Posts Tagged Joe Chvala

Flying Foot Forum Returns to Park Square

Flying Foot Forum Returns to Park Square

HEAVEN

Flying Foot Forum’s emotional, dance filled musical returns

MEDIA CONTACT
Connie Shaver, shaver@parksquaretheatre.org

Park Square Theatre and Flying Foot Forum present Heaven, on the Proscenium stage from May 31 through June 23, 2019. Created and directed by Joe Chvala, H

EAVEN is a choreographic blend of frenzied dancing, music and theatre set in war-torn Bosnia during the 1990s. The production features Orkestar Bez Ime, a Balkan party band, music by Chan Poling (The Suburbs, Glensheen) Joe Chvala, Victor Zupanc, and Natalie Nowytski, and actors who sing and speak in English and Serbo-Croatian as this story steeped in history celebrates the Bosnian culture and the dignity of those who lived through the war.

Heaven was first presented in March 2011 at the Guthrie’s Dowling Theatre. That production was ironically timed as the Arab Spring uprising was engulfing Egypt. Chvala is finding the messages of the play are as timely today as they were in 2011.

“Heaven is a show of sharp contrasts, filled with beautiful music, love stories and raucous dancing, as it brings us inside the violence of the Bosnian War,” said Chvala. “It is a cautionary tale of the need to find common ground rather than fight those who are different from us.”

The play begins in a café, the crowd singing Bosnian songs. Photo journalist Peter Adamson is documenting the war and is frustrated that his photos are not prompting the world to take action. He finds himself on a journey with his translator Faruk to save Faruk’s wife. Amid the horrors of war, there is humor, love and hope as the characters try to maintain their humanity. “This is theater that grabs you by the shoulders and shakes you in your seat.” (How Was the Show)

The production is enriched by a series of public events created in partnership by Park Square Theatre, Flying Foot Forum, World Without Genocide, The St Paul Rotary Club and the Minneapolis University Rotary Club to take audiences into the heart of the Bosnian War, genocide and through the transitional justice efforts that have followed in the decades since the war ended. Next up:

Exhumations and Justice

Post-show conversation following the Sunday, June 16 performance

A discussion following the performance will be led by Dr. Andrew Baker, Hennepin County Medical Examiner, who served as a forensic pathologist in Kosovo.

Sex Trafficking and Genocide

Film The Whistleblower and FBI talk on sex trafficking

Tuesday, June 11, 7:00 p.m.
Mitchell Hamline School of Law, 875 Summit Avenue, St. Paul

This 2010 biographical crime drama starring Rachel Weisz and Vanessa Redgrave is the story of Kathryn Bolkovac, a Nebraska police officer recruited as a UN peacekeeper for DynCorp International in post-war Bosnia in 1999. While there, she discovered a sex trafficking ring serving (and facilitated by) DynCorp employees, with the UN’s SFOR peacekeeping force turning a blind eye. A post-film talk will be moderated by FBI Special Agent Michael Melcher of the sex trafficking unit.

 

The production team for Heaven includes Emma Lai (Assistant Director); Jake Endres (Music Director); Robin Mcintyre (Scenic Design); Cindy Forsgren (Costume Design); Kirby Moore (Properties Design); Marcus Dilliard (Lighting Design); Cody Anderson (Sound Design); Steve Campbell (Video Design); Stela O’Center (Language and Culture Consultant); Joe Papke (Dialect Coach); Rachel Lantow *(Stage Manager);and Paran Kashani (Assistant Stage Manager)

CAST:

Jeremy Bensussan

Jan Campbell

Joe Chvala

Peter Colburn

Michelle de Joya

Ariel Donahue

Kevin Dustrude

Mary Gantenbein

Karla Grotting

Liam Hage

Christian LaBissoniere

Cooper Lajeunesse

Helena Magalhaes

Riley McNutt

Natalie Nowytski

Charles Robison

Jessica Staples

Molly Stoltz

Nicolas Sullivan

Lara Trujillo

Eric Webster

Joe Weismann

Mabel Weismann

 

BAND

Colleen Bertsch

Jeffrey Gram

Jake Endres

Scott Keever

Eric Ray

Ticket prices: Previews: $20-$37. Regular Run: $25-$60. Discounts are available for seniors, military personnel, those under age 30, and groups. Tickets are on sale at the Park Square ticket office, 20 W. Seventh Place, or by phone: 651.291.7005, (12 noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday), or online at parksquaretheatre.org.   #PSTHeaven

*Member, Actors Equity Association

CALENDAR INFORMATION

Heaven

Park Square’s Proscenium Stage

Previews: May 31 – June 6, 2019

Opening Night: June 7

Regular Run: June 7 – 23, 2019

Tickets: Previews: $20-$37; Regular Run: $25-$60

PARK SQUARE THEATRE, 20 W. Seventh Place, Saint Paul

Ticket office: 651-291-7005 or parksquaretheatre.org

 

UP NEXT ON THE PARK SQUARE PROSCENIUM STAGE:

The world premiere of:

Jefferson Township Sparkling Junior Talent Pageant

Book and Lyrics by Keith Hovis

Directed by and Laura Leffler

Previews: June 14 – 20, 2019

Opening Night: June 21

Regular Run: June 21 – July 28, 2019

 

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

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Park Square Announces 45th Season

Park Square Announces 45th Season

First Season for new Artistic Director Flordelino Lagundino Features Big Scale, Big Heart, Three Musicals and One World Premiere

MEDIA CONTACT

Connie Shaver, shaver@parksquaretheatre.org

 

Saint Paul, Minn., Feb. 14, 2019 – Park Square Theatre announced its 45th theatre season for 2019-2020 today. This is the first season to be created by Artistic Director Flordelino Lagundino, who took the reins of the theatre on August 1, 2018, after a national search. Flordelino will direct two shows in his first season, both by Korean American playwrights: AUBERGINE by Julia Cho and UN (the completely true story of the rise of Kim Jong Un) by John Kim.

Flordelino is building on Park Square’s commitment to new work with regional premieres, as well as one world premiere. He is also continuing former Artistic Director Richard Cook’s legacy of guaranteeing that every season includes at least one directing debut by introducing Park Square audiences to nationally recognized directors Mark Valdez, Ilana Ransom Toeplitz and Madeline Sayet, as well as local powerhouses Marcela Lorca and Lisa Channer.

“I wanted my first season to have an emphasis on community and to show as many people as possible that they have a place at Park Square and that they belong here,” said Flordelino. “I’ve been listening carefully to our community my first five months in town and am working to provide us all with stories that uplift, entertain, prod, and ultimately help us understand each other as fellow humans. And I think this is a moment in time when we all need to get up and dance!”

The season opens with that exact counterpoint: a delicious human drama on the Boss and plenty of dance moves on the Proscenium.

First on the Boss Stage will be the area premiere of AUBERGINE (Sept 20 – Oct 20, 2019) by Julia Cho, author of The Language archive, directed by Flordelino Lagundino. In this poignant and lyrical new play, a son cooks a meal for his dying father to say everything that words can’t. Since this first-generation Korean American speaks English and only limited Korean, the making of a perfect meal is an expression more precise than language, and the medium through which his love gradually reveals itself.

“This was one of the most beautiful plays I have ever read,” says Flordelino. “When I encountered it for the first time, I felt it was the best play I had read by an Asian American author in the last ten years. The writing feels so personal. It is a humorous and sensitive play about memories, food, and a relationship fractured by the loss of native language and the distance created between families because of war and the resulting Korean diaspora.”

The season continues on the Park Square Proscenium Stage with the Tony Award-nominated campy rock musical THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW by Richard O’Brien (Sept 27 – Nov 2, 2019), directed by Ilana Ransom Toeplitz. “I really want to rock the house and upend the way that people think of Park Square,” says Flordelino. “This is a great show to bring the generations together – those that stood in line as teenagers to see the original movie in 1975 (coincidentally the year Park Square opened), and young people experiencing it for their first time. I want the walls to shake and for people to get up, dance, laugh and have a good time!”

Ilana Ransom Toeplitz

THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW will be Toeplitz’s Park Square and Twin Cities directing debut. She has served as associate director for the national tours of DIRTY DANCING: THE CLASSIC STORY ON STAGE and A CHRISTMAS STORY: THE MUSICAL!, as well as being a Drama League Director’s Project Alum (2017 Leo Shull New Musicals Directing Fellow). “The whole night should feel like a party that’s been locked up in a time machine for years, begging to come out and play,” says Toeplitz. “It all culminates in Frank-N-Furter’s epic floor show, which has all the glitz of a David Bowie concert combined with all of the glam of an episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Audience participation is encouraged.”

A special one-week only presentation of PAIGE IN FULL by Paige Hernandez will take to the Boss Stage (Oct 25– 27, 2019). This unique experience blends poetry, dance, media and music to share a multicultural girl’s journey through hip-hop to self-discovery. Since its premiere in 2010, this “visual mix-tape” has sold out performances throughout the country and garnered praise from critics and audiences alike for its energy, intelligence, and originality.

Paige in Full

Warren Bowles

Park Square will offer just one weekend of general audience performances of its critically acclaimed production of Lorraine Hansberry’s A RAISIN IN THE SUN, directed by Warren Bowles (Boss Stage, Dec 6-8, 2019), with student matinees playing (Nov 18 – Dec 20, 2019).

Lisa Channer

For the holidays on the Proscenium Stage, Park Square continues its tradition of “counter programming” by featuring the regional premiere of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE (Nov 15 – Dec 22, 2019) adapted from the Jane Austen classic by Kate Hamill (SENSE AND SENSIBILITY, LITTLE WOMEN) and directed by Lisa Channer in her Park Square debut. This clever comedy offers a decidedly progressive take on the trials of Lizzy, Mr. Darcy, and the whole Bennet clan, with a few dance breaks thrown in for good measure. “I love it because of the emphasis on the actor and the emphasis on theatricality,” says Flordelino. “Many of the actors play multiple roles and there is a sense of joy and abandon. Like the original Austen, it also gets to the depths of what it means to really fight for love and family.”

Mark Valdez

2020 kicks off on the Proscenium with a brand-new take on the Broadway musical EVITA by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Weber, directed by Mark Valdez in his Park Square debut with musical direction by Denise Prosek and choreography by Joe Chvala (Jan 17 – Mar 1, 2020). “Mark is blowing the dust off this classic,” says Flordelino. “He is taking on how populism meets politics. What does it take to rise up in today’s society and make a name for yourself? And at what cost do we make our way up the ladder of success and power in any political environment?”

Valdez, who directs frequently at Mixed Blood Theatre, just received the Americans for the Arts 2019 Johnson Fellowship for Artists Transforming Communities, a $65,000 award that will help Mark continue his ground-breaking work in community-based theatre engagement.

The world premiere of UN (the completely true story of Kim Jong Un) by John Kim (Feb 7 – Mar 1, 2020) will be directed by Flordelino Lagundino, who was involved in the early development of the play at Pan Asian Rep in New York City. The play is a hilarious, irreverent, and brutal take on the life and rise to power of Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. It chronicles his life as teen who loves basketball, Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, through the shaping of his mythology as the Supreme Leader. “John Kim and I have known each other for about 20 years,” shares Flordelino. “We met when I directed him in David Henry Hwang’s THE SOUND OF A VOICE when John was an undergrad actor at George Mason University. His script looks at the often-insane ways in which power is given and taken, and how the western world looks and frames power from countries that do not share its Eurocentric origins.”

FACE TO FACE: OUR HMONG COMMUNITY (Boss Stage, Mar 5 – 15, 2020) is a first-ever partnership between Park Square and the internationally-renowned Ping Chong + Company, a New York-based leader in innovative community-based theatre engagement. FACE TO FACE will be a community-specific, interview-based theater piece examining issues of culture and identity within Saint Paul’s vibrant Hmong Community. This original play will feature members from the Hmong community that will tell their stories – in their own words. “Minnesota has crossed an important and exciting cultural threshold,” says Executive Director Michael-jon Pease, “with more state legislators named ‘Xiong’ than ‘Johnson.’ This project is a way to explore the many facets of a community who are woven into our Minnesota fabric.”

FACE TO FACE is a larger series of theatre-based engagement projects which lifts up different parts of our community so that we all can know each other just a little bit better,” says Flordelino.

Marcela Lorca

The community spirit continues with the Midwest premiere of MISS YOU LIKE HELL by Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Quiara Alegría Hudes (ELLIOT, A SOLDIER’S FUGUE, WATER BY THE SPOONFUL, In the Heights) and acclaimed, genre-breaking singer/songwriter Erin McKeown (Apr 17 – May 17, 2020). Marcela Lorca is directing. The musical recently played Off-Broadway at The Public Theater in 2018, where it was nominated for five Drama Desk Awards, including Best Lyrics, Best Music and Best Orchestrations.

After living estranged from each other for years, 16-year old Olivia and her mom, an undocumented immigrant on the verge of deportation, embark on a road trip that crosses state lines. Together they meet Americans of different backgrounds, shared dreams, and complicated truths in this powerful new show with vast heart and fierce humor.

Michael Evan Haney

Summer in Saint Paul kicks off on the Proscenium Stage with Jeffrey Hatcher’s twisting, tantalizing mystery HOLMES AND WATSON (Jun 12 – Jul 26, 2020) directed by Michael Evan Haney. Sherlock Holmes has been dead three years when Dr. Watson receives a message from a mental asylum: three patients are claiming to be Sherlock Holmes. Did the world’s greatest sleuth fake his own death? Who is the real detective and who are the imposters? “Jeffrey is a local playwriting legend,” says Flordelino. “This mystery is Hatcher at his best. The writing is driving, taut, and will keep you on the edge of your seat.” Director Michael Evan Haney will make his Park Square directing debut. “Jeffrey Hatcher has built his play upon one of the most famous mysteries in English Literature—the death? (Disappearance?) of Sherlock Holmes at Reichenbach Falls” added Haney. “ He has created a Rubik’s Cube of a plot in HOLMES AND WATSON—a fast paced 90 minutes of suspense, mystery and thrills.”

The summer fun continues with guillotines and a cry for liberty on the Boss Stage with the regional premiere of THE REVOLUTIONISTS by Lauren Gunderson (Jun 19 – Jul 19, 2020). Four badass women lose their heads in this irreverent, woman-powered 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 the 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.

Madeline Sayet

THE REVOLUTIONISTS will be directed by Madeline Sayet in her Park Square Theatre debut. Sayet is a recipient of The White House Champion of Change Award from President Obama and a member of the FORBES 30 Under 30 in Hollywood and Entertainment for her work as a director, writer, performer and educator. “This story is biting and playful, full of passion, humor and poignant truths for all of us — not just those who die for causes, but everyone who tries to stand up,” says Sayet. “It immediately made me think of the Oscar Wilde quote, ‘If you want to tell people the truth, you’d better make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you.’”

In addition to the full season of public performances, Park Square will continue to serve the region’s largest teen theatre audience with 127 daytime matinees for students in 7th-12th grade from select shows in the season 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.

 

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

 

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

PHOTO LINKS

Madeline Sayet

Ilana Ransom Toeplitz

Michael Evan Haney headshot

Flordelino Lagundino and Michael-jon Pease headshots by Amy Anderson HERE

Paige in Full

Ping Chong + Co

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

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.”

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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.

Brian Sostek, A Mover and A Dancer

Doug Scholz-Carlson (l) and Brian Sostek (r) in a rehearsal with cast members
(Photo by Connie Shaver)

In The Pirates of Penzance, Brian Sostek is the Movement and Dance Director, creating the overall movements–not just for the dance sequences–in the show. It’s actually a collaborative process, starting with discussions to hash out concepts with Director Doug Scholz-Carlson, before the actors even step into rehearsals. They consider such issues as: What kind of feel do they want for this or that number?

Unlike Director Doug Scholz-Carlson and Music Director Denise Prosek, who have a script and scores to follow, Brian doesn’t already have the moves written down. He gets to work on a blank slate, though ever mindful that whatever created must support the telling of the story.

During the start of rehearsals, the cast spent an intensive three to four days with Denise to practice the music before working with Brian. The actors were hired for their acting and singing, rather than dancing, abilities so his first task was to see how they move. That helped him assess how to capitalize on their strengths and how much to push them beyond their comfort levels.

“I told the actors to expect to fail a lot,” Brian said. “Our objective is to find out what works or doesn’t.”

This process of trial and error placed great demands on the actors. Sometimes they’d have invested much energy in learning particular moves, only to have them changed.

Brian also continued to work closely with Doug and Denise throughout rehearsals. It was an organic process where sometimes Doug would be working with the cast and Brian would suggest that they try something or vice versa. Their collaboration became such that they felt comfortable jumping in to build on what the other was doing.

Brian Sostek leads cast members in movements during a rehearsal
(Photo by Connie Shaver)

Although his mom and dad had been in show business before becoming academics in dance and theatre, respectively, Brian himself hadn’t planned to follow in their footsteps. He’d transferred from Swarthmore College to Carleton College in his sophomore year with the thought of majoring in Political Science and Russian.

“Then I took a class on African American poetry, and it blew my mind,” Brian recalled. “That led me to start writing more.”

In 1990, Brian earned a BA in English Language and Literature/Letters. Even so, his first job upon graduation was an internship on environmental education in Virginia.

It was Brian’s return to Minnesota–specifically to the Twin Cities–that ultimately led him down his professional path. He’d done some improv at Carleton so auditioned to get into Dudley Rigg’s’ Brave New Workshop. Failing to get cast turned out to be serendipitous. He went on to audition at the Northrop as a background dancer for a prima ballerina of the Bolshoi Ballet. (Brian thinks he got the job for being one of only three males who’d showed up, but having studied dance under his mom likely helped as well.)

Later, Brian auditioned for Joe Chvala and ended up performing with his percussive dance troupe, The Flying Foot Forum, for approximately four years. Becoming a dance instructor at a ballroom dance studio also became a major source of income.

In 1996, Brian met dancer Megan McClellan and moved to Los Angeles for about four years before the two returned to the Twin Cities. In 2000, they created the inventive theatre and dance company, Sossy Mechanics. Today Brian remains a successful writer, director, choreographer, performer and teacher.

 


Tickets and information for The Pirates of Penzance here.
Tickets and information for French Twist, featuring Joe Chvala and The Flying Foot Forum here.

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?

Time Travel with Joe Chvala and the Flying Foot Forum

Flying Foot Forum

Want to travel through Saint Paul’s past, present and future without strapping into a time machine or wrinkling through a tesseract? Then get ready to come on over to Park Square Theatre to learn how to do just that, but on your own power.

From August 25 to September 11, Joe Chvala and the Flying Foot Forum will perform their time-bending new production, Passing Through Pig’s Eye, which they describe as “a roving performance of wildly entertaining and eclectic dance, music and comedy” for all ages. Audience groups will be led to six different locations throughout downtown Saint Paul “where performances happen and history is revealed in intriguing, percussive ways.”

Flying Foot Forum founder Chvala himself is a history buff who holds a philosophical outlook on time. “Everything we do counts. Everything we do changes history,” he says, noting how in just a split second you may or may not be hit by a passing car depending on what you happened to be doing.

“We are all just passing through this world, with limited time,” he adds. “All we can do is appreciate the time that we have.”

With the time that he’s had, Chvala created Flying Foot Forum in 1991 as a unique percussive dance company. The dancers make percussive music with their bodies while performing step dance, tap, clogging, hambone or any rhythmic manner of movement; with their voices while reciting verse, singing or noise making; or in relation to the works of musicians and instrumentalists. In Passing Through Pig’s Eye, the Forum will also feature some less percussive contemporary dances as contrast.

Joining Chvala in Passing Through Pig’s Eye will be some of the most amazing dancers, singers, musicians and actors in the Twin Cities: Rush Benson, Jeremy Bensussan, Ayana Dubose, Brian Evans, Karla Grotting, Galen Higgins, Betsy Hutsing, Scott Keever, Adam Kiesling, Michelle Lemon, Natalie Nowytski, Peter O’Gorman, Charles Robison, Colleen Somerville-Leeman, Molly Stoltz and Darrius Strong.

Come to enjoy the time of your life! And we’ll even promise you a safe return to 2016.

Flying Foot Forum II