Posts Tagged Rick Shiomi

A Conversation with Lara and Rick of Full Circle Theater’s ATACAMA

“Everyone I know has a story about how theatre chose them; once it catches your attention, you can’t look away.”

Picture of Lara Trujillo and Rick Shiomi. She has long dark hair and wears a red v-neck shirt. He has short hair and a gray sweater over a blue polo shirt.

Lara and Rick at a rehearsal of Atacama.

Theatre came to Lara Trujillo by way of music. The actor and director of Atacama, and Full Circle Theater core artist, began her theatre career in musical theatre and opera. Though she still is still an opera performer, Lara says that “a play without music was something new and challenging, and [she] loves to take on new challenges”. However, it was musical theatre that led her to meet Rick Shomi when she starred in a production of Into The Woods put on by Theatre Mu. 

Rick’s story is a little different. The successful playwright, Full Circle Theater core artist, and Park Square Artistic Associate originally wanted to be a prose writer. He says that he didn’t discover playwriting until he wrote Yellow Fever and realized that “theatre was a place where [he] felt at home.” It was this play that placed him as a key figure in Asian-American theatre. When Rick was growing up he had “no idea of theatre in the Asian-American sense.” Lifting up minority voices and stories and ensuring that theatre is diverse and inclusive is now a core part of all of the work that he does. 

When Full Circle Theatre was formed, centering diversity began with the formation of a core artistic leadership group that was intentionally composed of artists who represented a variety of different identities. Park Square’s new leadership core also reflects intentional diversity. This intentional diversity is then applied to all aspects of theatre, from selecting each season’s shows all the way to ensuring that each play is accessible to a diverse audience. As Lara notes, “plays that showcase underrepresented narratives and voices are often the ones that stay with the audience the longest.” Plays that touch on universal and social justice themes serve as conversation starters. She recognizes that audience members are often looking for more than entertainment, saying “Park Square audiences are hungry for great quality work and work that provides not just entertainment, but helps them to find meaning.”

One play that combines meaning and artistry is Atacama, an upcoming show that Full Circle is putting on in collaboration with Park Square (on stage April 20 to May 1). Though this show is set in Chile several years after the fall of the Pinochet Regime, it conveys universal messages about grief and connection, and draws parallels between history and the present, while warning about what can happen when a country and a people are deeply divided.

The combination of artistry and values is also something that occurs with collaboration between theaters. As Rick notes, “partnership allows theaters to combine values and resources, strengthening productions.” He also says that “it is always good for the community when theaters work together because it makes theater communities more active and stable.” Though Rick’s leadership role in both Park Square and Full Circle certainly serves as one driving force behind the partnership between the two theatres, he also says that, at least for Atacama, Park Square simply “felt like the right fit,” especially with the theatre’s increased focus on social justice themes.

For both Lara and Rick, the future of Twin Cities’ theatre lies in these ideas of collaboration and diversity. As Lara says, “theatre is now about sharing new narratives or unique stories, and anyone can throw their hat in the ring.” Through partnership between theaters, more stories can be told and “the universe of the theatre community can expand.”  And, with Rick and Lara’s help, Park Square and Full Circle will be at the forefront of this new wave of theatre. 

Interview and article by Marketing Intern, Rachel Christensen

ATACAMA is on the Park Square Proscenium Stage April 20-May 1, 2022.

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A Season of Perspective and Sharing

Park Square and SteppingStone Theatres Announce Joint Season

MEDIA CONTACTS
Mark Ferraro-Hauck: 952.220.2178 mark@steppingstonetheatre.org
Rachel Wandrei: 617.543.5770 wandrei@parksquaretheatre.org

Saint Paul, Minn., April 20, 2022 – Park Square Theatre and SteppingStone Theatre for Youth announced their 2022-2023 season plans today, continuing the process of bringing the two companies together in one downtown Saint Paul home. The two organizations will retain their names for their first united season, but are planning to become a single legal entity this fall.

For Park Square’s 48th season, the cohort of five artistic associates has worked to select plays that come from many points of view, with the goal of creating theatre filled with both meaning and entertainment. “We strive to be a place where everyone is able to tell their story, and where we can hear and see each other with open hearts, particularly as we rebuild connections and communities after these years apart,” says Executive Director Mark Ferraro-Hauck. The season includes two world premieres, two regional premieres, a Tony Award winner, a Pulitzer Prize winner, and the 25th anniversary of a play that has become central to Park Square’s youth education programs. The SteppingStone performance calendar will include a winter-themed play, Shakespeare performed by young people, and a touring production for very young audiences.

A slightly smaller season than in previous years, the theatres are aiming to reset and organically rebuild after the pandemic. Each play will have a slightly shorter run, have fewer preview performances and a modified rehearsal schedule that eliminates the “10 out of 12” rehearsal days that are notoriously grueling for the artists involved. 

The theatre year will open with the 2016 Tony Award winner for Best Play, THE HUMANS (Sept 14 – Oct 9, 2022), by Stephen Karam. Three generations of the Blake family have assembled for Thanksgiving and everyone is determined to make the best of it, but as they attempt to focus on the positive, old wounds, current mistakes, and future fears threaten their stability. Both blisteringly funny and deeply chilling, the play offers a stunning portrayal of the human condition; a family at its best and worst navigating the challenges of everyday life.

Next, Park Square deepens its relationship with Full Circle Theater Company with a co-production of FIRE IN THE NEW WORLD (Oct 19 – Nov 6, 2022), written by Rick Shiomi, who is a co-founder of Full Circle and serves as an artistic associate for Park Square. In this world premiere noir mystery, Sam Shikaze, hard-boiled private eye, fights crime and discrimination in Vancouver’s Japantown in the years after WWII. When the beautiful Japanese American wife of an ambitious real estate developer goes missing, Sam is on the case in a savvy detective caper that mixes social commentary with plenty of sly intrigue.

For the holiday season, SteppingStone will present THE SNOWY DAY AND OTHER STORIES BY EZRA JACK KEATS (Dec 1 – 23, 2022). With a script by Jerome Hairston, and based on the books by Ezra Jack Keats, this magical tale will explore the wonder of a fresh snowfall, the delight of whistling for the first time, the awe in finding special treasures, and the joy of making new friends. A timeless classic, THE SNOWY DAY is the most checked-out volume of all time at the New York Public Library and is known for being the first book featuring an African American child to win the Caldecott Medal. This new ensemble-driven production will explore connections to water and the changing of the seasons through movement and storytelling.

Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett’s adaptation of THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK has become a core part of Park Square’s educational offerings over 25 years, with over 265,000 students having experienced Anne Frank’s story at the theatre. To commemorate the anniversary, the company will present an all-new production. As the Frank family hides in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam, Anne shares both her everyday teenage challenges and the terror of the Holocaust. Now more relevant than ever, this resonant story of hope and imagination in the darkest of times illuminates a part of history that must not be forgotten. On the Park Square Theatre mainstage for all audiences Jan 18 – Feb 12, 2023, with an extended run for education groups.

In February, SteppingStone will produce its first ever Shakespeare featuring a cast of actors ages 16-21. A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM (Feb 8 – Mar 5, 2023) will bring a genuinely youthful perspective to some of the bard’s most well-known young characters. Available to both school and public audiences, this production will be a new variation on the theme of literary classics that have been at home on the Park Square stage for many years. 

Collaboration continues in the spring with a co-production with PRIME Productions of THE REVOLUTIONISTS (Mar 29 – Apr 16, 2023), by Lauren Gunderson. In this riotous comedy four women find themselves caught up in the French Revolution: an assassin, a spy, a playwright, and, of course, Marie Antoinette. They plot murder, find friendship (and do some good writing), in an irreverent, poignant comedic romp that considers how we go about changing the world.

A comedy-drama exploring fatherhood, loneliness, and the complexity of justice, BETWEEN RIVERSIDE AND CRAZY (May 24 – Jun 18, 2023), by Stephen Adly Guirgis, won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The New York Times describes it as “a rich new play… Mr. Guirgis has a splendid ear in blurring lines between the sacred and profane and it is a dizzying and exciting place to be.” Surrounded by a beautiful and eclectic stream of family and houseguests, ex-cop and recent widower “Pops” is barely holding on to his stability and his once-grand apartment on Manhattan’s Riverside Drive. This production features a cast of well-known local artists led by James A. Williams as Pops.

SteppingStone has two titles yet to be announced for the spring and summer. In May, the theatre will devise a new work for very young audiences. The work will be hugely interactive and travel to schools, libraries, museums and other hot-spots of the under-5 set. Later, SteppingStone will bring back its annual summer musical performed by some of the Twin Cities’ most talented young performers.

The classics get a summer shake-up as Park Square presents FOOLS AND LOVERS (Jun 7 – Jul 2, 2023), adaptations of Shakespeare by Gregory Wolfe and Gregory Sherman, with original music by Andrew Sherman. MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING meets TONY AND TINA’S WEDDING in a beguiling mashup of the classical and comedic. With text drawn entirely from Shakespeare’s plays, some set to music, the play invites the audience into an immersive wedding experience where love can be found in all its guises – young, questioned, rejected, rediscovered – and ultimately conquering all.

Finally, Park Square concludes its season with a world premiere mystery by Jeffrey Hatcher and Steve Hendrickson. HOLMES/POIROT (Jul 19 – Aug 20, 2023) is based on “Murder on the Links” by Agatha Christie with characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, bringing not one, but two of the greatest detectives of all time to the stage in a tour-de-force of cunning plot twists and deft storytelling. Separated by 25 years, the two master sleuths examine a related case, each employing their signature methods and indelible personalities. 

SEASON TICKETS are on sale now for the Park Square season. Subscriptions include seven or five show packages, as well as choose-your-own packages. Subscription prices begin at $66 and offer discounts up to $100 over single tickets. SINGLE TICKETS will be available on a rolling basis, with the fall productions becoming available July 5. SteppingStone’s THE SNOWY DAY is available for school bookings now. General audience tickets will become available July 5. 

The ticket office is open Wednesday and Thursday, noon-5pm, at 651.291.7005, or at tickets@parksquaretheatre.org.

Artistic Associates

Park Square Theatre’s cohort of Artistic Associates work collaboratively with the Interim Executive Director and other staff to develop and deliver the company’s artistic programs . In addition, they support and advise on certain performances, education programs and practices, make sure the theatre maintains an equitable and safe working environment for artists, staff and technicians, and advise on marketing and communication strategies and community inclusion.

Current Artistic Associates:

Photo of actor/director Ansa Akyea.Ansa Akyea is a Swiss born Ghanaian-American actor and graduate of the University of Iowa’s distinguished Masters of Fine Arts Acting program. Ansa has worked as an actor and director at some of the best local and regional theaters throughout the Twin Cities, such as the Guthrie Theater, Mixed Blood, and Ten Thousand Things. He can also be seen and heard on film, radio, and television. Ansa is the recipient of the 2011 Minnesota Playwright Center’s McKnight Award for Acting, City Pages Best Actor Award 2007, the 2013 Minnesota Playwright Center’s Many Voices Fellowship, and an Ivey Award for the Guthrie Theater’s production of Clybourne Park.

Ellen Fenstera professional theater director and arts educator in Minneapolis. Ellen has directed at Pillsbury House Theatre, The Illusion Theater, Yellow Tree Theater, Theatre Mu, Artistry, Gremlin Theatre, U of MN/Guthrie Theater Actor Training Program and Park Square Theater. She is an associate artist at Pillsbury House Theatre where she ran the Chicago Avenue Project from 2008 to 2016.  She is also an artistic associate at Illusion Theatre where she helps connect the theater with young and emerging artists. She is currently the Artistic and Executive Director of Twin Cities Theater Camp, a summer theater intensive for children.

Rick Shiomi, a founding member and the Co-Artistic Director of Full Circle Theater. He has been a playwright, director and artistic director in the Asian American theater movement since the 1980s and was a co-founder of Theater Mu and Artistic Director for twenty years. His twenty plays include Mask DanceRosie’s Café and Yellow Fever. His directing credits include: Flower Drum Song (David Hwang version), Into The WoodsThe New Mikado and Caught by Christopher Chen. He has received The McKnight Distinguished Artist Award, The Ivey Award for Lifetime Achievement and the Sally Ordway Irvine Award for Vision.

Kim Vasquez, a Saint Paul native specializing in the development of new plays and musicals. She is currently a producer on Be More Chill (Chicago, London, Broadway and Off-Broadway) and Austen’s Pride. Kim is a proud Founding Producer for the currently defunct New York Musical Theatre Festival (NYMF), which survived for a glorious 16 years. Her most recent directing credit was for the New York Times bestselling Author and Poet, Rupi Kaur, in a live theatrical production of The Sun And Her Flowers at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center.

Park Square and SteppingStone Theatre to Join Forces

PARK SQUARE THEATRE AND STEPPINGSTONE THEATRE ARE
JOINING FORCES
TO CREATE “THEATRE FOR LIFE”

Media Contacts:
Connie Shaver,  shaver@parksquaretheatre.org
Kiersten Birondo kiersten@steppingstonetheatre.org

This fall, Park Square Theatre and SteppingStone Theatre for Youth join forces to create “your theatre for life” in downtown Saint Paul. The two companies have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding that will lead to more robust regional theatre programming for all ages. Through joint management and mission, though operating as separate legal entities with separate boards and finances, the two companies will provide a full range of theatre experiences out of the Historic Hamm Building. 

Those experiences will encompass all ages and the best that both theatres have to offer: classes and camps for young people, workshops for adults and intergenerational groups, family-oriented productions for young audiences, and Park Square’s full mainstage season of new works, classics, mysteries and beloved musicals. In tandem the two partner organizations will serve an audience of 125,000 with more than 70,000 young people attending performances and educational programs.

“I got my start in a theatre for youth company at eight and had my first theatre internship at 18,” says Park Square executive director Michael-jon Pease. “What excites me by joining forces is how together we truly become Saint Paul’s theatre for life for artists and audiences. This innovative partnership is a natural outgrowth of the theatre-in-residence concept Richard Cook started with the addition of Park Square’s Andy Boss Stage.”

SteppingStone’s artistic and executive director Mark Ferraro-Hauck agrees. “With the planned sale of our building near Summit Avenue and Victoria Street in Saint Paul, SteppingStone will return to its downtown roots for performances while maintaining easy accessibility for our hundreds of camp and class families through neighborhood-based programs and facilities.  Greater geographical flexibility and the strength of our combined resources are essential to meet the evolving needs of young artists, families, and schools.”

Each company has championed new work for the stage, from Park Square’s world premiere commission of Christina Ham’s NINA SIMONE: FOUR WOMEN that has gone on to productions around the country to SteppingStone’s recent world premiere of Ricardo Gamboa’s THE REAL LIFE ADVENTURES OF JIMMY DE LAS ROSAS. Park Square’s mainstage subscription programming will continue, such as the upcoming world premiere of BAD THINGS, GOOD WHISKEY, and the new musical TRIANGLE (a co-production with The Ordway). SteppingStone’s annual productions by and for young audiences will move to the Park Square stages during the school year, with summer productions held elsewhere to accommodate the growing summer audience. The partnership kicked off informally on August 1 and 2 with the SteppingStone production of DISNEY’S LITTLE MERMAID, JR, which took place outdoors on the 7th Place Plaza in front of Park Square.

“Partnerships with artists, theatre companies, and schools have also been integral to both Park Square and SteppingStone’s work in recent years,” comments SteppingStone Board President Mike Erlandson.  The new joint venture will include ongoing partner relationships with local companies such as Ghoulish Delights/The Mysterious Old Radio Listening Society, Flying Foot Forum, PRIME Productions, Ballet Co Lab, Full Circle Theater, TruArtSpeaks, and Trademark Theatre. 

“This step not only protects both Park Square and SteppingStone during the continued pandemic and forced theatre ‘intermission,’ by bringing together their assets and skillsets,” notes Park Square Board chair Paul Mattessich, “but re-establishes the Hamm Building – which also houses the former SPCO recital hall and the former Vieux Carré jazz club – as a thriving, diverse performance center that can help rebuild downtown’s economy once the pandemic is over.”

With this move, the two organizations are also transforming their leadership model and building on Park Square’s March announcement of a cohort model of Artistic Associates including Kim Vasquez, Rick Shiomi and Ellen Fenster. Mark Ferraro-Hauck becomes the newest element of the artistic and executive leadership team, serving as interim Executive Director, while Vasquez will become Producing Director of the Park Square Mainstage. Another Artistic Associate is currently meeting with the team and is expected to be announced in the coming weeks. Michael-jon Pease, Park Square’s current Executive Director, will remain with the company as a part-time consultant through the transition. Pease begins a new career as Executive Director of the Saint Paul Parks Conservancy in September. Ferraro-Hauck observes, “As we have discussed the challenges of the current economic moment and the complexity of bringing together two organizations, we have also been inspired by the necessity of re-imagining artistic leadership in ways that join and celebrate the many gifts and lived experiences found in our artistic community.”

As a teacher at St Paul City School, a current board member of SteppingStone Theatre, and a subscriber and donor to Park Square Theatre, Pondie Taylor agrees. “I think the energy of SteppingStone and Park Square Theatre truly complement each other well. Thanks to their theater classes, SteppingStone has given my children the tools and confidence to be on stage. Park Square Theatre has invited my students to watch the magic of a novel come to life on stage. I bring my entire family to watch a SteppingStone play and my husband and I enjoy date night at Park Square! I think these two theaters together will continue to strengthen the art scene in the Twin Cities and the greater Midwest.”  

Artistic and Executive leadership

Mark Ferraro-Hauck
Interim Executive Director of Park Square, Artistic Executive Director of SteppingStone Theatre for Youth
Mark has a passion for providing all youth with an opportunity to grow, discover their strengths, and interact with the world around them. He has conducted teacher and parent trainings in arts-based wellness strategies for youth and led a federal study of the role of the arts in building resiliency with traumatized youth. Mark has directed and designed over 60 plays throughout the Midwest at professional and educational theatres. He was a founder and held the position of Executive Producing Director of the Great River Shakespeare Festival in Winona, Minnesota, and was also founder of Public Theater of Minnesota in 2010, a program focused on professional Shakespeare productions featuring young actors. In addition to working in the arts, Mark spent 15 years as the principal designer and co-owner of Bluestem Construction, a nationally recognized residential and commercial remodeling firm.

Kim Vasquez
Producing Director of the Park Square Mainstage, Park Square Theatre Artistic Associate
Kim Vasquez is a Saint Paul native specializing in the development of new plays and musicals as head of Gray Lady Entertainment, Inc. She is currently a producer on Be More Chill (Chicago, London, Broadway and Off-Broadway) and Austen’s Pride. Kim is a proud Founding Producer for the currently defunct New York Musical Theatre Festival (NYMF), which survived for a glorious 15 years. Her most recent directing credit was for the New York Times bestselling Author and Poet, Rupi Kaur, in a live theatrical production of The Sun And Her Flowers at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center. Kim is also an Actor recently having worked on In The Heights, the movie, and Saturday Night Live. Proud member of SAG-AFTRA.

Ellen Fenster
Park SquareTheatre Artistic Associate
Ellen Fenster is a professional theater director and arts educator in Minneapolis. Ellen has directed at Pillsbury House Theatre, The Illusion Theater, Yellow Tree Theater, Theatre Mu, Artistry, Gremlin Theatre, U of MN/Guthrie Theater Actor Training Program and Park Square Theater. She is an associate artist at Pillsbury House Theatre where she ran the Chicago Avenue Project from 2008 to 2016.  She is also an artistic associate at Illusion Theatre where she helps connect the theater with young and emerging artists. She is currently the Artistic and Executive Director of Twin Cities Theater Camp, a summer theater intensive for children.

Rick Shiomi
Park Square Theatre Artistic Associate
Rick Shiomi is a founding member and the Co-Artistic Director of Full Circle Theater. He has been a playwright, director and artistic director in the Asian American theater movement since the 1980s and was a co-founder of Theater Mu and Artistic Director for twenty years. His twenty plays include Mask Dance, Rosie’s Café and Yellow Fever. His directing credits include: Flower Drum Song (David Hwang version), Into The Woods, The New Mikado and Caught by Christopher Chen. He has received The McKnight Distinguished Artist Award, The Ivey Award for Lifetime Achievement and the Sally Ordway Irvine Award for Vision.

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Introducing the first members of new Artistic Associates cohort!

Park Square Theatre announces the first members of its new cohort of Artistic Associates, who will help shape programming in 2022. Park Square first developed its Artistic Associates model in 2014-2018 as an intentional way to expand the range of its storytelling. An open call for additional associates will be announced this spring.

Artistic Associates confirmed to date are:

Ellen Fenster, a professional theater director and arts educator in Minneapolis. Ellen has directed at Pillsbury House Theatre, The Illusion Theater, Yellow Tree Theater, Theatre Mu, Artistry, Gremlin Theatre, U of MN/Guthrie Theater Actor Training Program and Park Square Theater. She is an associate artist at Pillsbury House Theatre where she ran the Chicago Avenue Project from 2008 to 2016.  She is also an artistic associate at Illusion Theatre where she helps connect the theater with young and emerging artists. She is currently the Artistic and Executive Director of Twin Cities Theater Camp, a summer theater intensive for children.

Rick Shiomi, a founding member and the Co-Artistic Director of Full Circle Theater. He has been a playwright, director and artistic director in the Asian American theater movement since the 1980s and was a co-founder of Theater Mu and Artistic Director for twenty years. His twenty plays include Mask Dance, Rosie’s Café and Yellow Fever. His directing credits include: Flower Drum Song (David Hwang version), Into The Woods, The New Mikado and Caught by Christopher Chen. He has received The McKnight Distinguished Artist Award, The Ivey Award for Lifetime Achievement and the Sally Ordway Irvine Award for Vision.

Kim Vasquez, a Saint Paul native specializing in the development of new plays and musicals. She is currently a producer on Be More Chill (Chicago, London, Broadway and Off-Broadway) and Austen’s Pride. Kim is a proud Founding Producer for the currently defunct New York Musical Theatre Festival (NYMF), which survived for a glorious 16 years. Her most recent directing credit was for the New York Times bestselling Author and Poet, Rupi Kaur, in a live theatrical production of The Sun And Her Flowers at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center.

“Park Square’s Artistic Associates are working professionals who direct, write, teach, produce and perform,” says Pease. “They come to us with rich careers, distinct histories, personal networks and perspectives that will keep expanding Park Square’s circle of artistic relationships. We live among many different histories, cultures and people; the community is always enriched whenever new voices are added to the conversation.”

Taiko Tuesday: A Gift from the Heart

Experience the energy of Ensō Daiko
(Photo by Jeff Sandeen)

On Tuesday, May 22, at 7 pm, Ensō Daiko performs a free concert on Park Square Theatre’s Proscenium stage as part of TaikoArts Midwest’s Taiko Tuesdays series. Come see Minnesota’s premier taiko ensemble in an energetic performance of music, dance, culture and pure athleticism!

While taiko often includes a broad range of Japanese percussion instruments, the term itself simply means drum in Japanese. Outside of Japan, taiko commonly refers to the style of ensemble drumming called kumi-daiko, with its emphasis on the art form as performance. There are so many ways to play a drum and to choreograph a routine–something you see firsthand whenever Ensō Daiko performs.

Jennifer Weir beats the drum!
(Photo by Rich Ryan)

Ensō Daiko is led by Jennifer Weir, who is also Executive Director of TaikoArts Midwest. She instantly fell in love with taiko over two decades ago when first introduced to it by Rick Shiomi, the founder of Mu Daiko, and readily became one of its original members. In 2017, Mu Daiko was renamed Ensō Daiko, with Jennifer newly at its helm.

Ensō is a Japanese word meaning circle, a symbol that is simultaneously simple yet packed with deep meanings: togetherness, strength, elegance, enlightenment, the moment when the mind is free to let the body create, the acceptance of imperfection as perfect (wabi sabi) and the void (mu). Ensō reflects taiko itself–an art form that is at once accessible for its simplicity but conveys those similar rich concepts.

An enso by brush painter and teacher Bob Schmitt of Laughing Waters Studio
({Photo by Bob Schmitt)

Ensō Daiko’s performance at Park Square Theatre will be the ninth concert in the Taiko Tuesdays series. According to Jennifer, Taiko Tuesdays were purposely designed to break down barriers that may prevent broad participation. With that in mind, they decided to perform 12 rather than just one concert and to do so in a variety of locations, all at no cost to attendees.

“We also wanted to show the range and depth of the art,” said Jennifer, “so each concert is different for you to be able to see various styles and aesthetics.”

Enso Daiko in performance
(Photo by Rich Ryan)

This effort is often supported by inviting guest artists to join them, which has brought the additional benefit of infusing the group with “super development” through the opportunity to learn from a much greater number of collaborating artists per year. Certainly, part of Ensō Daiko’s dynamism comes from its openness to different influences and creative exploration, even as it draws from tradition.

For those who would like a double dose of taiko, also consider attending TaikoArts Midwest’s open house on April 29 from 2-5 pm at their new studio space in St. Paul. You’ll be able to watch and meet performers, participate in drumming activities and enjoy refreshments.

Music is considered a universal language. By crossing the ocean, taiko follows in the broader tradition of music to bring people together. Don’t miss the chance to personally experience “the heartbeat of Japan” and engage with the power or life force of this ephemeral art form. It will blow your mind!

 

Ensō Daiko in an ensō workshop with artist Bob Schmitt

 

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Tickets for Ensō Daiko’s performance here

Find out about other “must see” Guest Events at Park Square Theatre here:

Including: Musical and Floral Metamorphosis: Premiere of Concerto for Four Harpsichords and Strings – June 10, 4 pm – Andy Boss Stage (featuring Cerulean Fire, conductor Nobuyoshi Yasuda and Sogetsu Ikebana)

 

 

What’s That Got To Do With Jamil Jude?

Jamil Jude
(Photo by Connie Shaver)

Last month, I attended a friend’s graduation at the University of Minnesota. Only two years before, I’d read her application essay explaining her motivation to pursue a Master’s in Public Affairs, despite her already heavy load of a full-time job and parenting as well as the economic and time sacrifices for the family. What drove her all boiled down to a personal value instilled in her by her father: “Always leave it better.”

Today I was involved in a brief discussion about the concept of transformational leadership with the sisters and consociates of the Order of St. Joseph of the Carondelet in St. Paul. Such leaders are change makers; they inspire, motivate and empower followers toward making lasting change through a common vision, and they do so by changing expectations, perceptions and motivations. Unlike traditional transactional leaders who are more concerned with processes and foster compliance through rewards and punishment, transformational leaders challenge the status quo to build a personally and collectively meaningful and productive environment for the common good. The transactional style is less apt to make lasting change, though effective in getting specific projects or tasks done and in dealing with crisis and emergencies

Recently I saw Full Circle Theater Company’s 365 Days/plays by Suzan-Lori Parks: A 2017 Remix. This is a company that I’ve been following since it fell under my radar last year when I saw its inaugural production, Theater: A Sacred Passage. It is a forward-looking multiracial, multicultural and multigenerational company that “artfully addresses issues of human nature and social justice for 21st century audiences.” Led by five highly experienced theatre professionals (Rick Shiomi, co-founder and former artistic director of Mu Performing Arts; Martha B. Johnson, co-founder of Mu Performing Arts; James A. Williams, co-founder of Penumbra Theatre; Lara Trujillo, seasoned vocalist, actor and music educator; and Stephanie Lein Walseth, longtime theatre scholar, artist, educator and administrator), this company does the hard work of “walking the talk” in its commitment to intentional diversity that will impact the Twin Cities theatre community of artists and audience well into the future.

What do any of these seemingly random reflections have to do with Jamil Jude, Park Square Theatre’s Artistic Programming Associate since December 2015? Well, everything.

Find out more in an upcoming post about Jamil!

Going Full Circle and Beyond

The circle is a universal symbol of unity, wholeness, inclusivity and cyclical movement. During both the first rehearsal and opening night of Flower Drum Song at Park Square Theatre, members of Mu Performing Arts reflected on how Mu itself has come full circle on its 25th anniversary. Its once newest core performers, such as Randy Reyes, Sherwin Resurreccion, Katie Bradley and Eric “Pogi” Sumangil, are now the elders as another generation of artists stream through. In fact, when Mu first staged Flower Drum Song about eight years ago, Sherwin had played the young man Ta and Randy his father, Wang. And just four years ago, Randy Reyes inherited the Artistic Director role from co-founder Rick Shiomi, who has since co-found a new company called Full Circle Theater.

First rehearsal of Flower Drum Song (Photo by T. T. Cheng)

First rehearsal of Flower Drum Song
(Photo by T. T. Cheng)

Recently I asked Rick Shiomi to go back down memory lane to Mu’s beginnings, then return us to where it is now and, in conjunction, where he is now. My first surprise on this journey was that then University of Minnesota graduate student Dong-il Lee, not Rick, had initiated the founding of Theater Mu (the organization’s original name).

“I actually came here from Canada for personal reasons,” Rick admitted, “and I didn’t think it was even possible to do. I only knew one or two Asian Americans acting in the Twin Cities. I thought it would be too monumental a task.” Yet Rick agreed to go along for the ride.

However, Dong-il graduated within a year and moved to the East coast for a teaching position and, later, back to South Korea. Rick suddenly found himself heading Mu as interim, and ultimately permanent, Artistic Director.  But why didn’t he just stop then and go on with his life?

“By now, I saw that my future would be in the Twin Cities,” Rick said. “I had already committed my life to Asian American theater, and there was nothing here. I could certainly have worked with another theater, like Mixed Blood, that would do maybe one Asian American play in five years. I preferred to put in the hard work to develop Mu instead.”

The work was, indeed, hard. Rick compared the first five to ten years to “digging trenches to lay a foundation.” People came and went as Mu gradually built its first major wave of core performers to take it to the next level. In its 2003/4 season, Mu reached a new high with an all-Asian American casting of the Sondheim musical Pacific Overtures at Park Square Theatre, followed in 2005/6 with its landmark production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Those were exciting times for Mu.

In Rick’s opinion, “Mu has completed one cycle and is now starting on another, almost like a spiral. There is a certain circular sensation, especially for the actors who have grown up and now play the elders, but it’s a different place and time and their roles have changed.”

Rick, too, has let go of a cycle to begin a new one. He and four other longtime stalwarts of the Twin Cities theater community–Martha B. Johnson, James A. Williams, Lara Trujillo and Stephanie Lein Walseth–founded Full Circle Theater in 2013. By doing so, they are going full circle in the sense of experiencing and implementing some of the same growth challenges and strategies faced by any startup, such as Mu in its younger days. However, this time around, they have all been “around the block” with collective knowledge to their advantage as well as a focus beyond Asian American theater. Listed as one of Full Circle’s core values is theater that “is multiracial and multicultural in its representation of life.”

Full Circle’s upcoming production, 365 Days/365 Plays by Suzan-Lori Parks: A 2017 Remix, will run at the Penumbra Theatre from May 26 to June 11. It will feature 46 of a collection of 365 plays written by Parks in 2002 (one play per day). In its 2007 premiere, 365 Days/365 Plays was lauded as “a national phenomenon….crossing ethnic, racial and economic boundaries.” Flower Drum Song patrons can take advantage of Full Circle’s special offer of $10 tickets by inputting the code FDS at brownpapertickets.com.

With regard to Flower Drum Song, Rick has strong memories of the powerful scene, in Mu’s earlier staging at the Ordway, between Ta and Linda Low–then played by Sherwin Resurreccion and Laurine Price, respectively–when she leaves to make it big in Hollywood. He also recalls the emotional father-son reconciliation dance between Randy and Sherwin as Wang and Ta. Another high point came when Sara Ochs, as Mei-Li, so movingly sang “Love, Look Away.”

“What were you feeling and thinking,” I asked, “as you watched Flower Drum Song to commemorate Mu’s 25th anniversary?”

“What a great evolution/revolution all of us have created!” Rick replied. “I felt great pride in the work of our veterans Sherwin and Katie, leading the cast, and Randy leading the company. And excited by the new talent coming!”

 

Martha B. Johnson, Rick Shiomi, David Henry Hwang and Stephanie Bertumen at opening night for Flower Drum Song (Photo by Connie Shaver)

Martha B. Johnson, Rick Shiomi, David Henry Hwang and Stephanie Bertumen at opening night of Flower Drum Song
(Photo by Connie Shaver)

 

Flower Drum Song – Park Square Theatre’s Proscenium Stage until February 19

 

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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