G. Phillip Shoultz, III
Photo Credit: MLatino Media
Ready to feel uplifted and inspired? Then you'll want to grab a ticket to VocalEssence WITNESS: Of Such I Dream which shines a spotlight on the words of jazz poet Langston Hughes. WITNESS plays at Orchestra Hall on Sunday, February 18 at 4pm, tickets are $10-$40.
I went to a rehearsal this week for VocalEssence's new Youth Choral Arts Initiative. I saw young people preparing to take the stage at Orchestra Hall along with the VocalEssence Chorus. Vocal Essence associate conductor G. Phillip Shoultz, III shared some insight into the process of working with the youth.
Artist Interview with G. Phillip Shoultz, III: VocalEssence Youth Choir Prepares for WITNESS: Of Such I Dream
It's my favorite time of year, the 11 days I dedicate to attending the Minnesota Fringe Festival. The Fringe is an annual performing arts festival in the Twin Cities, featuring over a thousand artists presenting 6o minute works in a variety of disciplines and genres. There are 167 different productions this year! With so many shows to choose from, its a great chance for audiences to experience something new and a fun way to support a variety of performing artists.
But with all the options it can be a challenge to decide which shows to attend, so learning more about the shows and the artists can be helpful to guide audiences to the shows that interest them the most.
In the following Artfully Engaging interviews we explore two shows: Stranger and First Year Queer. Both of these shows are presented by Twin Cities artists who are first time Fringe producers who created a work they thought was missing from the Twin Cities theater landscape. Erika Levy and Morgan Holmes of Perspective Theater Company's Stranger, give you an inside look at the intersection of race and faith through the stories of Jews of Color. Lyssa Sparrow of Sparrow Productions shares the genesis of First Year Queer and how collaborations with artists and local arts groups has helped shape her interests to destigmatize topics around sexuality and to talk openly about mental health.
Q&A with Morgan Holmes and Erika Levy of "Stranger"
Erika: For the past three years I have worked exclusively in box office settings, both as a reservationist and as a manager. Stranger is my first foray into producing, and I feel like I am now developing my identity as a artist outside of the administration realm. I absolutely loved producing the show, finding the cast and directing. I see my future as continuing to be a producer!
Where did you develop the idea for Stranger?
Morgan: It started with Leah Donnella's article ("Black, Jewish and avoiding the synagogue on Yom Kippur"). Erika and I both saw things in the article we could identify with and we wanted to find more stories like Leah's. Many Jewish news outlets were interested in how Jewishness intersected with the Movement for Black Lives and racial justice, which brought JOC voices to the forefront locally, like panels at synagogues, and nationally, like the Jews of Color Convening. So it came out of the community and we just had our ear to the ground. Then out of our interviews, we thought the themes that emerged aligned with themes in the story of Moses in Exodus. It was nice to have a narrative that was accessible to people of different faiths and cultures that we could play with and shake up.
Erika: I have been involved in the Twin Cities Jewish community since I moved to Minnesota in 2013, and wanted to see more productions exploring religious identity in the cities. Morgan and I came across Leah Donnella's piece in NPR, where she discusses going to her synagogue during the High Holy Days as a black, Jewish woman. We went more in-depth, interviewing her and folks around the Twin Cities, watching documentaries and wanted to bring those stories to the stage.
This is your first time producing a show at the Minnesota Fringe Festival. What surprised you about this process? Do you have any advice for first-time producers?
Morgan: I have done Fringe before as a volunteer and a stage manager, so I knew what to expect. But tech was still a challenge. I really benefit from time to process what I see and build relationships with people, so to go in and try to communicate a vision to someone I've just met in three hours, woof. I highly recommend lots of prep to decide what is most critical to communicating your vision before tech, a water bottle (my nerves dried me out!) and a general attitude of "it's just a play," so you can let things roll off your back.
Erika: The main surprise for me was discovering how close-knit the Fringe community is. I've found out about so many connections I have with other folks in the theater by way of knowing someone else. Its really exciting to see how the community loves and supports each other. My advice for first time producers would be to start as early as you can with conceptualizing your piece. Fringe has struck me as "theater bootcamp" for first time producers and I am so glad that we had such a clear vision and blueprint early on, otherwise it would have been much harder to catch up when the festival came around. Another piece of advice I have is to establish a mission for your new company that you can build on, one predicated on respect for your team of artists and one open to new ideas.
Can you tell us about the research and interviews that you conducted to develop your show?
Morgan: We prepped some questions that we thought would get to the heart of some topics we were interested in exploring: race, faith, family, inheritance and legacy. We reached out to people who are popular in the blogosphere of Jews of Color and a local coalition. We read a lot of personal stories, watched documentaries and researched Jewish ancestry in international cultures, particularly Latin America.
Erika: We reached out to Jews of Color both locally and nationally and asked them a range of questions, from early childhood memories, how they create space in their communities, and how their faith has changed over time. Media can often portray religion as a monolith, but the importance of individual interviews illuminates just how understanding of faith varies from person to person. We used each story not to create an autobiographical piece, but rather to build a narrative of a life based around different experiences at different points in time.
Where do you find inspiration for your creative work?
Morgan: Many things in Stranger are grounded in Jewish rites and rituals, like blessings that are said over children, prayers that are said in remembrance of the dead, parts of the Torah. I was also very inspired by the sermons of Rabbi Sharon Brous, who talks about this concept of mightiness (TEDTalk: "It's time to reclaim religion"). I listed to her a lot when thinking about how to end the show. I studied performance theory around faith and rituals in college and I think theater is a great lab to study those performative practices in.
Erika: I am inspired by people living their lives unapologetically, even when society tries to knock them down and tell them otherwise. At its core, Stranger is a piece about finding truth for yourself regardless of what the world thinks of you, and digging deep to find inner strength to go on with life despite the obstacles. I think people find ways to do this all the time, and our show happens to represent this with a relationship to faith, identity and ancestry.
If you could describe this show in three words, what would they be?
Morgan: Mightiness, messiness, joy.
Erika: Joyful, emotional, epic.
What other Fringe shows are you excited to see?
Morgan: My friend/fellow Carleton alumna Rachel Teagle is the writer/performer of Queen of Delicious Animals. I love Rachel's very playful writing.
Erika: One of my work colleagues Gina Musto is producing a comedy entitled Buffy the Bedbug Slayer, which will play at Theatre in the Round. We both had a terrible experience with a management company over a bed bug infestation, and I think the play is a wonderful way to call out these companies for some very unethical practices!
What draws you to theater as an art form?
Morgan: The ability to not only amplify a story that is out in the world, but to incubate and create a story that wasn't there before. I think it's a pretty powerful medium for changing/advancing perceptions of humanity.
Erika: The power of the art being live and the vulnerability that comes with that.
Is there anything else you wanted to share about Stranger?
Morgan: One thing Erika and I decided was important was not to provide a glossary to the Jewish rites, or translate all the Hebrew, Yiddish and Portugese language. I think that leaves some work for the audience who is not familiar to take on if they'd like, and also validates that Jewish practices and culture for many people in different communities in the Twin Cities and nationally are mainstream.
Erika: One of the aspects I love most about this piece is how it connects the characters to their ancestors, and the strength the audience can draw from this when thinking about their own family tree.
Find Perspectives Theater Company on Facebook.
See the show at U of M Rarig Center Arena as part of the Fringe Festival!
Thu, 8/3 @ 7:00pm
Sat, 8/5 @ 8:30pm
Mon, 8/7 @ 5:30pm
Fri, 8/11 @ 10:00pm
Sat, 8/12 @ 1:00pm
Q&A with Lyssa Sparrow of "First Year Queer"
Lyssa is a queer Twin Cities theater artist. I saw her perform at a Patrick's Cabaret's My Horrifying Holiday this past winter and I saw excited to see that she has adapted her piece for Fringe. I reached out with some questions about her process, experience, and artistic inspirations. Enjoy.
What inspired you to create a Fringe show?
Lyssa: It’s been a goal of mine to have a solo show in the fringe for the past 5 years. I went to school for theater performance and during my senior year I realized solo shows were what I felt most connected so for my senior showcase I created my own and I’ve been chasing that high ever since. I originally pitched First Year Queer for Q stage with 20% but it wasn't selected, yet I was still in love with the show I thought up so I started looking for other ways I could get it out there and decided to submit for The Fringe!
What was the process for creating First Year Queer? How has your idea morphed since you performed at Patrick's Cabaret?
Lyssa: Patrick's Cabaret has taught me so much about how I wanted to style this show. First Year Queer has 7 chapters that make up the whole show and I developed 3 of them with Patrick's Cabaret for My Horrifying Holiday, and 1 with Raw Sugar’s The Funny. The 7 chapters are:
1) Storytelling about my meltdown on New Years Eve
2) A puppet piece called The Coming Out Tour
3) A short film created with Ari Newman where I am others share the effects of being sexually assaulted
4) A kink scene on stage to show how to be sexy, safe, and consent during play
5) Polyamory 101, 2 friends and I will explain what poly and ethical non monogamy mean to us
6) Lessons from the year with my “emotional tool kit”
7) We will be having a drawing for prizes like the 3rd edition of The Ethical Slut, homemade bath bombs, and gift cards to Fox Den.
What's been your favorite part about the creation process so far?
Lyssa: My favorite part of creating First Year Queer is the clarity that came with it. I’ve never worked on a project that felt so right. I’m honored to build a show to help represent a queer community that is my home and chosen family. I will continue to work incredibly hard to create work that benefits the community it represents. With First Year Queer I’ve gotten a chance to collaborate with many other artist like Corinna Troth, Scott Gilbert, Sadie Ward, and Ari Newman and invite people to share their stories on stage beside me. First Year Queer and Sparrow Productions will not be stopping when the Fringe Festival ends; I’m in this for the long haul.
Where do you find artistic inspiration?
Lyssa: I find my artistic inspiration from what’s not getting talked about on stage. For me, destigmatizing topics around sexuality including sexual orientation, gender, kink, sexual assault, consent, and polyamory is one of my main areas I want to focus on. Another focus point is talking about mental health including therapy, the choice to take medications, and suicidal ideation. Then I find a way to make those topics entertaining, informative, and presented in a creative way.
Can you describe this show in three words?
Lyssa: Queer, playful, and honest
What's the next step, after Fringe?
After Fringe, Sparrow productions will not be stopping. My company wants to use The Fringe to launch a full company and would appreciate any financial support. We would love if people would join us for a fun and sexy cast party and tickets are available to that as part of the Kickstarter plus we would send you away with goodie bags. While First Year Queer mostly focuses on my own journey our next major goal is to create a podcast so we can feature stories from a diverse range of backgrounds.
7) What other Fringe shows are you excited to see this year? Raw Sugar’s Synchronicity, Wait? Didn’t Patrick’s Cabaret Close?, Blackout Improv, Skins, and Mayor Lear of Townsville.
Find First Year Queer on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
See the show at Intermedia Arts as part of the Fringe Festival!
Fri, 8/4 @ 5:30pm
Sat, 8/5 @ 10:00pm
Tue, 8/8 @ 7:00pm
Thu, 8/10 @ 8:30pm
Sun, 8/13 @ 1:00pm
Ticket Information: Minnesota Fringe Festival 2017
What do you get when you combine physical theater and original music to tell Algerigan folktales? Add in a cast of five actors playing over 15 characters and the leadership of global theater artist Taous Claire Khazem and you get Sunrise at Midnight at Dreamland Arts.
Taous is a Lecoq trained theater artist. She creates, performs, directs, teaches, and produces theater globally. I was excited to learn more about her newest work so I asked her for a behind-the-scenes look for Sunrise at Midnight. Taous was kind enough to share the inspirations and creative processes that went into staging these Kabyle folktales in Saint Paul. She also tells us why this show is recommended for mature audiences.
What about Algerian Kabyle Folktale tradition inspired this performance?
Taous: The key to Algerian story telling is that nothing is what it seems. The main point is always wrapped up in a metaphor or symbol of some sort. The stories weave, bend and twist in their narrative structure. We've tried to simplify a few plot points while keeping the heart and main actions of each story. Algerian performance also comes from a tradition of stories told around a fire or in a café or town square. We are working with the bare minimum like in the tradition--no giant set--the actors (Heather Bunch, Theo Langason, Nora Montañez and Mohammed Yabdri) come from a "physical theater" background. They know how to make something from nothing.
Can you tell us a little about how the music and movement were created?
Taous: Composer and music director Aaron Gabriel and I went to Algeria this past May on a Jerome travel/study grant. We met with musicians, music enthusiasts and elders who sang us tradition Kabyle songs that Aaron then recorded. He composed the music for the show based on specific sample we took. He worked with the scales and musical modes out of the region. The movement was choreographed/created by the ensemble with guidance from director Ryan Underbakke. He really wanted to have the movement be as metaphorical as possible rather than literal. You will never see us make a "house" with our bodies if someone mentions a house. It will be representative physically.
You were the recipient of a travel/study grant that allowed to you travel to research music for Sunrise at Midnight. How did this travel experience change the artistic process and final artistic production?
Taous: I think it's so important to go to the source whenever possible. There are Kabyle songs that are based on women crying into rocks mourning the departure of their husbands who have gone to work in France. We got to see a rock that is known for this. There are songs based on shepards singing to each other from mountain top to mountain top--Aaron and I got to see those mountains. The Kabyle language and culture are so unknown in the USA. It was a joy to be able to share that part of Algeria with Aaron. And he in turn was able to compose music that stayed close to the raw source material.
Describe this show in three words.
Taous: Lust. Wit. Adventure.
What other projects do you have that connect you with Algeria?
Taous: I am on an Algerian TV show called Sultan Achour 10! I play Sultan Achour's ex-wife Maria. It was a huge hit this year. We shot the show in Tunisia. Here's a link to my "making of" interview (it's in English!).
Tickets for Sunrise at Midnight
Like this interview? Read the Artfully Engaging Q&A with AsaleSol Young of The New Griots Festival.
The New Griots Festival is currently showcasing ten Black emerging Twin Cities artists in performances and community classes. The festival has expanded since the inaugural festival of 2015 (read my Artfully Engaging interview with co-founder Jamil Jude), increasing from 3 to 10 days and running through July 16, 2017 at the Guthrie Theater.
In this behind the scenes interview, associate producer of The New Griots Festival AsaleSol Young answers some questions about this year's festival and her experiences. After you read the interview, check out the schedule and featured artists. Then get your tickets fast! Space is limited and I highly recommend experiencing this festival for yourself. Both of my own 2017 audience experiences were profound and artistically stunning; so far I've seen The Minority Report by Blackout and ABB (Angry Black Bi&^%#$) featuring Dame-Jasmine Hughes. Also, the price is affordable: tickets for the performances are $9 and the classes are free.
You can support the work of The New Griots Festival by donating now.
How do you identify as an artist?
AsaleSol: A dreamer and visionary, first. Writer. And dare I say, producer, director, curator and dancer.
How did you get involved with The New Griots Festival?
AsaleSol: Jamil Jude and I were introduced through a mutual friend in the theater scene who is encouraging me to get back into one of my first passions - theater. It was clear in our first meeting that we would work and vibe well together. We stayed in touch, and eventually Jamil invited me to come on staff as the associate producer.
What has been the most interesting or gratifying part about the festival so far?
AsaleSol: Seeing our work and the work of the artists be so well-received. The festival has true supporters out there, which really allows us to fulfill our mission of “celebrating, advocating for, and advancing the careers of emerging Black artists in the Twin Cities."
How has it been working at the Guthrie Theater?
AsaleSol: The Guthrie staff, those we work closest with in the [Dowling} Studio, have really been accommodating and willing to adjust their workflow to our style and what we need to be successful. But all throughout the theater, when I’m just walking around representing New Griots Festival, Guthrie staff will just come up to me and tell me how excited they are to have NGF in the space. Staff of color as well as white staff seem to have a sense of a historic moment for the Guthrie reflected in this partnership. It’s pretty cool. Folks in and outside of the Guthrie feel this is long overdue.
What has it been like collaborating with all these emerging Black artists?
AsaleSol: It has been an inspiring journey. To be able to work with such a range of talent, genre, experience, etc. We’ve been able to witness some of our artists transform right in front of us, while others bring to the forefront this hidden mastery that really deserves acknowledgement from the Twin Cities’ arts community at large.
Describe the festival in three words.
AsaleSol: Authentic. Masterful. Catalyst.
AsaleSol: We are already planning The New Griots Festival 2019. Come out and see what we’re doing now, and support the future of these artists and the work of the festival. It’s one of those things that gets stronger every year it goes up. Don’t miss out!
Tickets for The New Griots Festival
The 2017 New Griots Festival aims to celebrate, advocate and advance the careers of emerging Black artists in the Twin Cities. In addition to performances by 10 emerging artists, running July 6-16 at the Guthrie Theater's Dowling Studio, the festival offers free artist-taught classes for the community. Individual performance tickets are $9 and are on sale now through the box office at 612-377-2224 or by visiting guthrietheater.org. Free class registration is also available by phone through the box office.
Keno Evol - Poetry
Antonio Duke - Playwright/Performer
Vie Boheme - Dancer/Vocalist/Performer
Blackout - Improv/Theatre
Dame-Jasmine Hughes -TV Writer/Theatre/Performer
Isaac Sundberg - Photography
April Gibson - Poetry
Miss Coco Nostal'jah - Aerialist
Shaina McCoy - Painter
Arthur "L.A." Buckner - Musician
Follow The New Griots Festival on Twitter: @NewGriotsFest and on Facebook. Also, follow the conversation with hashtag #OurTurnNow.
Level Nine, Dowling Studio
818 S 2nd Street
Minneapolis, MN 55415
by Kendra Plant
Walking Shadow Theatre Company's Marie Antoinette by David Adjmi is well told, beautiful, and relevant. Based on historical events, the script is modern and allows the audience to easily connect with the characters.
White columns fill the stage and behind them, a view of the lush French countryside. The story unfolds around Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI, rich, out of touch leaders who seem unable or unwilling to listen to the people they lead. A riot? Those happen everyday, no big deal; please pass the tea. But when the revolution comes, the fate of this family is passed along to the will of the people.
Jane Froiland expertly inhabits the multifaceted character of Marie Antoinette, from her decadent palaces to her ultimate beheading. Marie evolves throughout her ordeals and is at her best when she summons the courage to fight for the safety and well-being of her family. I found myself rooting for this unlikely heroine.
Founding member of Walking Shadow and director of Marie Antoinette John Heimbuch answered a couple of questions for me about the relevance of Marie Antoinette at this particular time and the role of storytelling in helping us reflect on social and political events.
John: We were initially drawn to this play because of how capably it critiques issues of privilege and power in ways that still feel playful and empathetic. That rings true not just for someone of such wealth and opulence as Marie Antoinette, but anyone who wants to enact social change and doesn't want to lose any of their advantages while doing so. In that sense, it made Marie's struggles feel very relatable to anyone living in this era of social upheaval and polarized politics.
In the past few months, the issues of Marie Antoinette have become even more poignant as our nation reels from the impact of wealthy elite leaders, unreliable narratives, taxation and economic reform, unjust proclamations and decrees, people taking to the streets, and a palpable fear of foreign influence in life and politics.
Kendra: What role can history and theater have in helping us reflect upon current social and political events?
John: We are the stories we tell. Humans learn through stories. But all stories are interpretations. So audiences at a show (or readers of history) aren't really learning from the facts—only one author's interpretation of those facts. That's why it's important to consider conflicting narratives and to not just look at the story that the victors tell about what happened, but to try to understand the perspectives and motives of those whom history has vilified. We may not like what we see, but empathy for different perspectives is the only way for us to gain insight into our own foibles. I hope that's what we've done here.
Ticket Information: Marie Antoinette
written by David Adjmi
directed by John Heimbuch
February 10 - March 4, 2017
Marie, the young queen of France, lives in a gold-plated world of extravagance mired in scandal while her people suffer. Will the people accept her lavishness in the face of their despair, or will they rise together to stand against oppression and inequality? Will the people’s revolution change the ways of the elite, or are they doomed by the life they were born into? Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité!
Friday, February 10 at 7:30 - Opening Night
Saturday, February 11 at 7:30
Tuesday, February 14 at 7:30 - Pay What You Can, ASL
Friday, February 17 at 7:30 - Post-show Discussion
Saturday, February 18 at 7:30
Sunday, February 19 at 2:00 - Audio Described
Thursday, February 23 at 7:30 - Audio Described
Friday, February 24 at 7:30 - Post-show Discussion
Saturday, February 25 at 7:30
Sunday, February 26, 2:00
Wednesday, March 1 at 7:30
Thursday, March 2 at 7:30
Friday, March 3 at 7:30 - Post-show Discussion
Saturday, March 4 at 7:30 - Closing night
General Admission Tickets: $26
Students, Veterans, & Active Military Members: $15
2016 Minnesota Fringe button-holders: $18 tickets on February 10, 11, 17, 19, 23, & March 1.
A limited number of $10 Economic Accessibility tickets are available for each performance.
Pay What You Can performance on Tuesday, February 14 at 7:30. ($5 minimum in advance; $1 minimum at the door on space-available basis.)
Approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes including one intermission.
Red Eye Theater
15 West 14th Street
Minneapolis, MN 55403
Marie Antoinette - Jane Froiland
Louis XVI - Zach Garcia
Fersen - Derek "Duck" Washington
Lamballe - Teresa Mock
Polignac - Suzie Juul
Emperor Joseph - David Beukema
Sheep - Neal Beckman
Revolutionary - Paul LaNave
Dauphin - Hal Weilandgruber
Director - John Heimbuch
Set - Annie Henly
Costumes - Kathy Kohl
Wigs - Robert A. Dunn
Lighting - Paola Rodriguez
Sound - Michael Croswell
Props - Sarah Salisbury
Stage Manager - Chandler Jordan Hull
Assistant Director - Lauren Jauert
One Girl, Two Cities Inverview with Four Humors
Get your tickets and learn more.
Artfully Engaging's Arts Advocacy Chat
In this exclusive artist Q&A, Lorna shares how she fell in love with writing, how she plans to laugh a lot--right through inauguration day, and about the immediate and shared experience she has with her audiences when she is on stage. Read her inverview and then grab your tickets to experience some of her award-winning humor for yourself. Party in the Rec Room plays through January 28, 2017.
Lorna: A storyteller on the page and on the stage. And if there’s a laugh to be found, I’ll be looking for it.
You’ve been performing Party in the Rec Room for eight years now. What keeps you coming back?
Lorna: The sheer fun of it. Plus, I don’t have to learn lines. I’ve done a lot of theater—scripted shows, group improv shows and stand-up comedy—but Party in the Rec Room might be my all-time favorite to perform. I love the venue. Bryant-Lake Bowl is pretty unique in that you can eat/drink/bowl and see a show there (although I wouldn’t say no to a Broadway invitation).
Lorna: I might shop for a new wig or some props, but the wing-it factor doesn’t make much preparation necessary, other than keeping on top of the news and pop culture. And staying curious always helps.
Your show is based on audience suggestions. Is your audience ever timid? Is that why you serve margaritas?
Lorna: Even in a quiet crowd, there’ll usually be someone bold enough to speak up, and his/her boldness usually emboldens others. Because the conceit of the show is that I’m throwing a party in my rec room and that the audience members are my guests, I thought, what’s more welcoming than whipping up a batch of margaritas? I’ll share a blenderful with a half dozen lucky people, always reserving a glass for myself.
Can you share a little about how your passion for writing began? How does your creative work as a theater artist inform your writing?
Lorna: I fell in love with writing when I fell in love with reading in Miss Carlson’s first grade class. I always loved to be read stories (what kid doesn’t?) but when I learned how letters make words, make pictures, mae worlds, I thought wow—I want to do that!
Performing has absolutely helped me in my writing, especially comedy, in that I’ve learned how important rhythm is; how the placement of one word can affect the whole meaning and/or joke. It’s also helped me in writing dialogue; when you deliver lines on stage you hear right away what sounds artificial or out of character.
If you could describe this show in three words, what would they be?
Lorna: I would say it’s a ‘Wild, fun tonic.’
This is cliché, but I still have to ask. What advice do you have for those who may find it difficult to find laughter in times of uncertainty, more so now than ever?
Lorna: See above the three-word description of my show. The scarier and more unsettling times (like now) are, the more we need to laugh. Laughter can’t save us from injustice, bigotry, misogyny, hatred, ad infinitum; but it can shine a light on that darkness as well as giving us a brief reprieve from it. Laughter gives you power over crap. When you decide nothing’s funny anymore, the dark forces have won. I plan to do a lot of laughing myself, especially around Inauguration Day.
If you could only do one thing, writing or performing, which would you choose?
Lorna: Writing probably gives me the greatest satisfaction. It certainly gives me the biggest stage. I get to choose my cast/location/theme/era as well as be the director and producer, but I’m so glad no one’s forcing me to pick one over the other as I love those times on stage and the immediate connection you get with an audience. You hope readers are moved reading one of your books, but since you can’t sit next to them, you don’t hear the laughter or the sighs, you don’t see them dab at their eyes or watch them underline a favorite passage. On stage, you get to experience your audience's reactions live and in color. And applause is always nice to hear.
Ticket Information: "Party in the Rec Room"
Laughter is the best medicine, and Party in the Rec Room will help fill much-needed prescriptions! Ready to wring out 2016 and ring in 2017? Join host Lorna Landvik as she opens her all-improvised, one-woman comedy extravaganza on New Year’s Eve in a special 10:00pm show, and continues through the month of January on Friday and Saturday nights at 7:00pm at the Bryant-Lake Bowl.
Now in its eighth year, Lorna’s wildly popular solo improv show is filled with characters created on the spot and margaritas created in a blender. Don’t make resolutions in the New Year, make reservations to Lorna Landvik’s Party in the Rec Room. Tickets are $18 in advance and $20 day of show.
For more information, contact Bryant-Lake Bowl, 612-825-8949.
PARTY IN THE REC ROOM 2017
Sat., Dec. 31 @ 10pm
Fri., Jan. 6 @ 7pm
Sat., Jan. 7 @ 7pm
Fri., Jan. 13 @ 7pm
Sat., Jan. 14 @ 7pm
Fri., Jan. 20 @ 7pm
Sat., Jan. 21 @ 7pm
Fri., Jan. 27 @ 7pm
Sat., Jan. 28 @ 7pm
Bryant-Lake Bowl Cabaret Theater
810 W Lake Street
Minneapolis, MN 55408
I was quite curious to find out how Susan was inspired to write about a historical pandemic and reanimation of the dead. And once she decided to start on the artistic journey, how did she get the final product to the stage? If you've wanted to dig deeper into how an interesting idea becomes a final performance piece, read on! Susan answers these questions and more in the following artist Q&A.
Where did the idea for Black Death: The Musical come from?
Susan: For several years my boyfriend Tim and I have gone to Clubhouse Jäger for their Tuesday night geek trivia. It's been a regular hangout spot for fashionistas, artists, musicians, academics, journalists and programmers for around 10 years now. I was having a beer on their back patio with local bon vivant Joseph Ye when it occurred to me that his talents as a composer would be useful for my dream of writing a Minnesota Fringe Festival show.
Did you get to do a bunch of research on the bubonic plague and do you like that kind of thing?
Susan: Yes, definitely! I've been fascinated by the first of three major pandemics of the bubonic plague in Europe, colloquially known as the Black Death, since I was 10 or 11. I was at summer camp and someone had left a bunch of old National Geographic magazines lying around to read during our downtime. I read an article in a May 1988 issue that gave a basic rundown of the historic, cultural and epidemiological aspects of the bubonic plague in Europe. I became obsessed and found out everything I could about the biological and societal impacts of the disease, doing reports on the Black Death in my high school health class and my freshman physiology and anatomy class in college. The more I learned, the more I wanted to know, until I became something of an armchair historian/epidemiologist.
Susan: The composer, Scott, would do a better job answering this question but my understanding is that Paul and Scott got together, had a few drinks and bounced ideas off of each other until inspiration struck. Their chemistry is evident in their work together in their 2007 production of Titus Andronicus for the Cromulent Shakespeare Company. Scott is extremely versatile and gives music lessons in various styles, including chansons from the 14th century.
Where in the Twin Cities do you look to when you want to see a great musical?
Susan: The last great musical I saw in the Twin Cities was at the Fringe Festival. The last several, actually. I really enjoyed the Star Wars Musical (which Scott was also in) as well as You're No Fun, put on by Savannah Reich and Samantha Johns at the Bedlam Theater. I also really miss Theatre de la Jeune Lune for their great work.
What's your role during the rehearsal period for Black Death: The Musical, since you are involved in multiple aspects of the production?
Susan: Since bringing on the extremely capable Shayna Houp as production manager, my role has shifted from playwright to producer. My job has been to manage the funds and promote the show on social media to get as many butts in the seats as possible.
Can you share some of the work you did as a producer leading up to this project being staged for an audience? I seem to recall that there was a crowd fundraising project last winter. Did that go as you hoped? Any takeaways for others who might be looking to get their own work produced?
Susan: Crowdfunding is a great way to raise money for projects. Of course, it's also a lot of work. With a project like Black Death, there's going to be certain kinds of people who go in for that sort of thing: history majors, people interested in pandemics, early-music aficionados and the like.
My advice would be to marshal the resources of your friends and relatives. Everyone who supported us was someone we knew who was excited about our concept and who was excited to see the musical itself. We did a preview show and my dad Bob Woehrle shot a video of one of the songs, which we added to the Indiegogo page. I sent out an email to relatives that was kind of like, "Hey guys I've never asked you for anything in my life, how about you send me some money?" And everyone else did the same thing. We got a Hail Mary contribution at the 11th hour from Robert Stewart that sealed the deal and the rest is history.
Susan: Medieval Black Comedy.
This show runs for three days on the weekend before Halloween. How do you typically celebrate the holiday?
Susan: In the past I've put on a comfortable costume and biked to two or three parties. This year, since it's on a Monday, I'll probably be working.
Susan: I'll probably catch my breath for a minute. I like the way Tim Burton compares a major project like this to giving birth. It's so painful and exhilarating that after it's done you say, "No way, never again!" But after a year or two, the memories of the discomfort fade and you think, "Maybe just one more."
Black Death: The Musical
Book and lyrics by Susan Woehrle
Music by Scott Keever
Friday, October 28, 2016 at 7:30pm
Saturday, October 29, 2016 at 7:30pm
Sunday, October 30, 2016 at 3:00pm
$22 for Adults
$15 for Seniors 60+, Students with valid ID (ages 12+), Military personnel with valid ID, and Minnesota Fringe button holders
Director: Paul Von Stoetzel
Production Stage Manager: Shayna j. Houp
Cast: Rob Ward, Rodolfo Nieto, Carlianne Hayes, Roni Page, Jonathan Flory, Sommer Walters, Thore Dosdall, and Amanda Weis
Production Designer: Heather Baldwin
Promotional Artwork: Whittney Streeter
4330 Cedar Lake Rd South
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55416
Looking for more spooky theater this fall? Artfully Engaging interviewed Erik Hoover of Combustible Company about their immersive performance of "Bluebeard's Dollhouse" at the James J. Hill House.
In the mood for some Minnesota comedy? Check out the Artfully Engaging review of "The Church Basement Ladies In Rise Up, O Men" a Musical Comedy.
What’s your artistic journey been like to become a Resident Artist at the Minnesota Opera?
David: It's been an interesting path that's led me to this program. I've lived as a professional in the Twin Cities for five years now. The first three years I sang full-time with the vocal ensemble Cantus, which is why I moved to Minnesota. After wanting to get back into opera, I joined the opera chorus, and then auditioned for the program back in 2014. I am now going into my second year as a Resident Artist, and I've been quite fortunate to be able to stay in Minnesota throughout my artistic transitions from the choral world into opera.
David: I'm an artist that enjoys a good challenge. I like thinking out of the box and finding new endeavors. I also really enjoy sharing the stage with other artists. I wouldn't be in this profession if I couldn't collaborate with others artistically.
Where in the Twin Cities do you seek cultural inspiration?
David: I enjoy hanging out in our city parks, taking in the nature, and observing the busy people around me.
How do you keep your singing and performance skills sharp?
David: I warm up just about every day in the mornings. I try to practice about an hour out of each day, and I love to check in weekly with various coaches and my voice teacher.
Why are you drawn to opera as an art form?
David: I'm drawn to opera because it is the combination of all art forms in one, where performers like me have the opportunity to be complete collaborators and maintain an openness to all forms of emotional expression.
Do you travel a lot as an opera singer? What has been your favorite place to perform?
David: I've been to many different cities and regions throughout the country. My favorite would probably be St. Louis so far. It's a great city for the arts, and there are so many fun things to do in between rehearsals and performances.
If you could describe this production of Romeo and Juliet in three words, what would they be?
David: Passionate, refreshing, and epic.
David: This production has moved rather quickly, and the music, story, and personnel make it quite a complicated process. It's been so exciting, but I have to stay one step ahead. It's some of the most beautiful music I've heard, and the challenge of staying on top of the French and the style can be complicated, but this week, the reward is really showing.
What's your favorite lyric from the opera?
David: "Lache." I think when Tybalt calls Romeo a coward or "lache," it's one of the most violent ways to challenge an enemy.
A Special Ticket Offer For
Artfully Engaging Readers
$25 Tickets to Romeo and Juliet on Tues., Sept. 27
Coupon Code: romeo25
To Purchase: mnopera.org/romeo-and-juliet
or call 612-333-6669.
Limit up to 4 seats regualrly priced $50-$125. Enter "romeo25" and click "Add". You will see your savings applied. Do not complete order if coupon does not load. Service charges and other restrictions may apply. Offer ends Sept. 27, 2016. For additional information call the Ticket Office at 612-333-6669, M-F,10 am-5pm.
Do you have a personal connection to the story of Romeo and Juliet?
David: When I was a kid, my older sister was obsessed with the Baz Luhrmann film adaptation. I thought it was a great modern way to tell a story and make it resonate with people my age.
What's it been like portraying Tybalt?
I enjoy playing a violent character. Tybalt keeps me energized and intensifies as the opera goes on. There's really not a better way to end each show than with an awesome sword fight followed by my own death.
Who do you think will appreciate this performance? Do you think this is a good piece for someone trying out opera for the first time?
David: I think any audience member that wants to see this true human story of love and hate will see it with a new perspective with each character being a little more exposed than usual. These stories are great for first comers, because this familiar plot will be seen in a new abstract form with beautiful music, elaborate costumes, and a powerfully focused set design.
Music by Charles Gounod
Libretto by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré
Based on The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
Preliminary run time of 2 hours and 59 minutes, including one intermission.
Sung in French with English translations projected above the stage.
Use the hashtag #RomeoAndJuliet.
Ordway Center for the Performing Arts
345 Washington Street
Saint Paul, MN 55102
The 12th annual celebration of Twin Cities theater, the Ivey Awards, was a memorable evening. Check out the honorees and more in the Artfully Engaging post "And the Ivey goes to . . ."
Looking for a fun way to celebrate Halloween? Artfully Engaging interviewed Erik Hoover of Combustible Company about their immersive performance of "Bluebeard's Dollhouse" at the James J. Hill House.
Once performances begin, you can watch for reviews to start appearing from the other Twin Cities Theater Bloggers.
What's your role in Bluebeard's Dollhouse?
Erik: I’m the co-artistic director of Combustible Company and I’m producing and performing in Bluebeard’s Dollhouse.
How do you describe yourself as an artist?
Erik: My background is in devised physically-based theater, although I’ve done everything from Shakespeare to contemporary literary-based theater, so I guess that makes me a bit of a mutt.
How do you continue to grow artistically?
Erik: I’m always training. I’ve been teaching Margolis Method the past couple years, but prior to that I tried to find a class whenever I was between projects—whether it was combat or improv.
"A really unique, physical, and captivating piece of theater." ~Cherry and Spoon, 2013
Read the full review of Kym and Erik's first collaboration, the aerial musical "Herocycle."
Erik: Ten Thousand Things always does good work and their mission is important.
How did Combustible Company come about? Can you tell us a little about the organization?
Erik: Kym Longhi [the other co-artistic director of Combustible Company] and I met while we were both members of Kari Margolis' Adaptors Company and I’ve always trusted her insight. Herocycle was our first collaboration and I knew she was the one to help develop the seed of my idea. We both did the freelance thing for a while in between, but we’re both at a point in our careers where we want to collaborate more seriously to produce our own unique work.
Red Eye’s program is a wonderful opportunity to develop an idea. They give artists three really important things: criticism, deadlines, and an audience. We decided to pack as much material as we could into the allotted 15-minute performance in order to discover as much as we possibly could about the piece. Then we had the idea to make it site-specific and set it in a Victorian house, but we needed to test the staging. Kym knows some wonderful folks in Minocqua, Wisconsin who let us use their property to put up a couple performances. Based on what we learned there, we knew we could do it as a promenade-style piece. After some searching, we landed on the James J. Hill House as the setting for this production.
If you could describe this work in three words what would they be?
Erik: Haunting. Intimate. Visceral.
"It’s a haunted house, but the haunting is inside the characters." -Kym Longhi
Read the full interview with Basil Considine in Twin Cities Arts Reader.
Erik: Both of them in their own ways are captivity tales and both contain a measure of violence. However, in one story it’s physical and in the other it’s emotional. At the center of each story is a terrible secret that poses a threat to the heroine and changes her forever. Our goal is to contextualize the emotional abuse in A Doll’s House through the lens of the physical abuse in Bluebeard so the audience can better understand the pain constricting gender roles in our society can impose on all of us. In our story, the struggle to escape is universal.
Erik: So far, I’d have to say it’s been the simple logistics of moving the audience from location to location without compromising the momentum of the performance.
Erik: We have a few more ideas that are under development. Ideally, I think we’d like to be able to produce work about once per year but it may take us some time to get there. We’ll also be offering Margolis Method classes.
September 30 through October 15, 2016
Featuring: Beth Brooks, Karla Grotting, Paul Herwig, Erik Hoover, Renee Howard, Kalen Rainbow Keir, Rachel Nelson and Pearl Noonan.
Production team: Peter Baker (composition), Alissa McCourt and Nicholas Swenson (costume design) and Jim Peitzman (video design and installation).
General Admission Tickets:
$29.97 (including service fee)
Discounts available for economic accessibility, Fringe button holders, and members of the Minnesota Historical Society.
James J. Hill House
240 Summit Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55102
Follow Combustible Company on Facebook for behind the scenes photos and up-to-date performance info.
You can connect with @jjhillhouse on Facebook and Minnesota Historical Society (MNHS), which maintains the site, is active on many social media sites including Twitter (@mnhs) and Instagram (@minnesotahistoricalsociety.)
In the mood for some Minnesota comedy? Check out the Artfully Engaging review of "The Church Basement Ladies In Rise Up, O Men" a Musical Comedy.
There are more Artfully Engaging blogs scheduled for this month: more Halloween antics, Twin Cities theater community celebrations, and reviews of upcoming comedy and tragedy shows. Follow Artfully Engaging on Facebook for all the newest reviews and show features.
The Abortion Chronicles: A Fearless Offering For This Year’s Fringe
by: Eileen Tull
Learn more about Eileen, a performer, writer, and theater creator living in Chicago, at ElileenTull.com.
Tweet with her at @Tullie23 and follow her on Facebook.
See also: Eileen was interviewed by Kendra on the Artfully Engaging blog about her show in the 2015 Minnesota Fringe Festival.
Ariel Leaf, one of the co-curators of this fascinating and unique piece of theater, presents insight on the creative process, collaboration, and how we can view abortion in 2016.
Eileen: Tell me about some of the collaborators involved in this production.
Ariel: There are three main curators: Myself, Ruth Virkus and Ben Layne. One of the things we all have in common is that we belong to Freshwater Theatre. Ruth and Ben are the co-artistic directors, and I am a company member.
I grew up in an activist school and home. I infuse that into much of the theater I do. I have chosen to write or spearhead plays that deal with taboo subjects. For example, I wrote Teach Me Tonight, presented by 20% Theatre Company, about a high school girl who is seduced and abused by an older man. Fortune's Fool, my other company, recently produced Stop Kiss about two women who fall in love and are victims of a hate crime. I am also the author of two one-woman autobiographical shows for the Minnesota Fringe Festivals in 2013 and 2015 that discussed everything from losing my virginity to my time as a homeless youth.
Ben Layne has been my cohort every step of the way. A fierce feminist he helped me to be brave and has directed almost every show that I have done that I was almost too scared to do. He has been my support and my listening board and has quite a resume, both as a director and a performer.
Ruth Virkus (scroll down at link) is an astounding playwright whose plays often have both historical and political overtones. The last play she wrote for Freshwater (Mrs. Charles) was the tale of two men in love at the end of the 19th century who, to avoid scandal, move to Minnesota, one disguised as a woman. Full of true historical figures and events of the time, it is a powerful look at how people were forced to disguise themselves to lead the lives they wanted.
Eileen: Would you classify this piece as documentary theater? What made you want to explore this subject using this form?
Ariel: Yes, I think that is an apt description. We take the stories people have written us and change very little of them other than cutting and editing, with the authors approval. We have given it a theatrical setting, so the show is done as if the performers are at a women's clinic waiting for their procedures, and a few of the stories have been transformed into scenes. For example, when we got the story from both the man and woman involved in an abortion. We wove them together to create a back and forth narrative, but we didn't add any false dialogue or characters that are not already in the stories.
I think that truth is more powerful than fiction when it comes to the topic of abortion. I think one of the reasons it is so taboo is that it's not discussed and the multitude of reasons a woman might choose abortion are not understood. I think what we need is exactly what this show gives: real women saying, "This is me, this is why, and I am one out of so many." I also hope it will help women who have felt very isolated by their experiences know that they are surrounded by women who feel the same way.
Eileen: What was the creative process like for this project?
Ariel: It began in 2013 while I was writing my first one-woman show. I wrote a piece about my abortion called My Vagina's Vagina Monologue. However, it just didn't fit with the other stories I was telling. My friend Katie Starks read it and said, "You should do a whole show about abortion." This seed germinated for a while until I proposed the idea to Ben. We put out a call for submissions through various channels, offering the chance to send us submissions and, if they desired, to perform them as well. After three months we looked at everything submitted and put together a show we thought best represented the diversity of experiences that are part of the reality of abortion. We then asked who would like to have writing credit, who wanted to remain anonymous, who wanted to perform their own story, and who would prefer to have a seasoned actor do so. As a result we have a mixture of all of the above.
Ariel: We have seen a huge backslide in many states when it comes to abortion rights. We have a man running for the Republican vice presidency who said "I long for the day Roe v. Wade is sent to the ash heap of history." While so many other women's rights are advancing (we have our first female nominee for president of a major party!), abortion rights are becoming more and more restricted.
Eileen: What do you think public opinion on abortion will be in twenty years?
Ariel: This will largely depend on those we elect to govern and speak for us, and on those who continue to make this a visible subject to break the silence and shame surrounding it. I can say many things that begin with "I hope..." but I think it will take more than hope. It will take loud voices demanding change and voting for those who will hear their voices.
Eileen: What makes this piece a good fit for the Fringe?
Ariel: The audience at Fringe is a more unusual and diverse audience than a regular theater audience. There are people who attend Fringe that do not go to the theater any other time of the year. I think we have the potential to reach a more diverse audience and create a bigger discussion as a result. I think the hour-long format also serves us well. It's a difficult topic and setting a time limit allows an audience member who might be on the fence to say "I know how long this will be and I can commit to giving my ears and heart for that time."
Eileen: Other thoughts, ideas, plugs?
Ariel: I want to say that though we may be leading the project, what should be recognized and celebrated is each and every person involved: the writers and performers whose bravery and honesty we would not have a show without. They are the power and beauty we are giving space for.
Friday Aug 5 @ 7:00pm
Saturday Aug 6th @ 10:00pm
Tuesday Aug 9 @ 10:00pm
Friday August 12 @ 8:30pm
Sunday Aug 14 @1:00pm
Festival information available at FringeFestival.org.
Jill Schafer, arts writer at Cherry and Spoon, calls Complicated Fun a "very Minnesotan story about the Minneapolis music scene of the early '80s" and says the show "is a compelling new play with music that tells an important piece of Minnesota history, integrating music into the story in an exciting and organic way."
And Christine Sarkes of Aisle Say Twin Cities says "the band under Nic Delcambre is excellent." Also, "The show is an entertaining, high energy bit of Minnesota history and a fitting tribute to Prince’s legacy and influence on the national music scene. Playwright Alan Berks should be commended for tackling this complex tale and the History Theatre for staging it. Little did they know that it would be so timely and sadly prescient."
I was curious about the show's focus on First Avenue with the timing of Prince's recent passing as well as Nic's involvement with the production, so here is another behind the scenes Twin Cities artist Q&A for Artfully Engaging readers.
I'd done work on musicals for the History Theatre before, and it was just sort of a natural fit. Leading a band for a musical is one thing, but leading a band that can transition swiftly between punk, folk, and funk is an exciting challenge for a Music Director.
The show has been influenced heavily. It has not been changed at all. I know that sounds weird, but from the start, Prince was never going to be a character in the show. He's just too big. There are ten different plays you could write about Prince. He's practically his own genre. His influence is felt very heavily throughout the play, but the choice was made very early on not to include him as a character or any of his songs, because once you hear one Prince song, you want to hear them all. This play is about Minnesota music, though, and I hope I can say faithfully that we give Prince the honor, respect, and truth he deserves.
If you could describe the show in three words what would they be?
Loud Fast Rules (for all the Soul Asylum fans out there...).
I'm lucky enough that I have the opportunity to work mostly with established theaters that have their own marketing and PR departments to help spread the word. Having said that, when I'm performing in a show I always try to personally invite the people I think would really enjoy it. Every show has the right audience, it's just finding them that's tricky sometimes.
Do you have any other thoughts to share?
This show is fast, loud, and most of all, fun. It covers a ton of ground of the music scene here in the early '80s, and does so through the eyes of someone who loves that music ferociously. The music scene here is still thriving, but this play is about when it exploded. If you want to know just a little bit more about what makes Minnesota kick-ass come see this show.
Ticket Information: Complicated Fun
Complicated Fun: The Minneapolis Music Scene
April 30-May 29, 2016
By Alan Berks
Directed by Dominic Taylor
30 10th Street E
Saint Paul, MN 55101
198x. Ronald Reagan, Rubik's cubes, and the underground music scene of Minneapolis. Get swirled up with two young misfits who discover themselves in the musical madness pouring out of First Avenue. Everybody's dressin' in this mixtape love letter to the counterculture sounds that made the city famous.
Cast: Stephanie Bertumen, Bowen Cochran, Josh Carson, Ricky Morriseau, H. Adam Harris, Skyler Nowinski, Joseph Miller, Andrea Wollenberg, Eric Hoover, Lynnea Doublette, Clarence Wethern, Mikayla Dates, Chloe Hansen, Evelyna Rosario, Alexis Sabo, Ellen Walz, Nic Delcambre, Blake Foster, Riley Jacobson, Mitch Benson, and Lynnea Doublette.
Createve Team: Dominic Taylor, Nic Delcambre, Carl Flink, Michael Hoover, Amelia Cheever, Kathy Maxwell, Lisa Conley, C. Andrew Mayer, Wayne Hendricks, and Gina Musto
Stephen King's novel The Shining has been adapted into a movie, a TV miniseries, and now into an opera! If you are lightning fast (and lucky) you might be able to see it on stage at the Ordway Center for Performing Arts because Minnesota Opera is giving this new world premiere opera four performances in Saint Paul. I've had my ticket for months now and after the spectacular productions this year, I can't wait to see how this modern English language opera (music by Paul Moravec and libretto by Mark Campbell) will conclude the Minnesota Opera's 2015-2016 season.
Jeni Houser plays the role of Mrs. Grady in The Shining (also Johanna in this year's Mill City Summer Opera's production of Sweeny Todd!) answers some questions about what it's been like playing a ghost and her musical inspirations. Enjoy...
Stephen King's best-selling novel "The Shining" was first published in 1977
What's it been like working on a "horror" opera, so far?
It's very exciting for me to play a ghost (Mrs. Grady, murdered by her husband), and the nuance the leads bring to their roles is going to make the living characters extremely compelling. I'm impressed with the dramatic commitment Brian Mulligan and Kelly Kaduce have shown in rehearsal, and in performance I think they will be completely captivating. Music frequently plays an important role in creating tension and suspense in film, so the idea of using music to bring a "horror" story to live performance is great. Paul Moravec's music is full of drama and intensity, so the rehearsal process has been invigorating.
I have read the book, but I've never actually seen the movie. I'm not a huge horror fan historically, so I read the book in preparation for the opera, knowing that there are some differences between the book and movie and that our production is very definitely based on the novel. I LOVED the book, and would highly recommend everyone read it before, during (only for expert multi-taskers), or after they see our production.
Potent, gripping, and memorable.
What inspired you to become a singer?
I have always loved to sing, and I was particularly inspired by some vocal greats including Ella Fitzgerald and Barbara Bonney. You can HEAR the emotion in their voices. I am moved by the purity of the voice as well as its incredible communicative ability, and I strive to be vulnerable and strong at the same time in my singing.
What is next for you after The Shining?
Actually, another horror show of sorts! I'll be performing the role of Johanna in Sondheim's Sweeney Todd with Mill City Summer Opera in Minneapolis. Johanna is almost ghostly in a dreamy way, although hopefully she'll make out of that show alive, unlike Mrs. Grady.
Contact the Minnesota Opera for Ticket Availability
And to learn more about The Shining, please visit mnopera.org/the-shining. There you will find a full synopsis, artist biographies, background notes, audio clips, set and costume renderings, and other company information.
Twin Cities theater artist Hector Chavarria, the Big Gay Mexican, gives an exclusive interview about his upcoming project as well as his inspirations and why he creates art. Support his work by following him on social media and then by purchasing a ticket and experiencing his upcoming show at Intermedia Arts as part of 20% Theatre's Q-STAGE: New Works Series.
Hector, wearer of many hats, what is your current role in the arts?
I am a performance artist, singer, playwright, and fashionista; I try to do it all.
Why do you do art?
I do art because art is my biggest passion. It is the one thing that truly allows me to be myself. I also do art in hopes that my work inspires others and makes them think outside of the box.
How have your life experiences influenced the projects that you choose?
Well, I started creating my Big Gay Mexican persona almost two years ago because I realized that a person such as me was not being represented positively in the media. There is so much fat-shaming, homophobia, and racism flooding the Internet, primarily in social media, that I felt it was high time I took a stand and try to spread some positivity around. I also use my life experiences in my art to shed some light on issues that aren’t really talked about such as discrimination within the queer community and sexual assault done to male victims.
I went to school for acting and I can honestly say I had a great education. I learned how to move and present myself on stage. What my education program did not teach me was the harsh reality of the theater industry. I wasn’t taught the hardship of being a bigger built, flamboyant actor of color. When I started auditioning is when I realized I wasn’t going to make it in this industry as an actor.
As a singer I keep my skills fresh by singing every day. I sing in my apartment when I’m alone; sometimes I add some dancing to it. A year ago I started taking ballet lessons because I never had the chance as a child but as an adult I now have the option. My goal is not to become a ballet dancer, but it has helped me with my movement in performance. I go see theater and performance art constantly. I like to know who other artists are out there.
Are there any arts organizations or venues in the Twin Cities that inspire you?
Open Eye Figure Theatre is huge inspiration of mine. They produce some of the most intricate work. They use various art forms such as music, dance, and puppetry and create fascinating work! Mixed Blood Theater Company is another theater I respect for their choices of plays dealing with issues of race and sexuality.
Can you tell me about a recent arts collaboration that went well? What made it so successful?
In February, I was asked to be part of a cabaret at Patrick’s Cabaret. Scott Artley, the execute director, had asked me to submit a proposal for a cabaret titled, “My Horrifying Love Life,” which dealt with the struggles of dating and relationships. Around the time Scott had contacted me, I was already working on a piece, just for fun, about my relationships with men. It almost felt like it was fate that I was to perform this piece that I was already working on. What I love about Patrick’s Cabaret is that it collects a group of artists who may or may not know each other to create pieces in various art forms, all possessing a specific theme. I was truly honored to be part of the Horrifying Love Life group.
How do you promote your artwork and creative projects?
I use social media primarily. Another passion of mine is creating photo art. I may be kind of narcissistic when it comes to my selfie count, but what I like to do with my selfies is I like to add a bit of flair to them by using different filters and Photoshop applications and turning pictures of myself into what I think are works of art. Word of mouth is also the best way to promote, so I try to go to as many theater events as I can and not only do I get to meet amazing people, but I also get to inform them on my work and upcoming events.
The Big Gay Mexican Show is the current project I am working on. This work is part of 20% Theatre's 2016 Q-Stage: New Work Series. I have been working on The BGM Show since November. Through comedy, song, and dance I present stories from my past that have paved the way to becoming the person who I am today. Life hasn’t been easy for the BGM but he is ready to present his story with class, sass, and merriment!
Can you describe the show in three words?
BIG, Gay and Mexican.
How has the rehearsal process been so far? What has inspired you? What has challenged you?
Rehearsals are going great!! My two actors, Jennifer Buckhout and Donn Saylor, are a dream come true. They have been the inspiration for my characters in my show. I did the unconventional thing of casting actors before I knew what they were going to be playing. It all came together once I knew who I was working with. Their characters came to life in my head and then on paper, and then Jen and Donn brought them to reality. It has been magical. The biggest challenge was finding a rehearsal space. Currently we are rehearsing in a space in Uptown that was provided to us by 20% Theatre Company, so we got lucky. We also do a lot of rehearsals in my lovely living room, which is my primary rehearsal space. My living room has been the birthplace for most of my previous pieces.
Ticket Information for Q-STage: New Work Series
20% Theater Presents:
Q-STAGE: New Works Series
May 13 - 22, 2016 at Intermedia Arts
SET "A" ft. Hector Chavarria & JamieAnn Meyers:
May 13 at 730pm - opening night party
May 14 at 730pm - post-show discussion
May 15 at 2pm
"THE BIG GAY MEXICAN SHOW"
Created by & starring Hector Chavarria
Directed by Stacy Schultz
Also featuring Donn Saylor and Jennifer Buckhout
Throughout his life, he was told he would never make it as a performer. Now, The Big Gay Mexican has finally got his chance at his own show! He sings, he dances, and he is ready to entertain! However, the questions still remains, does he have what it takes to become a success? Is America ready to allow a Big Gay Mexican become a star?
"FIRST PERSON: A LIFE IN TRANSITION"
Created by & starring JamieAnn Meyers
Directed by Shalee Coleman
Also featuring Zealot Hamm, Erica Fields, Beckett Love, and Suzi Love and Pearl Noonan
Each of us has a different story, and "FIRST PERSON" is one transwoman's unvarnished truth. It's the story of her life-long transition, a life that's being lived "halfway up, halfway down," in-between, and her claiming CHANGE as her identity.
WARNING: Adult language & content, nudity
SET "B" ft. A.P. Looze & Gender Tender
May 20 at 730pm - opening night party
May 21 at 730pm - post-show discussion
May 22 at 2pm
More info on Set B available on the 20% Theatre website.
More Ways to Engage:
Send comments or questions to Hector on Twitter at @BigGayMexican.
Follow Twenty Percent Theatre on Twitter at @20PercentTC and on Facebook.
And shout out the venue @intermedia_arts on Twitter, too.
2822 Lyndale Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55408
Local Twin Cities Theater Bloggers have given Beauty and the Beast glowing reviews:
"Be transported and transformed by this splendid fairy tale." ~Cherry and Spoon
"Did not disappoint...." ~Aisle Say Twin Cities
"A magical night of theater." ~Girl Meets Broadway
"Ruthanne Heyward shines as Belle." ~Compendium
And the costuming for this production is magical. Don't believe me? Ask the dishes! With some help from Chanhassen Dinner Theatres I interviewed three of the actors who understand firsthand how costumes can transport us to a fairy tale world.
What character do you play in Beauty and the Beast?
Describe your costume.
Jay: Basically the entire time I’m on stage I sit in a small, round box wearing a saucer and teacup on my head. The teacup has a small chip in it, giving my character the name Chip. It gets very hot inside the box, so underneath I am wearing a t-shirt under my microphone. In the summer, it’s sure to get hotter, so I bet I’ll be wearing shorts!
What's it like performing in your costume?
Jay: The box is pretty small, and I sit on my knees, but there is enough padding to avoid injury, and enough space in the back to keep my feet. Lots of people in the cast poke fun at me with the greatest amount of love at how I need to work on my blocking, even though Mrs. Potts, (Susan Hofflander) is pushing me around the stage the whole time, and how my choreography needs work, although the only part that’s moving is my head!!! Being in the box the entire show can be a bit stressful, but I do get lots of time to myself, to be able to think outside the box. Get it?
Because the audience only sees my face inside the cup for nearly the entire show, I need to make my face as expressive as possible so that has been fun and challenging! My favorite moment is my transformation back to a little boy and I love that costume, I finally get to be “human again”! I love all the costumes in the show, especially the wolves, I think they are really scary!
Artist Interview: Ann Michels
What character do you play:
Ann: Babette (the maid turned feather duster).
Describe your costume.
Ann: My main costume is gold and cream colored. Underneath I wear a tight corset and padded underwear to add curviness to my hips and butt. I also wear 3 inch gold heels to add length to the feather duster. Hard ornamental volutes, "greenery" and birds make up a breast plate and epaulettes glued and sewn onto the dress. It's a column dress that cinches in tightly at the knees, and from there down cascade long gold feathers. Partway through the show I add attachable wrist cuffs with long feathers that cover my hands as the progression to feather duster continues. I wear a red curly wig that's turning into a solid gold end piece (hat) with a loop on top signifying how the feather duster would be hung for storage.
Ann: The costume is very heavy, and I do not have the ability to bend very well or stride my legs widely. Stairs are very tricky to maneuver. I have to walk/run/tango with tiny steps. I also can't really sit down, so back stage I lean against a stool or table. The feathers added to cover my hands make it so I have to be very careful when grabbing someone or dancing so as not to break them.
How has your costume(s) transformed your character OR what inspired you about the costuming for this show in general? The restrictiveness of the costume adds to the illusion that this expressive and romantic maid is slowly stiffening into a solid object - a feather duster. It is certainly a challenge, but, I think essential in the story telling that the spell is leading to our eventual human demise.
What character do you play?
Emily: Madame de la Grand Bouche
Describe your costume.
Emily: I have one main golden headpiece resembling an ornate pediment of sorts—I wear my hair in a low, flat bun under a wig cap and put the headpiece on after I step into my wardrobe box backstage. Because the box is on wheels, I leave it backstage whenever I am not in it—it doesn’t do stairs, per se. There is a hinged panel on the back of the box into which I step, and two arm holes cut into the sides that are decorated with sleeves to give the illusion that I am the wardrobe itself. I get someone to help make sure the back of the wardrobe flap’s velcro is fastened tightly so the flap doesn’t come open when I’m on stage. The front of the wardrobe has two doors I can access from the front sides, and decorative drawers with one functioning drawer (slot) in which I have a pair of bloomers and a gown for my first scene in the show. Getting this bit right took some practice in the rehearsal room. I had to learn how to preset these two garments in a way that I could reach them easily—my “wingspan” and dexterity are greatly compromised inside the box, because it is wider than I am. I simply can’t reach very far once I’m inside.
Describe what it’s like performing in your costume:
Emily: Performing in my costume is a challenge. With practice, I have gotten pretty comfortable in it, but I still bump into things and people backstage as I don’t know my own size quite yet. The lace ruff I wear around my neck while I’m in the box (and after the transformation when I’m in my final gown) sometimes gets caught in the neck hole, so I’m constantly adjusting and trying to get it where it needs to be to be comfortable. I use my arms in various ways when I’m in the box to either aid quickness of entrances and exits (I usually hold on to the front or back in order to move quickly), and if I’m swaying or twirling, I usually use one hand to brace the box, and the other to gesture.
How do your costumes transform your character and what inspired you about the costuming for this show?
Emily: My costume definitely makes the stakes of becoming human again real. I love the end of the play when the spell is broken and we are transformed into humans again—I am in the most beautiful gown that resembles my wardrobe box, complete with identical bows on the corset bodice and the same fabrics with which the wardrobe is covered. I literally scamper onto stage, do my scene with Scott Blackburn (Cogsworth), and we trot off into the wing and do a skip as we exit, reveling in the freedom of being able to move freely! Luckily, I don’t have to attempt much choreography in my wardrobe box because it has so many limitations, and since I’ve gotten good at the tasks I must accomplish while in it, I have grown to like being in it. It is beautiful, spectacular, and a great sight gag—and as a comic character actor in this fun role, you gotta love any help you have to get the laugh!
Ticket Information: Beauty and The Beast
The Chanhassen Dinner Theatres Present:
Disney's Beauty and the Beast
Now through September 24, 2016
Ruthanne Heyward, Robert O. Berdahl, Keith Rice, Aleks Knezevich, Susan Hofflander, Mark King, Scott Blackburn, Daniel S. Hines, Ann Michels, Emily Rose Skinner, Andre Shoals, Brandyn Tapio, Mathias Anderson, Adam Moen, Sean Nugent, Rico Heisler, Thomas Schumacher, Serena Brook, Jessica Frederickson, Timmy Hays, Alyssa Seifert, Maura White, Larissa Gritti, Laura Rudolph, Tommy Benson, and Lars Lee
Michael Brindisi, Tamara Kangas-Erickson, Rich Hamson, and Andrew Cooke
Five and up welcome, discounts for students and seniors
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Chanhassen Dinner Theatres
501 W 78th St, Chanhassen, MN 55317
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