Posts Tagged Park Square Theatre

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

Richard Cook: Boy with An Artistic Bent

“It’s just a run-of-the-mill story,” theatre professionals will often claim whenever I ask how they’d found their calling. But make them keep talking until dusty memories get re-aired, bringing back to light those personal details that, of course, reveal an extraordinarily unique journey. The response to my question from Richard Cook, who retires from a 43-year career with Park Square Theatre (38 as Artistic Director) after this season, was no exception. Luckily, he did keep talking.

“I was a boy with an artistic bent,” Richard began, “who grew up in a literate household in northwest Iowa. My mom was an English and Business teacher; my dad, a tenant farmer. Our house was always filled with magazines–professional journals, farming magazines . . . .

We raised livestock–mainly hogs–and lots of corn and beans. At first, we lived in a little house with no indoor plumbing until I was four. Then the landlord added an indoor bathroom. It was a truly rural existence, but what I remember is that our living room always had a piano which my dad–a great musician and singer, my older brother and I played.”

Richard Cook with Stage Manager Lindsey Harter during a rehearsal for The Diary of Anne Frank
(Photo by Connie Shaver)

Growing up as a farm boy, Richard experienced hours of sitting behind a tractor, riding up and down the crop rows. These potential periods of grinding boredom were, for Richard, “my time to think about my reading or what I wanted to read.” During breaks, he’d pull out the Steinbeck novel or Reader’s Digest tucked under his seat.

“I’d also sing while driving the tractor,” Richard said. “Barbara Streisand tunes. I saw her first television performance on Johnny Carson. I loved her theatre tunes–storytelling tunes! I had a crush on her and knew her body of work from top to bottom.”

Richard attended what he described as an “extraordinarily sophisticated” school. Living near a Strategic Air Command headquarter during the Cold War, many of his classmates were world-traveled Air Force “brats” whom Richard recalled as being “very ambitious, competitive and talented so kept us local kids on our toes.” Unsurprisingly, science and technology were also well-funded at his school.

Discussion between Richard Cook and actors Sulia Altenberg and Ryan London Levin
(Photo by Connie Shaver)

“Theatre was almost nonexistent,” said Richard, “but we did have a terrific music room and band instructor. The choir master was also good. We held exceptional concerts and had a very competitive marching band.”

During his formative years as a teenager, three people deeply impacted Richard’s life: the local Methodist minister and his wife as well as his high school English and Speech teacher. The couple took Richard under their wings, the intellectually curious minister serving as a mentor and his wife sharing her interest in art and music. His teacher was that “cool person” who comes along just at the right moment in one’s life.

“She was a character,” Richard fondly recalled. “She had a hot little sports car and bouffant hairdo. She was the smartest, most articulate and sophisticated person I’d ever met, and she passed on to me all the speech and theatre techniques that she could.”

While attending the small liberal arts college of Morningside in Iowa, Richard planned to study theology to go into the ministry but was, instead, seduced away by theatre. He remembers the college as a “hothouse” for him and how he’d seek every opportunity to perform. Then as luck would have it, the University of Iowa was developing its first MFA in Theatre while Richard was a senior at Morningside and recruited him into their new program.

“I took the path of least resistance,” Richard admitted.

Little did he know then that may have been his last chance to do so for a very long time.

Richard’s official retirement date is September 1st, on his 70th birthday. “I am confident that there is an afterlife,” Richard joked, “and I’m excited to find out what it is.”

Guest Concert: Japan American Society of Minnesota presents Cerulean Fire

 

In 2012, virtuoso violinist Margaret Humphrey and award-winning composer and harpsichordist Asako Hirabayashi partnered to form Cerulean Fire. Their vision is to raise audience awareness and appreciation of concerts with historical instruments but do so with a contemporary spin. They remove boundaries between classical and nonclassical music by performing both new and old music in creative juxtaposition and often collaborate with jazz, Latin, Japanese and other ethnic musicians and dancers.

On Sunday, June 10, at 4 pm, Cerulean Fire, with Sogetsu Ikebana Group and Japan American Society of Minnesota, bring to Park Square Theatre an extraordinary visual and musical experience, Musical and Floral Metamorphosis: Premiere of Concerto for Four Harpsichords and Strings. Throughout the entire piece, nine instruments are treated as soloists, not just some as accompaniment to others. The guest conductor will be Nobuyoshi Yasuda (affectionately known as “Nobu”), an accomplished violinist, music professor and conductor of the Chippewa Valley Symphony and the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Symphony Orchestra.

Asako Hirabayashi and Margaret Humphrey, with harpsichord and violin, wearing elaborate cerulean blue gown & red gownConcerto for Four Harpsichords and Strings will indeed be played on four harpsichords and string instruments,” explained Asako, its composer. “To premiere it at Park Square Theatre is a unique opportunity for the entire community since only three concertos for four harpsichords have ever been written in Western classical music history. And presenting such a show involving four harpsichords is extremely difficult and rare due to the nature of the instrument. Finding four harpsichords is hard but so is their maintenance as they are sensitive to temperature and humidity. During rehearsals and the performance, we will need to keep a thousand strings tuned!”

Since the age of seven, Asako played piano–switching to harpsichord as an adult–and wrote music because “I always wanted to be a pianist who plays my own compositions.” In high school, she realized that her hands were too small and hindered effective competition with male pianists so she chose Composition as her major in college and graduate school in Japan. However, her desire to perform never left, and she took up the harpsichord when it was introduced to her in Japan when her teacher, Eiji Hashimoto, gave a recital and performed Scarlatti.

“I was very impressed,” Asako recalled. “The music of Scarlatti really made sense on harpsichord, not on piano. His music is Spanish and imitates the sounds of flamenco guitar, and he uses crushing percussion-like dissonance in his keyboard sonatas. It is only effective on harpsichord, not on today’s grand piano. So I was very fascinated by the sound effect. Also, the keys of the harpsichord are much smaller for my small hands to reach.

Additionally, in ensemble during the Renaissance and Baroque period, the right hand part was not always written. Only the bass part may be written so the keyboardist had to improvise with the right hand. A harpsichordist must be able to improvise. As a composer, I had the advantage of being able to readily do that.

Besides, I love doing what nobody else does. The harpsichord and harpsichordists were extremely rare in Japan at the time, and I wanted to play something that not many people were playing.”

A stunning visual highlight on performance day will be the ikebana exhibit in the theatre’s foyer that complements the event. Ikebana is the Japanese art of flower arrangement that is, as Asako describes, “more than simply putting flowers in a container.” Dating back to the 7th century, ikebana is a highly disciplined art that brings nature and humanity together.

“Ikebana allows the heart of the arranger to touch the heart of the viewer, bringing peace and tranquility,” Asako elaborated. “Ikebana master and my friend Yoshie Babcock has taught it for over 30 years in the Twin Cities and Chicago. In 1996, the late headmaster of Sogetsu appointed her as chairperson of the Sogetsu Minneapolis-St. Paul Study Group, and she has received special awards for promoting ikebana outside of Japan and Japanese art and culture in Minnesota.”

This collaboration between Park Square Theatre and Cerulean Fire will bring together multiple arts communities to create a broad diverse audience. Nothing like Musical and Floral Metamorphosis: Concerto for Four Harpsichords and Strings has been done in the Twin Cities before, and it’s happening in one performance only. Don’t miss out on this special opportunity!

Tickets and information here.

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ANOTHER GUEST EVENT NOT TO MISS AT PARK SQUARE THEATRE:

TaikoArts Midwest presents Taiko Tuesday with a free concert by Enso Daiko
Tuesday, May 22, 7 pm – Proscenium Stage
Reserve free seats here

 

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!”

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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.