Posts Tagged Mina Kinukawa

The Empathy Project comes to Park Square Nov 12-21

Park Square Theatre Presents A Full Circle Production of

The Empathy Project

by Stephanie Lein Walseth Directed by Claribel Gross
at Park Square Theatre in the Historic Hamm Building in Downtown Saint Paul Andy Boss Thrust Stage
November 12 – 21, 2021

MEDIA CONTACT: Quinci Bachman
Press@fullcircletheatermn.org | 612-799-0641 Fullcircletheatermn.org

This will be Full Circle’s first live, in-person and fully-staged production since 2019!

After two years in development and two online readings, The Empathy Project by Stephanie Lein Walseth is finally hitting the stage. Directed by Claribel Gross, this fully staged production of The Empathy Project features a cast of nine: Song Kim, Dominique Jones, Shanan Custer, Oogie_Push, Siddeeqah Shabazz, Kim Vasquez, Peter Colburn, Marci Lucht, and Joshua C. Larson.

It also features original compositions by Paul Damico-Carper, and choreography by Mary Harding. Designers include: Tom Mays (lighting design), Mina Kinukawa (set design), Khamphian Vang (costume design) and Quinci Bachman (sound design).

Come see it November 12 – 21, 2021 at Park Square Theatre’s Andy Boss Thrust Stage.

The Empathy Project explores empathy across geographic, political, and racial divides based on interviews of rural and urban Minnesotans—people like your neighbors, your friends, or even yourself. Our production investigates the power and limits of empathy in a deeply fractured world.

Safety Precautions: There will be limited seating for your safety. COVID-19 vaccination or negative test results are required to attend performances. All patrons, staff and volunteers will be required to wear masks inside the venue. We will be following Park Square Theatre’s health and safety protocols. To learn more about them, click HERE.

Tickets available HERE.

The cast of The Empathy Project. Photo credit: Stephen Hage. Mural Credit: DeAnne Parks.

About Playwright/Story Weaver Stephanie Lein Walseth: Stephanie Lein Walseth is a Full Circle Theater Core Artistic Leadership Group Member. With Full Circle she was one of the co-writers for the company’s debut production of Theater: A Sacred Passage, one of the directors for 365 Days/365 Plays: A 2017 Remix, the dramaturg for Under This Roof, and a frequent panel discussion and post-show moderator. As an actor, director, dramaturg, stage manager, theater administrator, and educator she has worked with Penumbra Theatre Company, Theater Mu, Mixed Blood Theatre, Sod House Theater, the Playwrights’ Center, Guthrie Theater, Theatre Unbound, Starting Gate Productions, Theater in the Round, Frank Theatre, CLIMB Theatre, Native Voices at the Autry (CA), and Portland Stage Company (ME).

 

About Director Claribel Gross: Claribel Gross is a theater maker and teaching artist currently based in Chicago. She has a passion for new work and works in development. Most recently, Claribel has worked collaboratively to devise an audio play, Women Like a River Falling from the Sky, for the BorderLight Festival in Cleveland and she created a solo show, Gasp for the 17 Minute Story Festival with Macha Theatre in Seattle. She’s currently working on a bi-lingual touring show for young audiences and dreaming up ways to take it on tour through Latin America. Claribel holds an MFA in Theater Arts from Sarah Lawrence College and is inspired by the work of theater artists and companies like Full Circle Theater that use the tools of the arts to create lasting, positive change in communities.

Mina Kinukawa: Creating Steinbeck’s World

Set Designer Mina Kinukawa (center)
(Photo by Connie Shaver)

John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men was first performed at the Music Box Theatre in New York on November 23, 1937. It was first performed on Park Square Theatre’s Proscenium Stage in 1998 as part of its Education Series. This season, Park Square’s Of Mice and Men is on the more intimate Boss Thrust Stage, necessitating a new set design. Set Designer Mina Kinukawa rose to the challenge of putting us into the play’s world: the agricultural Salinas Valley in Northern California. Specific scenes take place at the sandy bank of the Salinas River, the bunkhouse of a ranch, the room of a stable buck and one end of a barn.

Here is Mina to give us insights into her creative process:

 

Model of the bunkhouse

Previously, Of Mice and Men had been performed on the Proscenium Stage, but this season it moved to the Andy Boss Thrust Stage. What was your approach for set design to account for the change? 

From left to rt.: E.J Subkoviak as Lennie, Michael Paul Levine as George and Patrick O’Brien as Candy in Of Mice and Men
(Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma)

 

 

Since this was my first time designing Of Mice and Men for Park Square, I didn’t have to modify the old production. I went in knowing it was a thrust stage in almost a black box room. I really like designing for thrust stages to get close to the audience. And this production, I believe, benefits from having the actors/characters be where the audience can see and feel their emotions closer.

The voms (the corridors that “spew” people into the seating areas) and inner lobby allow for the creation of an environment that surrounds the audience. Will you be taking advantage of that? 

Director Annie Enneking and the actors did a wonderful job using the voms and the lobby space to convey distance. We set locations offstage (for example, where is the river, where is the road, etc.; locations that audience don’t see but the characters live in), and the actors run around and use the voms and lobby to create distance from the scene happening onstage.

Model of the set with tree

A tree is of particular significance on the set. Can you tell me about that? 

When researching location and historical background, I was drawn to the images of sycamores. It’s one of the first scenic elements that’s mentioned in the script, and it seemed to create an oasis in an arid landscape.

Left to right: E. J. Subkoviak as Lennie and Michael Paul Levin as George
(Photo by Petronella J. YtsmaP

At the same time, it’s almost foretelling the end of the journey that we will take with this play. Once I started designing the set, the tree took a strong place in the world that I was creating, and we all seemed to like to have it always “watching” the characters.

Model of the barn

 

 

 

 

 

Can you tell me about your journey to become a set designer?

I can say that it started in my early teen years. I was lucky to have had very good mentors who helped me with skills that I needed. I also learned to analyze plays and make them my own.

Jane Froiland as Curley’s wife and E. J. Subkoviak as Lennie
(Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma)

Once I graduated from undergrad, I knew I wanted to have some “real” experience before going to grad school and had an opportunity to work in a scene design studio, first as an intern before I was hired on. Then I got a scholarship to go to grad school and got my MFA. I was in Southern California so naturally started to have more chances to work in films and had a blast. It was not an easy environment, but I enjoyed it very much. Very similar to theatre, it’s all about the team of people you work with! Then life took me to Minnesota, and I have started to connect with theatres and meet and work with great theatre artists here.

Tickets and more information here 

Tickets

The Park Square Ticket Office is open for phone calls Wednesday and Thursday from noon to 5:00 pm.
Please call 651.291.7005.

For service other days of the week, please email tickets@parksquaretheatre.org.

Tickets can be purchased online at anytime.

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