Posts Tagged Mike Kittel

Small Town Talent Show Turns to Mayhem

Small Town Talent Show Turns to Mayhem

SMALL TOWN TALENT SHOW TURNS TO MAYHEM in

JEFFERSON TOWNSHIP SPARKLING JUNIOR TALENT PAGEANT

World Premiere Musical Comedy

 Park Square Theatre’s summer fare kicks off on the Andy Boss Thrust Stage with the world premiere of Jefferson Township Sparkling Junior Talent Pageant (June 14 – July 28, 2019), with book, music and lyrics by Keith Hovis. Described as Avenue Q meets The Book of Mormon with a little bit of Heathers mixed in, this newly created irreverent, hummable, and heartfelt musical reflects the quirks of small-town life. In 1997, a contestant died onstage and permanently ended the popular local talent pageant. Twenty years later, Frannie Foster Wallace still blames all her failures in life on losing out on the chance to become Jefferson’s Sparkling Junior Champion. That is, until she gets the chance for a rematch with the surviving contestants.

The work, which had its first stage of development as part of the 2017 Fringe Festival, will be directed by Park Square’s Laura Leffler. “When I saw Jefferson at the Fringe, I was elated,” says Leffler. “Here was this hilarious musical with a story that really is as heart-wrenching as it is heart-warming, and it was just shimmering with potential. There was this lightning energy in the room, and I wanted to bring that to Park Square. It’s been so rewarding to workshop the piece with Keith and the performers over the last nine months. The music is fun, catchy, and down-right gorgeous.”

The original cast of Zach Garcia (Travis Hernandez), Kelly Houlehan (Frannie Foster Wallace) , Ryan London Levin (Liam Ackermann), and Leslie Vincent (Valerie Hutchinson) returns in the new full-length version with added songs and plot twists. “When Keith and his cast came to the theatre a year ago to give our staff (most of whom are under 40, if not under 30), a sample of the script and a few songs, they laughed until they had tears in their eyes,” says Executive Director Michael-jon Pease. “We knew we had to take on this sweet story that speaks to today’s young adults. Regardless of generation, so many of us can relate to those moments when you feel like you’re not getting where you want to go in life and remember back to that ‘on top of the world/endless possibilities’ feelings of childhood.”

The production team for Jefferson Township Sparkling Junior Talent Pageant includes Ursula Bowden (Set Designer), Mike Kittel (Lighting Designer), Jake Davis (Sound Designer), Brian Pekol (Music Director), Antonia Perez (Choreographer), Foster Johns (vocal coach), Abbee Warmboe (Properties Designer), Tyler Olsen-Highness (FX Designer), Hannah Holman (Dramaturg), Rubble&Ash (Co-costumers), Laura Topham* (Stage Manager) and Jared Zeigler* (Assistant Stage Manager). Sophie Peyton is the Assistant Director. *Member, Actors Equity Association

Ticket prices: Previews: $25-$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.   #PSTSparkle

CALENDAR INFORMATION

Previews: June 14 – 20, 2019

Opening Night: June 21, 2019

Regular Run: June 21 – Jul 28, 2019

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

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

Ticket office: 651.291.7005 or www.parksquaretheatre.org

PHOTOS by Petronella J Ytsma parksquaretheatre.org/media/photos/

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

PRIME PRODUCTIONS brings the future to the stage.

PRIME PRODUCTIONS BRINGS THE FUTURE TO THE STAGE WITH MARJORIE PRIME AT PARK SQUARE THEATRE

 

Continuing their mission to tell more stories about women in their second act, PRIME Productions opens Jordan Harrison’s Marjorie Prime directed by Elena Giannetti, April 26, 2019 on the Andy Boss Thrust Stage at Park Square Theatre.

“Science fiction is here…Every day is science fiction. We buy these things that already know our moods and what we want for lunch even though we don’t know ourselves…”
– Tess in Marjorie Prime

Laura Stearns (left) and Candace Barrett Birk*. Photo By Joseph Giannetti.

It’s the age of artificial intelligence, and 85-year-old Marjorie – a jumble of disparate, fading memories – is living with her adult daughter and son-in-law, but also has a handsome new companion who’s programmed to feed the story of her life back to her. What would we remember, and what would we forget, if given the chance? In this richly spare, wondrous new play Harrison explores the mysteries of human identity and the limits – if any – of what technology can replace.

“Jordan Harrison’s elegant, thoughtful and quietly unsettling drama that keeps developing in your head, like a photographic negative, long after you have seen it…At some point, you realize that its been landing skillfully targeted punch after punch, right where it hurts.”
Ben Brantley, NY Times

Director Elena Giannetti says: “Although this play is set in the not-too-distant future, the themes of memory, loss and grief and how we confront them is very much in the now. By using artificial intelligence as a backdrop for a conversation around relationships and memory, Jordan gives us a smart and unsettlingly current setting to debate the issue of how much we need to remember, and who decides the value of those memories and the role of technology is used to preserve them. I’m so excited to tell a story that helps PRIME put mature actors on stage, while also giving voice to the struggle people face when dealing with their own mortality.”

“You don’t really believe that living is a distraction from death.”
– Jon in Marjorie Prime

The cast features Candace Barrett Birk* (Marjorie), Laura Stearns (Tess), Andre Shoals* (Jon), and James Rodriguez (Walter). The production design team includes Costume Designer Amy Kaufman, Sound Designer Katie Korpi, Lighting Designer Mike Kittel, Set Designer Joseph Stanley and Stage Manager Jamie Kranz.   * Member, Actors’ Equity Association

Marjorie Prime is made possible by the Saint Paul Cultural Star Grant Program and is being produced by PRIME Productions as a part of Park Square’s “Theatres in Residence” Series.

Girl Friday Productions Stages 1943 Pulitzer Prize Winning Masterpiece THE SKIN OF OUR TEETH

Park Square Theatre, peforming arts community hub with two stages in Saint Paul, Minnesota             

 

Girl Friday Productions Stages 1943 Pulitzer Prize Winning Masterpiece
THE SKIN OF OUR TEETH by Thornton Wilder

Media Contact: Connie Shaver
612.308.5785 shaver@parksquaretheatre.org
Tickets: 651.291.7005 or
parksquaretheatre.org

St. Paul, MN, Jan. 8, 2019 – A surprisingly modern and optimistic tribute to the invincibility of the human spirit, Thornton Wilder’s THE SKIN OF OUR TEETH, produced by Girl Friday Productions and directed by Joel Sass, opens February 9, 2019 on the proscenium stage at Park Square Theatre. Girl Friday Productions brings its signature large ensemble cast to this comedy of epic proportions.

“All I ask is the chance to build new worlds…” – Mr. Antrobus in THE SKIN OF OUR TEETH.

Winner of the 1943 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, THE SKIN OF OUR TEETH juxtaposes everyday life with the historical and mythological past to create a wonderfully odd world. The play follows the adventures of an eternal American family residing in prehistoric and contemporary New Jersey who prevail over a series of apocryphal catastrophes. The ice age, the great flood, world war, family strife, political conventions… the Antrobus family, their maid Sabina, and a host of other characters survive through eons of calamity with their hope intact. Continually facing the end of days, humanity perseveres. This 75-year old comedy about resilience and hope feels fresh and profoundly relevant for today.

Girl Friday Productions is offering a rare opportunity for Twin Cities’ audiences: the last local professional production of THE SKIN OF OUR TEETH was their own. “When Girl Friday first explored this work in 2009, our country was in the depth of economic crisis,” says Girl Friday Productions Artistic Director Kirby Bennett. “Ten years later, we find ourselves at a time of moral peril, facing different yet familiar world calamities: conflicts at home and abroad, a refugee crisis, climate change, a loss of faith in our leaders, a loss of hope. THE SKIN OF OUR TEETH explores all this and more, in ways that are at once unexpected, hilarious and moving. And where else will you see a dinosaur and mammoth onstage?”

Acclaimed Twin Cities’ theatre artist Joel Sass is both directing and creating the scenic design for THE SKIN OF OUR TEETH. A longtime collaborator and advisor to Girl Friday Productions, Sass previously designed sets for Girl Friday Productions’ OUR TOWN and STREET SCENE. His work has been seen regionally and nationally at the Guthrie Theater, Jungle Theater, Park Square Theatre, History Theatre, Open Eye, Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Arizona Theatre Company, among many others. A prolific director, designer and adaptor, and winner of multiple local and national awards, Sass is among the most lauded theatre artists in the region.

“So many people read the play for the first time and cannot believe it was written in 1942,” comments Sass. “THE SKIN OF OUR TEETH still feels utterly fresh, edgy, funny and topical—and if it were written this year it would still be worthy of its Pulitzer Prize. A particular joy of working on this production will be the double opportunity to collaborate with a handful of people I’ve known and grown with for nearly two decades—and another group of amazing talents I have admired around town but not yet worked with. Together we will tackle this ‘mammoth’ of a script and bring its humor, political critique and optimism to a new audience.”

Actors Alayne Hopkins as Sabina, John Middleton as Mr. Antrobus and Kirby Bennett as Mrs. Antrobus lead Girl Friday Productions’ stellar ensemble cast of 15, which features many Twin Cities’ favorites as well as upcoming talent. The full cast includes: Kirby Bennett, Ernest Briggs, Pedro Juan Fonseca, Wendy Freshman, Kathryn Fumie, Alayne Hopkins, Sam Landman, Alice McGlave, John Middleton, Victoria Pyan, James Ramlet, Taj Ruler, Neal Skoy, Mike Swan and Dana Lee Thompson. Joining Sass on the exceptional design team are: Lighting Designer Mike Kittel, Costume Designer Kathy Kohl, Projections Designer Kathy Maxwell, Sound Designer C Andrew Mayer and Properties Designer Rick Polenek.

THE SKIN OF OUR TEETH is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund; and by the Saint Paul Cultural STAR Program. THE SKIN OF OUR TEETH is being produced by Girl Friday Productions as part of Park Square’s “Theatres in Residence” Series.

Photo of Alayne Hopkins as Sabina by Richard Fleischman HERE
Group photo by Richard Fleischman HERE. Pictured left to right Front row: Taj Ruler, Kathryn Fumie, Neal Skoy, Back row: Dana Lee Thompson, Kirby Bennett, John Middleton, Alayne Hopkins, Ernest Briggs.

About Girl Friday Productions
“It’s wonderful to see these rarely produced gems.” – Girl Friday Productions audience member

The little company that does big plays, Girl Friday Productions focuses on larger scale American plays of exceptional literary merit that are less frequently produced today. The company’s mission is to nurture artists, inspire audiences and illuminate the human condition. Girl Friday Productions chooses to focus on a singular major project every other year. This approach maximizes efforts to work with challenging texts, large and skilled ensemble casts, and distinguished directors and designers. Girl Friday Productions’ work is characterized by exceptional literature, humanity, relevance and stimulating theatricality.

Founded in 2004 by Artistic Director Kirby Bennett, Girl Friday Productions’ most recent productions were IDIOT’S DELIGHT (Lavender Magazine notable performances in 2017), THE MATCHMAKER (2015 year-end recognition from Twin Cities Theatre Bloggers), CAMINO REAL (Lavender Magazine notable performances in 2013) and STREET SCENE (2011 “Top Ten”/Year End Highlights in the Star Tribune, Pioneer Press and Lavender Magazine; Ivey Award for director). Other highlights include THE SKIN OF OUR TEETH (MinnPost “Favorite for 2009”) and OUR TOWN (Pioneer Press’ “Top Ten Shows of 2007”).

Girl Friday Productions presents THE SKIN OF OUR TEETH by Thornton Wilder
February 7 – March 3, 2019

Location: Park Square Theatre’s Proscenium Stage
Historic Hamm Building in Downtown Saint Paul
20 West Seventh Place
Saint Paul, MN 55102

Tickets: Preview: $20/$27/$37; Regular Run: $25/$40/$60; discounts for seniors, students,
age 30 & under, groups, fringe buttons, MPR members, active military personnel; Pay What You Wish February 25.

Tickets: parksquaretheatre.org or call 651.291.7005 (noon – 5:00 p.m. Tuesday – Friday)
Information and company website: girlfridayproductions.org

Performance Schedule (18 performances over 4 weeks)
Evening shows at 7:30 pm, Sundays at 2:00 pm. The specific performance dates are:
Thursday, February 7 at 7:30 pm Preview
Friday, February 8 at 7:30 pm Preview
Saturday, February 9 at 7:30 pm Opening night and reception
Sunday, February 10 at 2 pm

Wednesday, February 13 at 7:30 pm Post show discussion
Thursday, February 14 at 7:30 pm
Friday, February 15 at 7:30 pm Audio description and sensory tour
Saturday, February 16 at 7:30 pm
Sunday, February 17 at 2:00 pm

Thursday, February 21 at 7:30 pm
Friday, February 22 at 7:30 pm
Saturday, February 23 at 7:30 pm
Sunday, February 24 at 2:00 pm American Sign Language and post show discussion
Monday, February 25 at 7:30 pm Pay What You Wish

Thursday, February 28 at 7:30 pm
Friday, March 1 at 7:30 pm Open captioning
Saturday, March 2 at 7:30 pm Open captioning
Sunday, March 3 at 2:00 pm Open captioning, closing performance

– End –

The Illuminating Mike Kittel

Mike Kittel

As Park Square Theatre’s Resident Lighting Designer, Mike Kittel doesn’t design the lighting for just a single, but for all, Park Square productions. That’s a lot of pressure on one person, but it’s also part of the excitement of his profession, which he loves.

Kittel was clearly harried upon his arrival for our meeting, busy preparing for technical rehearsals of The Liar on the Proscenium Stage and attending regular rehearsals of The Realistic Joneses, currently on the Boss Thrust Stage until October 16. When he finally sat down, Kittel reminded me of a light on a dimmer switch. His mind still seemingly miles away and not yet warmed up to our conversation, his eyes shone just a bit brighter, with the intensity gradually building as he talked more and more about the lighting design for The Realistic Joneses and his own theatre background.

Kittel is usually involved in production meetings with the director and the other designers for a show two to three months before it starts, although his contemplation on the lighting design likely began well beyond those few months as ideas would crop up once he’d read the script. These meetings are key towards understanding what actual plan to create to light the actors and space effectively, helping to support the emotions, images and even interpretation of the production. Lighting is finally plotted out about 1-1/2 weeks before the technical rehearsal, and refinements in light placement, cues, colors, intensity and anything else are made during that rehearsal.

A challenge with The Realistic Joneses is that the action takes place in just a 20-by-20 feet space with a low ceiling. Within that limited space, Kittel had to design lighting to convey both indoor and outdoor settings, such as a starry night in a backyard, the interior of a supermarket and nighttime in front of a garage with a motion detector going on and off. Kittel came up with a creative “drop lighting” solution for some of the desired effects.  I shall reveal no more so as not to spoil your viewing experience.

According to Kittel, the easiest lighting for him to execute for The Realistic Joneses was the simulation of motion detectors.  The most difficult lighting involved creating super-realistic exterior effects, such as sunshine.

Although The Realistic Joneses takes place in realistic settings, that did not require Kittel to consistently implement full realism in his lighting plan, particularly during transitions. He made good use of color, light angles, patterns or shafts of light to enhance the audience experience.

“Lighting is very musical to me–the way it moves around space and surrounds you,” Kittel said.  “It’s powerful; it can enhance or destroy. Good lighting usually should go unnoticed. Bad lighting can ruin everyone’s work.”

Kittel was not originally a lighting designer.  In high school and college, he was an actor. He accidentally fell into his current profession after taking a lighting class in college.

“The next year, that professor made me light A Christmas Carol because all the other students had graduated,” Kittel recalled. “A Christmas Carol is fantastical, magical; so it terrified me.  I had never done it before.”

With his professor’s help, Kittel did it and, in the process, fell in love with lighting. He now designs 20 to 26 shows per year. He enjoys how it all happens so fast and how “every show is like a math problem with an unlimited amount of correct answers.”

Before Kittel rushed back to his work, I made him step into the light to take his picture.  Still disheveled but now sporting a bright smile, he obliged before disappearing in the speed of light.

A Look Over His Shoulders: How Eli Schlatter Designs

The set of The Liar is moving onto Park Square Theatre’s Proscenium Stage for the play’s September 9 to October 2 run.  Scenic Designer Eli Schlatter has spent months getting us to the moment when concepts become reality, following similar steps that he’d taken many a time for other productions.

After reading the script twice, Schlatter met with both Director Doug Scholz-Carlson and Costume Designer Rebecca Bernstein to get their input.  His collaboration with Scholz-Carlson involved going through each scene in the play to discuss what would be needed and Schlatter’s providing research images as possible concepts.

Now armed with some sense of what the show should look and feel like, Schlatter did further research and conceptualizing with thumbnail sketches.

A sketch

A sketch

Once Schlatter and Scholz-Carlson decided to go with a very classic and two-dimensional set design (refer to the August 28 blog, “Flat Land: The World of The Liar“), Schlatter made what is called a white model.  This is an unpainted white cardboard model of the set scaled according to actual Proscenium Stage measurements to determine how the set will fit and look in the space.  Schlatter used a ruler with a quartering scale (one inch equals four feet) for measuring and added model people for perspective.

A white model

A white model

His next step was to create a means within the design for scene changes.  For The Liar, the two back center walls could be opened or shut like doors to change the space for the action to move upstage or downstage. Schlatter then produced a color model of the set.

The color model

The color model

After meeting with Lighting Designer Mike Kittel, Schlatter made further decisions about such matters as surface texture before producing paint elevations–very detailed, scaled plans that show the scenic painter exactly where, what and how something must be painted onto the entire set.  They look somewhat akin to drafting plans with specific painting specifications throughout. The shop crew is also provided with a section view, which shows how the set looks from different directions, as well as execution drawings that show all the dimensional details.

Eli Schlatter (left) with Assistant Technical Director Ian Stoutenburgh (right)

Director Doug Scholz-Carlson (left); Eli Schlatter (center); Assistant Technical Director Ian Stoutenburgh (right)

The Park Square shop crew have been busy building and painting the set. While it is quicker to build a two-dimensional set, more pressure is placed on the painting to be especially well done, though luckily the human eye tends to fill in any details on scenery that’s not represented on the stage.

As Schlatter completes his work for The Liar, he won’t be putting his feet up to relax anytime soon. He’s already working with the Artistry in Bloomington to design for Little Shop of Horrors and Bad Dates.