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Posts Tagged Theo Langason

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.

New Video: The Women of BASKERVILLE

New Video: The Women of BASKERVILLE

Women have been winning over Holmes fans in recent years, and in our current production Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery, Park Square is continuing the conversation with women playing both Sherlock Holmes and John Watson.

Here is a sneak peak of this perfectly contrasting pair. As Lisa Brock in the Star Tribune writes, “McKenna kelly -Eiding perfectly embodies Holmes’ authoritative manner and sly condescension while Sara Richardson, one of the Twin Cities’ finest clowns, delivers a delightfully wide-eyed Dr. Watson.” Director Theo Langason shares what changes it took (or didn’t) to adapt the play for these two fine actors!

The game is afoot, hilariously! Get your tickets now to see these two in action for yourself!

Tickets and Information Here.

The Game’s Afoot with McKenna Kelly-Eiding!

When you take your seats at Park Square this summer, prepare to be delighted to a new mystery featuring the one and only Sherlock Holmes. Be sure to expect the unexpected, however, as this isn’t just any Holmes but one brought hilariously to life by local actor, McKenna Kelly-Eiding, as she uncovers the mystery on the moors with her trusty friend, Watson (Sara Richardson). Along the way, they will encounter dozens of allies and enemies in a madcap romp of adventure, suspense and humor!

Leading the pack, of course, is Kelly-Eiding who is making her Park Square Theatre debut with Baskerville. While originally from warm Los Angeles, her roots run cold as her parents met in Minneapolis and she grew up to attend the University of Minnesota/Guthrie BFA program, where she graduated in 2013. In fact, her parents are theatre vets themselves, having worked at such theaters as Chanhassen Dinner Theatres, Brave New Workshop and Theatre in the Round (where they happened to meet!).

As for Kelly-Eiding, she was just seen in the very successful production of The Wolves over at the Jungle Theater. When not performing on local stages, she can be find making ends meet with a variety of different jobs. Now, however, the games afoot with Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville, which fell onto her plate after auditioning and speaking with director, Theo Langason.

So what is it like playing the world’s most famous detective? Kelly-Eiding states:

Sherlock is fascinating to me- I remember first being introduced to the genre through ‘The Great Mouse Detective’. I also love the Benedict Cumberbatch series. Ken Ludwig compares Sherlock and Watson to Don Quixote and Sancho Panza which I love- their relationship is one of my favorite elements of the entire mythology. The way they balance and challenge and learn from each other is really inspiring and often so, so funny.

That humor, ultimately, is what she wishes audiences go home with. Inspiring others to laugh is one of her favorite parts of being an actor, as well as sharing the joyful experience of theatre.

Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery runs June 15 – August 5, closing the 2017-2018 season at Park Square Theatre. You can buy those tickets online here, and considering just how much joy there’s bound to be, I’d recommend doing so sooner than later!

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.

Mind of a Genius: The Best and Worst of Us

Just a quick note about our source material for our new play Big Money … This is a pretty fascinating documentary that will tell you most of what you need to know about Michael Larson factually, but we’re interested in things that go beyond the facts. We want to examine his mind.

Michael Larson represents some of the best and worst aspects of the American entrepreneurial spirit. He’s inventive, persistent and focused, but also greedy and determined to the point of delusion. I’m really interested in exploring our capacity to be both hero and villain, and how those roles are so rarely easy to separate from one another. We all want to be winners but if we are to win, others must lose.

Our biggest challenge in creating this show is the character of Michael Larson himself. It would be very easy to make him some sort of comically deplorable character, so we’re working together to find his humanity and make him widely relate-able. We don’t have to like Michael, but we must understand him and his decisions. I want the audience to see this show and recognize aspects of themselves: a desire to win, cleverness, rule-bending, etc; and then see what happens when those impulses and traits are allowed to go unchecked.

We knew this show would have relevance to us today, but the more we dig, the more relevant it becomes.

I Didn’t Know That!

A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry is playing on Park Square Theatre’s Andy Boss Thrust Stage from October 28 to November 20. Here are some Raisin-related facts that you may not have known:

 

A Raisin in the Sun was originally titled A Crystal Stair, an allusion to a line in the poem “Mother to Son,” when Lorraine Hansberry began writing the play in 1957.

Producers Philip Rose and David Cogan took over a year to raise enough money from 150 investors to mount the original run of A Raisin in the Sun on Broadway in 1959.

Columbia Pictures had hired Lorraine Hansberry to write the screenplay for A Raisin in the Sun. Hansberry ended up writing two screenplays, only to have both rejected as being too controversial by studio executives.

The completed film version of A Raisin in the Sun, which was released in 1961, had cut out over a third of Hansberry’s original screenplay as well as downplayed the Youngers’ poor living conditions. Hansberry’s opening with Langston Hughes’ poem “Harlem” superimposed over a montage of scenes in Southside Chicago’s ghetto was one of those cuts; and his poem, in fact, appears nowhere in the film.

Lorraine Hansberry was the godmother to Nina Simone’s daughter Lisa.

The FBI kept a file on Lorraine Hansberry due to her social activism.

A Raisin in the Sun inspired a musical, Raisin, in 1973. It won the Tony Award for Best Musical.

Greta Oglesby, who will play Mama (Lena Younger) in Park Square Theatre’s production, was the understudy for Phylicia Rashad as Mama when A Raisin in the Sun was revived on Broadway in 2004. It was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play.

Director Warren C. Bowles considered actor Theo Langason for both the roles of George Murchison and Joseph Asagai–a wealthy young black man and a poor Nigerian college student, respectively–who want to marry Beneatha Younger (Mama’s daughter). Langason was ultimately cast as Asagai.

 

oglesby-greta-2016-bw          langason-theo-2015

Greta Oglesby and Theo Langason

 

Sources:

http://www.enotes.com/topics/raisin-in-the-sun/themes
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lorraine_Hansberry
http://dx.dol.org/10.1080/0033563042000206790
https://parksquaretheatre.org/wp-content/uploads/Raisin-in-the-Sun-Study-Guide-10-9.pdf

Theatre That Builds Futures: A Benefit for Africa Classroom Connection

On Saturday, November 5, Africa Classroom Connection (ACC) holds a benefit at Park Square Theatre’s Andy Boss Stage in Saint Paul’s historic Hamm Building. Support ACC by joining in this delightful afternoon of events:

  • Doors open at 1 pm for an African Marketplace, selling beautiful handcrafted jewelry, baskets, wooden masks and more from South Africa.
  • Let the show begin at 2 pm! Don’t miss seeing the powerful American classic, A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry. The play was the first written by an African American woman to be produced on Broadway, winning the 1959 New York Drama Critics Award.
  • After the performance, enjoy a South African wine and cheese reception and participate in a brief live auction, featuring uniquely enticing items such as a South African Wine Tasting for 10.
Director Warren C. Bowles with a model of Lance Brockman's set design for A Raisin in the Sun Photograph by Connie Shaver

Director Warren C. Bowles with a model of Lance Brockman’s set design for A Raisin in the Sun
Photograph by Connie Shaver

Purchase tickets ($65, $40 tax-deductible) through Park Square Theatre’s Ticket Office at 651.291.7005 (mention “Africa Classroom Connection fundraiser”) or online at http//parksquaretheatre.org/box-office/special events/order-form-special-benefit-performance-of-a-raisin-in-the-sun/

Generous sponsors* have paid for all event expenses, so 100 percent of your contributions go directly toward building classrooms!

Questions? Contact Claire at 612.767.4430 or info@africaclassroomconnection.org

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What is Africa Classroom Connection (ACC)?

Africa Classroom Connection (ACC) is an American nonprofit organization that builds schools in rural KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Its vision is that every child in KwaZulu-Natal has the opportunity for an excellent education. The program was started in 1977 by the Rotary Club in a small rural town Eshowe, South Africa. Amazingly, the organization has built over 3,000 classrooms in 800 schools, more than the government.

It’s a self-help partnership: the community must raise a five percent deposit, then donors cover the remainder to build each classroom. As a result, the community respects and cares for its school. Each school’s simple standard classroom design ensures that common materials and local labor can be used. That local labor develops income and skills in the community. The government maintains and staffs the schools. A local Steering Committee makes all decisions about where need is greatest, and provides evidence and audits to ensure international accountability. ACC is volunteer-lead, with all administrative costs generously paid for by its board members, so 100% of contributions go directly to construction.

Board member Tammie Follett and 16 others just returned from a Learning Tour to KwaZulu-Natal to visit classrooms and communities in need of schools. “One day,” Follett said, “we met 630 primary school students. We described our careers and they asked us questions such as ‘What did you study? What do I have to do to be a doctor? Lawyer? Teacher? Electrician?’ We aim to inspire and inform them about the power of education. We hope they explore the possibilities!”

The traveler group also brought home beautiful handcrafts available in an African Marketplace at the benefit performance of A Raisin in the Sun at Park Square Theatre on the afternoon of November 5. Please come enjoy great theatre and support powerful education through Africa Classroom Connection www.africaclassroomconnection.org! Event sponsors include *Books For Africa, Merrill Lynch, Presentation Wiz, Thomson Reuters and Z Wines USA.

Cast member Theo Langason looks at set designer Lance Brockman's drawing. On November 5, see how art can also open doors to education. Photograph by Connie Shaver

A Raisin in the Sun cast member Theo Langason looks at set designer Lance Brockman’s drawing. On November 5, join us at Park Square Theatre when art opens doors to education.
Photograph by Connie Shaver

What’s Realistic?

The Liar Rehearsal

All fabrications?

For the past weeks, I’ve been writing about a play in which everything seems fabricated. The title character is a compulsive liar, but just about every other character is also duping someone else. Of course, I’m referring to the comedy, The Liar, which is on Park Square Theatre’s Proscenium Stage until October 2. Yet, the fact that the play is a farce and, hence, a critique of real-life societal mores, begs the question: To what extent is the play not realistic?

image-only-realistic-joneses-960x480-8-11

What will Jennifer and Bob Jones do?

In juxtaposition, on Park Square’s Boss Thrust Stage from September 23 to October 16 will be the play The Realistic Joneses, a comedy/drama in which we watch two couples, both with the last name of Jones and both neighbors to each other, cope with a progressively debilitating illness. Mortality is certainly a sobering notion throughout the production, and how the characters choose to face it is reflected in the play’s title. The term “realistic” suggests a no-nonsense, pragmatic approach to life; but how does this actually play out for those who must face a terminal illness? Well, by relying on a sense of humor, of course; but what more? I’ll let you find out for yourself!

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The talented cast of A Raisin in the Sun

Then from October 28 to November 20 on the Boss Stage, Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun will make us ponder: How possible–how realistic–will it be for each member of the Youngers, a poor African-American family, to obtain his/her dream in a racially oppressive society?

Is the world the way Beneatha Younger claims it is to her beau Asagai: “Don’t you see there isn’t any real progress, Asagai, there is only one large circle that we march in, around and around, each of us with our own little picture in front of us–our own little mirage that we think is the future?”

Or is she mistaken, as Asagi counters: “What you just said–about the circle. It isn’t a circle….it is simply a long line–as in geometry, you know–one that curves into infinity. And because we cannot see the end, we also cannot see how it–changes. And it is very odd, but those who see the changes–who dream, who will not give up–are called idealists… and those who see only the circle–they call each other the ‘realists!'”

What an irony that theatre so often has the power to bring us closer to what is true to life–and that make believe opens the door to real self-discoveries.

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Plus Season Package Pricing:

Any 3 or more shows starting at $25 each

Any 6 shows starting at $142 total

All 13 shows starting at $294 total

(All “starting at” prices based on preview prices, standard seats.  Programs, dates and artists subject to change.)

NOTE:  All photographs in this blog were taken by Petronella J. Ystma.

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