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Posts Tagged Laura Topham

Sneak a Peek Backstage!

With more than 50 scene shifts and countless fast-paced costume changes, Baskerville is a play on the move. Yet for all its vibrant set pieces and stylish getups, the audience only ever sees a percentage of the stage. What goes on behind the curtain? Stage manager Laura Topham and assistant stage manager Sam Diekman took us on a tour to explain the whirlwind process that makes a show like this all possible.

Image of Stage Manager Laura Topham

Stage Manager Laura Topham

“The stage manager is the only person who sees the show truly from start to finish – through its whole evolution,” Topham explains, “from the first production meeting to closing.” They’re the ones responsible for making the magic happen: for facilitating and maintaining the directors’ vision.

Image of Assistant Stage Manager Samantha Diekman

Assistant Stage Manager Samantha Diekman

That all-encompassing vision and dedication is invaluable, as every night, it’s the stage crew responsible for the show going off without a hitch. “If everyone else can do their job well,” Diekman says, “then I’ve done my job well.”

Baskerville in particular – with its rapid-fire comedy and breakneck pace – was a challenge. Among the moody shadows behind the stage is a maze of sets – so many that they can’t all be stored in the backstage area at once. Instead, the crew must swap out the set pieces between acts, meaning that more than many shows, the crew is working nonstop. They’re constantly moving behind the scenes, planning – and adapting – to best support the actors. But it was a challenge the team rose to immediately. The crew knew things would go wrong – and that they’d have each others’ backs when they did.

“Just having that attitude and that dedication across the board is what makes it worth it to me,” Diekman says. “If we’re not loving it and we’re not having fun, no matter how hard it is, why are we doing it?”

And seeing the show night after night (more than 25 times, according to Topham) is its own reward. “There are spots where I laugh every single night.” And with such a fun team to work with, it’s just elementary: Baskerville is an adventure both onstage and off.

Tickets still available for the final weekend.  Purchase them HERE. 

Want more? Watch the video tour: Backstage with Baskerville.

Tara Henderson is a marketing intern with Park Square Theatre and is currently studying at the University of Minnesota.

AAROOOOO–The Dogs of Baskerville!

Mavis the golden-doodle

Imagine pouncing straight at you–out of the dark, murky moors–a monstrous, demonic dog from legend known as the Baskerville hound, described as “a creature from a nightmare, with blazing eyes and dripping jaws” in Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery. Baskerville–the very word elicits a spine-tingling shudder of terror, an urgent need to scream and, at Park Square Theatre from June 15 to August 5, an irrepressible desire to laugh.

Mavis and Keely Wolter

In the spirit of our very fun production of this classic Sherlock Holmes whodunnit, members of the cast, creative team and production department shared photos of their own hair-raising Baskerville dogs:

Beware of Mavis the four-year-old golden-doodle, who’s biggest threats, according to Dialect Coach Keely Wolter, are to sleep directly on top of her legs at night and attack unattended bowls of popcorn (her favorite).

Lilly and Laura Topham

If you’re not already scared silly, meet two-year-old Lilly. A German shepherd/Australian cattle dog mix rescued by Stage Manager Laura Topham, Lilly once scaled a five-feet-high chain link fence in hot pursuit of a rabbit.

Jasmine the boxer mix

Then there’s Jasmine, actor Marika Proctor’s “90% pitbull sweetness,” listed as a boxer mix at the Animal Humane Society. Doesn’t she look eager to–horror of horrors– lick your face?!?!

Actor Eric “Pogi” Sumangil, not a dog-owner himself, is an uncle to his sister’s pugs, Rupert and Lola. Rupert has since passed away but shared with Pogi the Instagram hashtag #Pugsimangot, which is a play on the Filipino word pagsimangot, meaning to frown or look grumpy. He was a bit deaf, very lazy and so mysteriously quiet.

Rupert and Eric “Pogi” Sumangil

Now it’s just Pogi and Lola mugging together. Unlike Rupert, she’s more active and mischievous, hopping up on chairs and eventually the table if no one’s looking, plus getting into things that she knows not to. Oh, and she’s stubborn to boot!

Lola the pug

Last but not least, is the most terrifying of all: honorary dog Ned, who may very well want to scratch my eyes out for deeming him as such. Proud black cat dad, Eli Sherlock (formerly Schlatter), Baskerville’s set designer, may also get slightly scratched up for describing Ned as a “weird and photogenic” cat of no specific breed that was initially found in a train yard and adopted by folks on the Barnum and Bailey circus tour; hence, earning Ned the affectionate moniker “Ned the Circus Cat.”

Ned the Circus Cat

What is the Baskerville hound? Is it even a dog? Is it even real? Or may it merely exist as a part of ourselves, as Holmes himself surmised (“The hound, he said, was deep in all of us, the part of our souls that is dark and troubling . . . .”)?

Presume nothing when you come to see Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville. Sit back and enjoy as you follow the scent with Holmes and Watson. You’re in for a doggone good time! Tickets and information here.

-By Ting Ting Cheng

 

 

 

A female duo of Holmes and Watson are on the case!

The premiere of Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville is witty and fast-paced – with women playing the famous sleuthing duo! Park Square Theatre cherishes its summertime tradition of cozying up audiences with a good mystery. This year’s edition for the company’s 43rd season – Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville: a Sherlock Holmes Mystery – offers a fresh take for Holmes devotees AND a special invitation for those who’ve never spent an evening with the iconic sleuth. McKenna Kelly-Eiding (closing a spectacular run in The Wolves at The Jungle) stars as Sherlock Holmes and Sara Richardson* (last seen at Park Square in The Liar) as Dr. Watson. The remaining 40 characters in this smart send-up of The Hound of the Baskervilles are played by just three actors: Eric “Pogi” Sumangil*; Ricardo Beaird; and Marika Proctor*. Cue the lightning-fast costume changes as wealthy Henry Baskerville is threatened by the fable of a bloodthirsty hound on the moors and the dynamic duo sniff out the culprit.

From Left: Sara Richardson (Dr. Watson) and McKenna Kelly-Eiding (Sherlock Holmes).

Women have been winning over Holmes fans in recent years, from Lucy Liu as Watson in the CBS series Elementary, to Christopher Walsh’s new play Miss Holmes, to Carole Nelson Douglas’ eight acclaimed Irene Adler suspense novels – the first to reinvent a woman from the Holmes “canon” as the protagonist. Director Theo Langason, in his Park Square directing debut, admits that “some Sherlockians will be skeptical of a woman in the role. But, all the things we love about the character – intuition, ingenuity, intelligence – aren’t tied to gender. And when I saw McKenna’s audition, her performance was so grounded – which this script needs since the other actors jump from character to character.”

In many ways, Watson takes center stage as the cataloger and helpmate. Like the character of Archie Goodwin in the two Nero Wolfe mysteries Park Square has commissioned, Watson serves as the “investigator on the ground” while the great detective muses in solitude. “Sara Richardson is so wonderful,” says Langason, “and I’m glad we get to spend so much time with her as Watson in this play.”

Langason relishes the challenges of tweaking audience expectations while staying true to the core of the Holmes story that keeps winning fans generation after generation. “Sherlock is a fascinating character,” he says. “He deserves a role in the pantheon of super heroes. I mean, without Sherlock Holmes, is it possible to have Batman? This show clips along with a very atmospheric, cinematic quality that I think will be really satisfying to both the artists and the audience. Peter Morrow (the sound designer) and I are working hard on where the sound comes from in the auditorium, trying to achieve the sensation you get in a surround-sound movie theatre. I want those ‘howls off the moors’ to give us all the heebee jeebees!”

***

The creative team for the production includes Ashawnti Ford (Assistant Director), Eli Sherlock Schlatter (Set Designer), Mandi Johnson (Costume Designer), Peter Morrow (Sound Designer), Michael Kittel (Light Designer), Sadie Ward, Properties Designer, Annie Enneking (Fight Choreographer), and Keely Wolter (Dialect Coach). Laura Topham* will serve as Stage Manager and Sam Diekman* is the Assistant Stage Manager.

Previews begin Friday, June 15, and continue through Thursday, June 20. June 21 is Opening Night, and the run continues through August 5. Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. except for Saturday and Sunday matinees, which begin at 2 p.m. All performances are on the company’s Proscenium Stage in Saint Paul’s historic Hamm Building, 20 W. Seventh Place.

Ticket prices: Previews: $20/$27/$37. Regular Run: $25/$40/$60. Discounts are available for seniors 62+, members of the military, those age 30 and under, groups, and ASL/AD patrons. Tickets are on sale at the Park Square ticket box office, 20 W. Seventh Place, and by phone, 651.291.7005, (12 noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday), or online at parksquaretheatre.org.

*Member, Actors Equity Association

Photo by Petronella J Ytsma.

Hope and Inspiration

One cannot help but be reflective after Election Day, and one thing that I’ve been thinking about is the role of theatre arts in society as a source of hope and inspiration.

In my work at Park Square Theatre, both as blogger and daytime usher, I get to witness firsthand some of the dynamic changes occurring within the Minnesota scene as Elders begin to hand off responsibilities to a younger generation, as organizations soul-search on how to remain relevant to their audiences and as they ever strive to fulfill their missions–all while trying to stay financially afloat to be able to come back to do it all over again season after season. What I have discovered is that a theatre is a place of service, and those who work in one are more likely than not following a calling. The theatre “bug” is not foremost a pursuit of fame and fortune (though the latter would be a welcomed help) but a dedication by those involved to work for the greater social good.

While at Park Square Theatre, I get to brush shoulders with living Minnesota theatre history–the people who have been the shakers-and-movers of Twin Cities theatre for decades, not much in the limelight but still tirelessly dedicated to bringing quality live theatre to you from behind the scenes. To name just a few, there are Artistic Director Richard Cook, who co-founded and built up Park Square’s stature in its Saint Paul community; Education Director Mary Finnerty, who created what is likely the strongest theatre education program for middle- and high-school students in the state; photographer Petronella J. Ytsma, who can tell you photoshoot stories that span the change of photo-technology; and newly hired Group Sales & Community Engagement Manager Linda Twiss, who has likely, unbeknownst to you, already touched some aspect of your theater-going experience in Minnesota through the years.

Then there are our Future–the younger generation who also carry on the vision and mission. In my two seasons at Park Square Theatre, I have watched House Manager Amanda Lammert rise to Audience Services Director and, as such, clear the path for  millennials, such as Jiffy Kunik to become Performance Supervisor, Adrian Larkin to become Lead House Manager and Ben Cook-Feltz to become Ticket Office Supervisor. Our stage managers, such as Jamie Kranz, Megan Dougherty, Laura Topham and Lyndsey Harter, tend to be young female leaders with sure hands on each production that they oversee. My own fellow blogger, Vincent Hannam, is so clearly a Student of Life through Theatre; I get to see him grow not just as a theatre artist but as a wholehearted human being as I blog alongside him. And I have interviewed so many up-and-coming theatre professionals, from actors to designers, working with such intensity and creativity in their chosen fields. To be amongst such passionate young people, committed to theatre as a social cause is a constant source of hope and inspiration.

Park Square's A Raisin in the Sun. Photo by Connie Shaver.

A scene from A Raisin in the Sun (Photo by Connie Shaver)

And this fall I am witnessing the fruits of the prior year’s labor to carefully select this season’s plays, culled from suggestions by theatre professionals, theatre goers and volunteer script readers–all committed to fulfilling Park Square Theatre’s mission. The whole process is a mixture of intentionality and serendipity, resulting in a breathtaking season of anticipation and high hopes that we got it right. This season, we started out with The Liar and The Realistic Joneses, both in their own ways guiding us to what is true and real. Then came The House on Mango Street and currently A Raisin in the Sun, both uplifting the human spirit in the face of adversity. In December, we look forward to The Soul of Gershwin: The Musical Journey of an American Klezmer, a style of music brought to us by Jewish immigrants.

Park Square Theatre’s mission is “to enrich our community by producing and presenting exceptional live theatre that touches the heart, engages the mind, and delights the spirit.” It is theatre in service to the common good and, by extension, a source of hope and inspiration. To all.

Note: We have a very limited number of tickets available for A Raisin in the Sun evening and weekend performances through November 20. But you may now purchase tickets for weekday student matinee performances through December 22. (You would be watching the play with school groups.) Student matinee tickets cost just $25.

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Tickets for The Soul of Gershwin: The Musical Journey of an American Klezmer evening and weekend performances are available through December 31.

To order, call 651.291.7005 or go to parksquaretheatre.org.

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