Posts Tagged Park Square Theatre

PARK SQUARE THEATRE PAUSES TO RIGHT-SIZE

Park Square Theatre pauses to right-size and roll out a new vision by its new leader

Saint Paul, Minn., October 29, 2019 – To better serve its stakeholders, Park Square Theatre has made the difficult decision to revise its season and cancel its planned productions of the major musicals EVITA and MISS YOU LIKE HELL.

Financial challenges, brought on by less than expected ticket sales and fundraising shortfalls, led to this difficult decision. “Park Square is taking this valuable opportunity to regroup so that we may become a stronger organization and meet the needs of the Twin Cities theater community,” states artistic director Flordelino Lagundino. “This was a very difficult decision to make as it causes hardships, especially to the artists working with us. As an actor and director, I do not take lightly the impact it has on the talented people I came to Minnesota to work with.”

Lagundino further states Park Square is working towards a healthy business model that supports stellar artistry for appreciative audiences. “It is a natural pattern for a 47-year-old theater to evolve, and this is part of that maturation process.”

The Park Square Theatre’s nine-show season continues with THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW and PAIGE IN FULL, both of which close this week. Upcoming productions include:  PRIDE AND PREJUDICE by Kate Hamill (Nov 15 – Dec 22, 2019); FACE TO FACE: OUR HMONG COMMUNITY with Ping Chong + Co. (Mar 5 – 15, 2020); HOLMES AND WATSON by Jeffrey Hatcher (Jun 12 – Jul 26, 2020); and a remount of MARIE AND ROSETTA by George Brandt (Dates TBD).

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Your help is needed at this critical time. Make a donation today HERE.

Purchase tickets to Pride and Prejudice HERE.

For questions regarding subscriptions and ticketing, email tickets@parksquaretheatre.org.

 

 DANCE, HIP HOP, THEATRE AND PERSONAL MEMOIR COMBINE IN A VISUAL MIX TAPE

PAIGE HERNANDEZ GIVES THEATRE A JOLT WITH HER UNIQUE MULTI-RACIAL EXPERIENCE

Paige Hernandez in Paige in Full.

Park Square Theatre announces a special one-week only presentation of PAIGE IN FULL by Paige Hernandez on the Boss Stage (Friday, Oct 25 – Sunday, Oct 27). 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.  In addition to just three public performances, the show will play to schools at special weekday matinees.

“With Paige in Full, I aimed to create what I wanted to see on stage: a positive story from a woman of color that is both uplifting and insightful,” says creator Paige Hernandez.  “The show needed to blur cultural lines with infectious music, choreography that moved the story forward, poems that defied structure, accessible emotion, and a strong narrative of love, pain, and triumph. I wanted a story that would help to reclaim the positive energy that hip hop was once known to create. Lastly, I wanted a story for little girls of color. I want them to know that no matter where they fall in the rainbow, their voice is interesting, unique and needs to be heard.”

Paige Hernandez* (writer, choreographer, and performer) is a multifaceted artist, who is known for her innovative fusion of poetry, hip hop, dance and education. As a master teaching artist, Paige has taught throughout the country, to all ages, in all disciplines. The Huffington Post named Paige a “classroom hero” because of her outstanding arts integration and work with STEM initiatives. She has collaborated with The Lincoln Center (NY) and was commissioned by the National New Play Network in 2012.

The show is directed by Danielle A. Drakes* with live beats and sound design by Nick tha 1da.

*Member, Actors Equity Association

Ticket prices $16-$30. Tickets are on sale at the Park Square Ticket Office, 20 W. Seventh Place, downtown Saint Paul, by phone: 651.291.7005, (12 noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday), or online at parksquaretheatre.org.   #PSTPaige

PHOTOS parksquaretheatre.org/media/photos/

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2019-2020 Season opens with AUBERGINE

Park Square Theatre opens its 2019-2020 Theatre Season with the area premiere of Aubergine by Julia Cho — a poignant and lyrical new play

Saint Paul, Minn., July 29, 2019 – Park Square Theatre opens its 2019-2020 Theatre Season on the Andy Boss Trust Stage with the area premiere of Aubergine (SEPT 20 – OCT 20, 2019) by Julia Cho, author of The Language Archive. Aubergine will be directed by Park Square’s Artistic Director Flordelino Lagundino – his Park Square directing debut.

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.”

“This play is also personal to me and plays out in my own history” Flordelino continues. “My father is Filipino, I am Filipino-American. I don’t speak his dialect, Ilocano. This is something that immigrants from any country feel.  I also think it’s a fascinating exploration of men as caregivers since Ray’s father in the play is in hospice care. The personal aspects hit home.”

The cast includes, Sun Mee Chomet*, Shanan Custer, Song Kim, Glenn Kubota, Kurt Kwan*, and Darrick Mosley*.

The Production team includes: Lindsey Cacich Samples (Assistant Director Fellow), Deb O (Set Designer), Amber Brown (Costume Design), Matt Otto (Sound Designer), Karin Olson (Light Designer), Kenji Shoemaker (Properties Designer), Kathy Maxwell (Video Designer), Annie Enneking (Fitght Choreographer), Ruth Coughlin Lencowski (Vocal Coach), Akiem Scott (Assistant Sound Design Fellow), Maxwell Colliard (Assistant Video Design Fellow).

*Member, Actors Equity Association

Picture of a man in a chef jacket surrounded by vines and eggplants. Heading says "Nothing says love like a home-cooked meal."

Ticket prices: Previews: $20-$37. Regular Run: $25-$55. 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.   #PSTAubergine

TICKETS are on sale now.  Subscription package prices begin at $66.

CALENDAR INFORMATION

Previews: Sep 20 – Sep 26, 2019

Opening Night: Sep 27, 2019

Regular Run: Sep 27 – Oct 20, 2019

Tickets: Previews: $20-$37; Regular Run: $25-$55

Ticket office: 651.291.7005 or www.parksquaretheatre.org

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

 

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

 

Film and Talk, Rape: A Crime Against Humanity

Film and Talk, Rape: A Crime Against Humanity

Event Notice and Special Guest Blog by Ellen J. Kennedy, Ph.D., Executive Director, World Without Genocide

Please join Park Square on Sunday May 19 at 1:30 pm, for a screening of the documentary film I Came to Testify, followed by a conversation with Judge Peggy Kuo, one of the lead prosecutors at the International Criminal Tribunal of former Yugoslavia (ICTY), who is featured in the film.

Film and Talk, Rape: A Crime Against Humanity

Sunday, May 19, 1:30 pm
Park Square Theatre, Proscenium Stage

Screening: I Came to Testify. Run time, 50 minutes
Talk: Magistrate Judge Peggy Kuo, Eastern District of New York
Interviewed by John Docherty, Assistant United States Attorney in Minnesota

I Came to Testify is the moving story of how a group of 16 women who had been imprisoned by Serb-led forces in the Bosnian town of Foča broke history’s great silence – and stepped forward to take the witness stand in an international court of law. This historic trial changed international law, designating rape as a crime against humanity and a crime of genocide. We are honored to be joined by Judge Peggy Kuo, who played a critical role in the trial.

This event is part of the series Justice After Genocide*, a series of events presented in anticipation of the upcoming play Heaven, Theatre in Residence Flying Foot Forum’s theatrical look into war-torn Bosnia through music, dance, and story. To deepen our collective understanding of the conflict and of the challenges faced in the war’s aftermath, Park Square is collaborating with World Without Genocide and The Flying Foot Forum to offer this series.

Tickets:
$10 general public, $5 seniors and students; $25 for lawyers’ CLE credits at most programs; ‘clock hours’ for educators. Purchase tickets at the door, no advance registration is required.

Rape Camps

by Ellen J. Kennedy, Ph.D.
Executive Director, World Without Genocide

People do unspeakable things during war. They view the ‘other’ as less than human and behave in ways that most of us could not even imagine. That was the situation during the war in Bosnia in the 1990s.

Bosnian Serbs abducted Muslim women and girls, brought them to unused schools, hotels, and other buildings, and imprisoned them for months at a time, subjecting them to sexual slavery and cruelty. These places of horror became known as ‘rape camps.’

As the war escalated, an international court was created for the first time since World War II to prosecute the worst perpetrators of the conflict. This court, known as the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia, was operated by the United Nations.

One of the many cases was the trial of three leaders of the ‘rape camps.’ The prosecution team was led by three remarkable women: Tejshree Thapa from Nepal, Hildegard Retzlaff from Germany, and Peggy Kuo, an American.

These prosecutors were determined to seek justice. First, however, was the very difficult challenge of finding women survivors who were willing to testify. To speak about their horrors meant reliving the trauma. It also meant that, like women everywhere who have been subjected to sexual violence, they felt shamed and ruined; and now they were being asked to publicly acknowledge what had happened to them. In addition, these women were likely to face deadly intimidation or retribution if they testified. Ultimately, many women came forward and spoke the truth of what had been done to them.

All three defendants were found guilty. More than that, however, the prosecutors changed international law. Rape is now a crime against humanity and a crime of genocide. These women prosecutors, like other women in the legal profession, brought a gendered perspective into that courtroom – and influenced gendered justice around the world.

Peggy Kuo, one of those fierce and determined prosecutors at that trial, will be here on May 19. Join us at Park Square Theatre to meet her and to see the remarkable documentary about the trial.

Ellen J. Kennedy is the founder and Executive Director of World Without Genocide, a human rights organization headquartered at Mitchell Hamline School of Law, St. Paul, MN.

Through World Without Genocide, Kennedy promotes Holocaust and genocide education in high schools, colleges, faith-based organizations, and civic groups and advocates with elected officials at city, state, and national levels. Kennedy was a professor at the University of St. Thomas for nearly twenty years and the Interim Director at the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, University of Minnesota, for three years. She began as an adjunct professor at Mitchell Hamline School of Law in September 2010 and remains today.

Information about JUSTICE AFTER GENOCIDE at: https://parksquaretheatre.org/programs-justice-after-genocide/
Information about HEAVEN at: https://parksquaretheatre.org/box-office/shows/2018-19/heaven/

Justice After Genocide 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.

$10,000 Water Damage Challenge Grant! Help the show go on!

Park Square Backstage Flooded. $10,000 Challenge grant in place to double your gift and meet the $20,000 goal.

You know how cold it was during the Polar Vortex.

Saint Paul recorded its coldest temperatures since 1996 (and before that 1887)!

Imagine the shock as Park Square’s technical staff came in Wednesday morning, January 30 – bundled up against the cold, coaxing their car batteries to start – to find a cascade of water falling from the ceiling of the scene shop due to burst pipes in the building.

Water pouring in above the scene shop.

The drains were quickly overwhelmed. Water cascaded into the technical office, dressing rooms and green room, eventually forcing the sewer lines to back up. Ick. Yes, the cast’s shoes were submerged in you-know-what.

The damage is extensive. The room holding the furniture and props for our 20th anniversary production of The Diary of Anne Frank was flooded. Crews are busy rebuilding and painting set pieces, replacing shoes, drying out the stage curtains and creating temporary dressing room for the valiant cast of Girl Friday Production’s upcoming show The Skin of Our Teeth, which opens Feb 9.

Insurance will cover most of the damage, but never all. If you’ve been in an old building with water damage, you know the discovery of new problems will continue on well into the spring. (We think there’s still one of those coming!)

A large curtain being dried.

Early estimates are that there will be a $20,000 gap when all is said and done.

And you need us to be ready to welcome 25,000 more teens this spring for field trips to Antigone, The Diary of Anne Frank and Romeo and Juliet.

You can make sure the shows go on at Park Square!

  • Please buy tickets.
  • Please make a gift to meet the $10,000 challenge match and the $20,000 goal.
  • “Party with a purpose” when you Sign up for the Cattle Call Ball or our Spring Mischief Gala. Exceeding our goals at these events will make a difference (and be fun!)
  • Volunteer to help move stuff and repaint.

When you give today, you will join the heroes of a record-breaking cold, wet, smelly, spirit-crushing day.

The entrance to the dressing rooms.

Your pantheon of heroes includes these all-stars Gaea Dill-D’Ascoli (Assistant Technical Director), Dave Peterson (Facility Director), Gabe Salmon (facility associate), Mary Mongtomery-Jensen (Interim Production Manager), Trevor Muller-Hegel, Eric Hofstead, Allison Oberg, Rachel “Olli”  Johnson, Peter Talbot, and Anna Lund.

On your behalf, they are working around the clock with the remediation company, assessing damage, making inventories, cleaning up (you don’t want to know the details), and getting your shows ready with amazing artists.

Thank you for being the friends that keep the show going for your whole community. With you on our side, we can do it!

With gratitude,

Michael-jon

Executive Director

P.S. And if you haven’t picked up on the irony, The Skin of Our Teeth follows the eternal family through the Ice Age, a great flood and a world war with their hope intact. You are our hope!

A Biographical Timeline of Sister Rosetta Tharpe

Looking to learn a little more about Sister Rosetta Tharpe before seeing Marie and Rosetta? Here is brief timeline of the life and music of this trailblazing and and influential artist! Marie and Rosetta is on stage Nov 23-Dec 30. Buy Tickets Here!

A Biographical Timeline of Sister Rosetta Tharpe

Researched and Compiled by Morgan Holmes, Marie and Rosetta Dramaturg

The Early Years

1915 Rosetta Atkins is born in Cotton Plant, Arkansas, on March 20. Soon after, mother and evangelist preacher Katie Bell Nubin separates from her husband and relocates Rosetta to Chicago.

1920s-30s Rosetta performs with Katie Bell at Fortieth Street Church of God in Christ. The duo tour Chicago’s Maxwell Street market and the Church of God in Christ (COGIC) circuit of the South. Her acclaim as a gospel singer and guitar player grows.

Jamecia Bennett* as Sister Rosetta Tharpe.

1934 Marries COGIC preacher Thomas Tharpe.

1938 Joins revue cast at the Cotton Club and records her first Decca record, “Rock Me.” Throughout the late 30s and 40s she tours Carnegie Hall, the Apollo Theater, Cafe Society in New York and the Grand Ole Opry. She befriends and performs with Cab Calloway, Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie and the like!

1942 Records Victory(V)-discs and performs for African-American troops during WWII.

1943 Divorces Tharpe. Marries Foch P. Allen.

The Middle Years

1944 Releases “Strange Things Happening Every Day” with Decca, reaching #2 on the “race records” chart.

Rajané Katurah Brown as Marie Knight, Jamecia Bennett* as Sister Rosetta.

1946 After a concert at Harlem’s Golden Gate Ballroom, where gospel singer Mahalia Jackson invited up-and-comer Marie Knight on stage, Tharpe convinces Knight to join her act.

1947-1951 Divorces Allen. Tharpe and Knight tour and record several hits. During this period of touring, Knight’s two children die in a house fire. In 1951, the duet part ways.

1951 In a publicity stunt, Tharpe stages a wedding at Griffith Stadium in Washington D.C. to Russell Morrison. Knight is her maid of honor, and the Rosettes, a group of back-up singers formed by Rosetta in 1949, serve as bridesmaids. Over 20,000 paying fans are in attendance. After her vows, she plays a concert on electric guitar in her wedding dress. Decca live records the ceremony and concert, then releases it as an album.

The Later Years

1957 Tharpe and Morrison travel Great Britain and Europe at the height of the British blues revival.

1964 She books the Folk, Blues and Gospel Caravan tour in England, and performs in an abandoned railroad station for a live audience and nationwide TV broadcast. LINK.

1968 Katie Bell dies in Philadelphia. Tharpe receives her only Grammy nomination for the 1968 LP Precious Memories.

1973 Tharpe dies on October 9 in Philadelphia, following a stroke, where she is laid to rest in an unmarked grave. Knight performs at her funeral.

A Rebirth of Interest

2007 Writer Gayle Wald’s biography, SHOUT SISTER SHOUT, The Untold Story of Rock-and-Roll Trail Blazer, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, kicks off a renewed period of interest in Tharpe’s life and music.

2011 A historical marker is added to Tharpe’s Philadelphia house. Filmmaker Mick Csaky produces the documentary The Godmother of Rock & Roll.

2018 Tharpe is inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame under its “Early Influence” award.

 

Morgan Holmes is an all-around theatermaker – writing, directing, dramaturging and administrating across the Twin Cities. She is most interested in identity, ritual, intimacy, and internet culture, which she explores as co-creator of Perspectives Theater Company.

Unpacking a Theatre Attic

Unpacking a Theatre Attic

New Landmark Center Exhibition Explores Park Square Theatre’s First 43 Years

MEDIA CONTACT

Connie Shaver, shaver@parksquaretheatre.org

Saint Paul, Minn., July 25, 2018 – Park Square Theatre announces UNPACKING A THEATRE ATTIC: Park Square Theatre’s First 43 Years, a new exhibition at Landmark Center in downtown Saint Paul that will run September 6– 30, 2018. Richard Cook, who has worked at Park Square Theatre since its first season in 1975, is literally “going through the trunks” to choose images and mementoes from every one of the theatre’s 350 productions. The exhibit will be arranged thematically to explore Park Square’s staggering range of programming, from Shakespeare to mysteries to world premieres. The exhibition is free and open to the public.

Two special events will bookmark the month-long exhibition. The first will be a gala retirement party at 5:30 p.m. on September 6 to toast Cook’s long career as a Twin Cities theatre leader. The second will be the official welcome for Park Square’s new artistic director, Flordelino Lagundino, at 5:30 p.m. on September 26. The public is invited to both events, but RSVPs are required. Please email lchristensen@parksquaretheatre.org.

“Talk about ‘this is your life’ – the process of curating this exhibit has been an unbelievable dive into our history,” says Richard Cook. “So many moments of great work by artists and plays that I loved have washed over me every time I’ve opened a file or box. It’s also been interesting – and sometimes instructive – to read old reviews and think ‘I don’t remember that experience that way at all’ or ‘Yes! That was a fine moment and even the critics agreed!’”

Richard Cook, outgoing artistic director

Many boxes of Park Square’s archives are now stored at the Performing Arts Archives at the University of Minnesota’s Elmer L. Andersen Library. The Performing Arts Archives was established in 1971 by the University of Minnesota Libraries for the preservation and study of the records relating to Minnesota’s rich history of theatre, music, dance, and associated organizations. Its goal is to document as fully as possible the activities of individuals and groups in both professional and amateur performing arts throughout the state. The collections include the most important companies in each of the major arts fields.

Still more important documents have been in the basement office in the Historic Hamm Building that Richard has occupied for the last quarter century – and of course the stray items that landed in his apartment in Saint Paul’s Lowertown. “In 1980 when I took the torch as artistic director from founder Paul Mathey and my husband Steven became managing director, we kept pretty consistent records. But the first five years of the company’s history, and its pre-Park Square life as the Smith Park Gallery performance space and then Variety Hall Theatre, are largely undocumented,” admits Cook. “It’s important to me to organize and make all the notes I can to honor the innovators like Paul who were creating the first Lowertown arts scene in the 1970s.”

Set construction for Marat Sade, 1979.

“We started in the Park Square Court building as a small performance space at the end of the Smith Park art gallery. Artists put on poetry readings and raw, new performance work – almost like an early version of Patrick’s Cabaret,” Cook remembers. “There was a pottery studio and an astrological bookstore in the building, and MPR had its first tiny studio on the ground floor. Today’s artistic energy feels so much like that era.  Artists are creating new companies out of sheer grit and vision, often with a desire to protest injustice and change systems. I am inspired by the ways the new generation of artistic leaders – like our incoming artistic director Flordelino Lagundino – are building on those 1970s foundations. For this exhibit, I hope those who have grown up in the local theatre community find their special Park Square memories – stories that moved them, productions that built lifelong friends and shaped careers, and artists we’ve all treasured on our stages and elsewhere. I also hope those new to Park Square or the Twin Cities find inspiration for the future. It’s been a great ride and I can’t wait to see where it goes next.”

Exhibit Details:

Presenting sponsor:

Unpacking a Theatre Attic: Park Square Theatre’s First 43 Years

A New Exhibition at Landmark Center, September 3 – 30, 2018

Landmark Center (North Gallery off the 6th Street entrance)

75 5th St W, Saint Paul, MN 55102 · (651) 292-3233

Eli Sherlock Sets the Stage

Yew Alley at Baskerville Hall
(White model by Eli Sherlock)

Who better to design the set for Park Square Theatre’s production of Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery than Sherlock himself–that is, Scenic Designer Eli Sherlock (née Schlatter)? Using his impressive powers of deduction, Eli had to solve the tricky puzzle of how to set the stage to accommodate 31 scenes covering 18 locations. But anyone who’d caught a glimpse of Eli’s clever, wholly two-dimensional set design for last season’s comedy, The Liar, at Park Square knows that, without a doubt, Eli was definitely up to the challenge.

The moors at night
(White model by Eli Sherlock)

However, his task wasn’t for the faint of heart, requiring a relentlessly methodical approach. Eli combed the script for details: What’s the time period? What are all the scenic locations? How are they utilized? He did exhaustive research: What does the Manor of Manaton (a.k.a. Baskerville Manor) and its surrounding moors, thought to have inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to write The Hound of the Baskervilles, look like? What are the dimensions of the Proscenium stage to ensure that his design would fit and function well? Basically, as Director Theo Langason cracked open the script, Eli read it and began to determine so many of the choices that had to be made.

But one of the closest relationships for a set designer is with the director, who carries the vision for the play. Theo added his influence on Eli’s design via input on such matters as how to possibly incorporate puppetry into a key scene, whether the run crew who moves the set pieces should be visible or not, how the set design could contribute to the play’s comedic elements yet also make it feel spooky and scary and much more.

Set Designer Eli Sherlock

Eli’s training has, in fact, taught him how to manipulate how the audience feels. For instance, Holmes’ area tends to be on stage right for a good reason. Everything on the set–whether wallpaper pattern or color scheme–subliminally tells the story.

“It’s a fast process,” Eli said about set design. “On and off, I’m thinking for a couple of months, then creating the set for a couple of weeks. But the set has to be figured out before rehearsals start so the director can do the blocking.”

This heady combination of collaboration and creativity is what excites Eli about his chosen profession. His greatest thrill is to have created something that an audience hasn’t seen before and cause an unexpected reaction to a space.

“In Baskerville, new stuff will be popping up all the time,” said Eli. “And my hope is for the audience to wonder, ‘How did they do that?!?!'”

Then perhaps he’d flash a sly grin and reply, “It’s elementary . . . .”

Baskerville is on stage now through August 5! Tickets and information here.

Pogi’s Back – in Baskerville!

Park Square favorite Eric “Pogi” Sumangil returns to the Proscenium Stage in Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery, playing both Inspector Lestrade and Sir Henry Baskerville, among many roles. He caught up with blogger Vincent Hannam to share what excites him about this play and working in Twin Cities theatre.

Eric "Pogi" Sumangil

Eric “Pogi” Sumangil

What was your path to the Twin Cities and Park Square?
I was born and raised in Minneapolis. I had some aspirations to go to college somewhere out of state, but ultimately decided to go to St. John’s University in central Minnesota. My freshman year, I wrote the annual comedy sketch at the Asian New Year celebration. Rick Shiomi, then Artistic Director of Theater Mu, performed at the same event with his Taiko group, and approached me afterward. I started taking workshops at Mu in Minneapolis over summer break and I stayed in touch until I graduated. I began auditioning around the Twin Cities, but for over a decade, getting cast in a show at Park Square eluded me. Suddenly, in 2016, I was cast in The Realistic Joneses, Flower Drum Song, and Macbeth in the same season.
What other work do you do around town?
I am a playwright and teaching artist, I also have done some event planning, marketing and social media, and administrative work, most recently for the Minnesota Theater Alliance. Otherwise, I work for a couple of food trucks around town as well: Bombon, and Fun Fare.

Sara Richardson, Eric “Pogi” Sumangil, and McKenna Kelly-Eiding. Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma

This isn’t your first show at Park Square, so what keeps you coming back? What excites you most about this show?
Park Square is one of the few places in the Twin Cities that features performers of color in non-traditionally cast roles with relative consistency. It’s an opportunity for me to perform roles for which I might not be considered at many other theaters. While I believe that the theater work that is centered around identity is important, I also believe that as someone from a community of color that is often assumed to be foreign, it’s important for me as an actor to be seen in roles that don’t specifically address my ethnic origins.

This show is a classic story with a contemporary feel. It has an American sensibility to the humor, and the challenge of playing so many characters is going to be a lot of fun. I’m also excited to work with a female Holmes & Watson because they’ll both bring great things to those roles.

Ricardo Beaird, Eric “Pogi” Sumangil, Sara Richardson. Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma

What do you hope people come away with after watching it?
Accessibility, and relatability. The film & TV world is now trending toward rebooting past shows and movies, but that’s nothing new in the Theater business; there are adaptations all over the place with a new take or different spin on familiar stories. I’m hoping that people come away with a renewed interest in something that they may have dismissed as being old and irrelevant.

Beat the heat this summer and see Pogi in Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery, playing until August 5. Tickets can be found here!

Baskerville graphic - red text on white background

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