125,000 with more than 70,000 young people attending performances and educational programs.

“I got my start in a theatre for youth company at eight and had my first theatre internship at 18,” says Park Square executive director Michael-jon Pease. “What excites me by joining forces is how together we truly become Saint Paul’s theatre for life for artists and audiences. This innovative partnership is a natural outgrowth of the theatre-in-residence concept Richard Cook started with the addition of Park Square’s Andy Boss Stage.”

SteppingStone’s artistic and executive director Mark Ferraro-Hauck agrees. “With the planned sale of our building near Summit Avenue and Victoria Street in Saint Paul, SteppingStone will return to its downtown roots for performances while maintaining easy accessibility for our hundreds of camp and class families through neighborhood-based programs and facilities.  Greater geographical flexibility and the strength of our combined resources are essential to meet the evolving needs of young artists, families, and schools.”

Each company has championed new work for the stage, from Park Square’s world premiere commission of Christina Ham’s NINA SIMONE: FOUR WOMEN that has gone on to productions around the country to SteppingStone’s recent world premiere of Ricardo Gamboa’s THE REAL LIFE ADVENTURES OF JIMMY DE LAS ROSAS. Park Square’s mainstage subscription programming will continue, such as the upcoming world premiere of BAD THINGS, GOOD WHISKEY, and the new musical TRIANGLE (a co-production with The Ordway). SteppingStone’s annual productions by and for young audiences will move to the Park Square stages during the school year, with summer productions held elsewhere to accommodate the growing summer audience. The partnership kicked off informally on August 1 and 2 with the SteppingStone production of DISNEY’S LITTLE MERMAID, JR, which took place outdoors on the 7th Place Plaza in front of Park Square.

“Partnerships with artists, theatre companies, and schools have also been integral to both Park Square and SteppingStone’s work in recent years,” comments SteppingStone Board President Mike Erlandson.  The new joint venture will include ongoing partner relationships with local companies such as Ghoulish Delights/The Mysterious Old Radio Listening Society, Flying Foot Forum, PRIME Productions, Ballet Co Lab, Full Circle Theater, TruArtSpeaks, and Trademark Theatre. 

“This step not only protects both Park Square and SteppingStone during the continued pandemic and forced theatre ‘intermission,’ by bringing together their assets and skillsets,” notes Park Square Board chair Paul Mattessich, “but re-establishes the Hamm Building – which also houses the former SPCO recital hall and the former Vieux Carré jazz club – as a thriving, diverse performance center that can help rebuild downtown’s economy once the pandemic is over.”

With this move, the two organizations are also transforming their leadership model and building on Park Square’s March announcement of a cohort model of Artistic Associates including Kim Vasquez, Rick Shiomi and Ellen Fenster. Mark Ferraro-Hauck becomes the newest element of the artistic and executive leadership team, serving as interim Executive Director, while Vasquez will become Producing Director of the Park Square Mainstage. Another Artistic Associate is currently meeting with the team and is expected to be announced in the coming weeks. Michael-jon Pease, Park Square’s current Executive Director, will remain with the company as a part-time consultant through the transition. Pease begins a new career as Executive Director of the Saint Paul Parks Conservancy in September. Ferraro-Hauck observes, “As we have discussed the challenges of the current economic moment and the complexity of bringing together two organizations, we have also been inspired by the necessity of re-imagining artistic leadership in ways that join and celebrate the many gifts and lived experiences found in our artistic community.”

As a teacher at St Paul City School, a current board member of SteppingStone Theatre, and a subscriber and donor to Park Square Theatre, Pondie Taylor agrees. “I think the energy of SteppingStone and Park Square Theatre truly complement each other well. Thanks to their theater classes, SteppingStone has given my children the tools and confidence to be on stage. Park Square Theatre has invited my students to watch the magic of a novel come to life on stage. I bring my entire family to watch a SteppingStone play and my husband and I enjoy date night at Park Square! I think these two theaters together will continue to strengthen the art scene in the Twin Cities and the greater Midwest.”  

Artistic and Executive leadership

Mark Ferraro-Hauck
Interim Executive Director of Park Square, Artistic Executive Director of SteppingStone Theatre for Youth
Mark has a passion for providing all youth with an opportunity to grow, discover their strengths, and interact with the world around them. He has conducted teacher and parent trainings in arts-based wellness strategies for youth and led a federal study of the role of the arts in building resiliency with traumatized youth. Mark has directed and designed over 60 plays throughout the Midwest at professional and educational theatres. He was a founder and held the position of Executive Producing Director of the Great River Shakespeare Festival in Winona, Minnesota, and was also founder of Public Theater of Minnesota in 2010, a program focused on professional Shakespeare productions featuring young actors. In addition to working in the arts, Mark spent 15 years as the principal designer and co-owner of Bluestem Construction, a nationally recognized residential and commercial remodeling firm.

Kim Vasquez
Producing Director of the Park Square Mainstage, Park Square Theatre Artistic Associate
Kim Vasquez is a Saint Paul native specializing in the development of new plays and musicals as head of Gray Lady Entertainment, Inc. She is currently a producer on Be More Chill (Chicago, London, Broadway and Off-Broadway) and Austen’s Pride. Kim is a proud Founding Producer for the currently defunct New York Musical Theatre Festival (NYMF), which survived for a glorious 15 years. Her most recent directing credit was for the New York Times bestselling Author and Poet, Rupi Kaur, in a live theatrical production of The Sun And Her Flowers at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center. Kim is also an Actor recently having worked on In The Heights, the movie, and Saturday Night Live. Proud member of SAG-AFTRA.

Ellen Fenster
Park SquareTheatre Artistic Associate
Ellen Fenster is a professional theater director and arts educator in Minneapolis. Ellen has directed at Pillsbury House Theatre, The Illusion Theater, Yellow Tree Theater, Theatre Mu, Artistry, Gremlin Theatre, U of MN/Guthrie Theater Actor Training Program and Park Square Theater. She is an associate artist at Pillsbury House Theatre where she ran the Chicago Avenue Project from 2008 to 2016.  She is also an artistic associate at Illusion Theatre where she helps connect the theater with young and emerging artists. She is currently the Artistic and Executive Director of Twin Cities Theater Camp, a summer theater intensive for children.

Rick Shiomi
Park Square Theatre Artistic Associate
Rick Shiomi is a founding member and the Co-Artistic Director of Full Circle Theater. He has been a playwright, director and artistic director in the Asian American theater movement since the 1980s and was a co-founder of Theater Mu and Artistic Director for twenty years. His twenty plays include Mask Dance, Rosie’s Café and Yellow Fever. His directing credits include: Flower Drum Song (David Hwang version), Into The Woods, The New Mikado and Caught by Christopher Chen. He has received The McKnight Distinguished Artist Award, The Ivey Award for Lifetime Achievement and the Sally Ordway Irvine Award for Vision.

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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.

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.

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