Category Archives: Openings

Of Mice and Kids

Running right now at Park Square Theatre is Of Mice and Men, and it’s a show you can catch on the weekends or if you’re bold enough, every weekday morning with dozens of high schoolers!

Yep, Of Mice and Men plays just about every morning between now and mid-December to students who get to enjoy a field trip to the theatre. If you’re not familiar with Park Square Theatre in St. Paul, Minnesota, you should know that it’s kind of something they’ve earned as a reputation over the years. Steinbeck’s classic has been produced every-other-year in this fashion for at least a decade now. When I tell friends that I’m in it, they say, “Oh, I remember seeing that when I was a kid!” (For the record, I’m 26).

It seems darn near everyone takes the trip to Park Square and enjoys the show! Which I think is amazing, for so many thousands of people to share such an experience in the Twin Cities and throughout the region. I mean, the evening schedule is wonderful but I get such a unique joy from performing my role for teenagers who may never make a habit of watching theatre. I feel that’s a common sentiment among actors, but I really do take a pride in it and that’s thanks to my own field trip to see a play back in middle school.

Of Mice and Men
The cast of Of Mice and Men. Directed by Annie Enneking.  

I can’t even remember what the production company, but I remember taking a field trip in eighth grade to see a production of The Tell Tale Heart (and The Monkey’s Paw) at the Tupperware Center in my home town of Kissimmee, Florida. It was certainly a touring company of some sort, maybe even a high school production, but I remember superb production quality and the thrill of watching a man slowly lose his mind over the incessant beating of the heart under the floorboards. I wasn’t even an actor then! At that point in my life, theatre as nowhere near the forefront of my mind. It’s only now, looking back, that I can recognize it as a formative experience in my life’s chosen path.

Who knows if these students will think about this show after they get back on the bus, and back to class. I hope they do, not just for the sake of being exposed to the arts, but because the themes in Of Mice and Men are so poignant and relevant. The idea that people can only live for so long in an oppressive society. That sometimes you need action in order to make your life a better place. Surface-wise, there’s not too much hope being offered in this play, but just scratch that surface and you’ll find a wealth of courage and resolution.

This is what I hope to share with these kids.

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Headed back to Almost, Maine

Almost is a town in northern Maine that most people haven’t heard of. I mean, it’s way north – hundreds of miles from any major point of civilization, where the moose and lonely-hearts roam. What the heck am I going there for? What the heck am I going back there for?

Well, because Almost doesn’t exist.

Wait. No. It does exist, but – oh, gosh…. lemme explain.

Almost, Maine is really Almost, Maine – a play by John Cariani. There, does that make more sense? I hope so, unless you don’t know what a play is and if that’s the case…

OK, so Almost, Maine is one of those whimsical, charming little gems of the theatre that is so popular that this is actually the third time I have performed in the piece. Not surprisingly, I’m even playing the same character as before. No other play holds such a distinction on my resume and when I heard the Paul Bunyan Playhouse was seeking actors, I was eager to go back.

Cast of Almost, Maine
The cast of my second stab at the play, with the Lanesboro Community Theater, co-directed with Tod Petersen. 
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My first Almost, Maine was an independent student production at the University of Central Florida.

What makes this production so different from the others, however, is the fact that it will be present by a cast of four, playing all the various residents of the town: Here’s the official synopsis via Dramatists Play Service:

“On a cold, clear, moonless night in the middle of winter, all is not quite what it seems in the remote, mythical town of Almost, Maine. As the northern lights hover in the star-filled sky above, Almost’s residents find themselves falling in and out of love in unexpected and often hilarious ways. Knees are bruised. Hearts are broken. But the bruises heal, and the hearts mend—almost—in this delightful midwinter night’s dream.”

Due to the nature of the show, the cast can include as many as a dozen actors or as few as four. That’s why this time is unique, because now I’ve got the chance to relish several more of Cariani’s delightfully flawed characters. Along with, of course, my fellow actors Diana Jurand, Carol Foose and Nic Delcambre who are a joy to run around on stage with.

Another real treat is the venue of the show itself. While the Paul Bunyan Playhouse is the producing company, the space is in the historic Chief Theatre in downtown Bemidji. Opening in 1933, it was a classic Art Deco movie house before 1992 when it was renovated to serve as the home of the Playhouse. As for Bemidji, well, how can I not love the fact that I get to spend my July with Paul and Babe. So if you happen to find yourself in northwest Minnesota this month, come by and check us out. The show is directed by Jim Williams and runs July 19th-23rd and 26th-29th.

physbem68
You wouldn’t have guessed it, but these two are a couple of serious theatre junkies.

 

 

 

Yo Ho, We’re Off and Sailing

Last month I was back in the director’s chair with a fifth grade production of Treasure Island. The show was at Sunset Hill Elementary in Plymouth, MN (a suburb of Minneapolis) and I was actually co-directing with another theatre artist in town, Amy Abrigo.

The show was something that was handed off to me late in the game but of course I accepted with eagerness. While I’ve directed a bunch of community theatre and high school students, it had been a while since I’d been in charge of so many little ones. I had been a substitute teacher in Florida and experienced what a handful of second graders could be, but to be fair to all those fifth graders reading this, they’re not that bad. They are in a transitional age group where they are old enough to be “cool” and talk to you like an adult, but still young in that they have very little self-control, respect or understanding of the consequences their actions may have. In short, it was a mixed-bag of screaming and praising.

Image result for treasure island

While the rehearsal process lasted a few weeks, it was only for two short afternoons a week  where most of my time was spent herding cats and being a disciplinarian. The whole time I kept reassuring myself that “it will all come together in the end”, because I am no stranger to the way shows work out sometimes. However, while I knew at some point those kids would listen to me and memorize their lines, I wasn’t fool enough to think it would just happen on it’s own.

I did the kids, Amy and myself a favor and took a hatchet to the already short script. Being that Treasure Island a story we’re all kind of familiar with I said nuance-be-damned and essentially cut out anything that didn’t feature Jim Hawkins or Long John Silver. The show was a musical as well so that really helped bridge any gaps in the story. Even with those cuts, the show was just under forty minutes! Which flew by but was plenty, believe you me.

Of course my eternal optimism was rewarded in the end and the two performances went off without a hitch. The little bastards pulled it off and I was ultimately proud of them. I was even witness to some extremely humble moments when they would confide in me about how nervous they were to perform in front of their peers… it was very touching! It’s so funny working with kids that age because you really do want the best for them and think they are just the cutest, but damn do you want to wring their necks. I say all of this, of course, with tremendous love and I think anyone who has shared my shoes gets it 100%.

Finally, I would just like to include the cast list here (pictures will come at some point on my directing page) so one day one of those little munchkins can Google their name and read exactly what I thought of them. Also, here’s a song from the show that was the absolute bane of my existence.

Yo ho ho!

Sunset Hill Elementary
presents

TREASURE ISLAND
by
Kathryn Schultz Miller

Directed by
Vincent S. Hannam and Amy Abrigo

with
Will Kirven
Lilah Krauth
Amanda Michelsen
Colin Bissonette
Jaden St. Urbain
Emily Raiche
LeBraun Dewey
Kaelyn Hvidsten
Seth Aydinalp
Christina Nockel
Charlotte Thompson
Sam Hulst
Camryn Balloy
Myra Klumb
Tyler Jensen
Sebastian Lumitap
Nishanth Baddigam
Angelina Pyle
Raziah Loyd
Ivan Vasylchenko
Gia Wees
Sanaiia Montgomery
Soo-Jin Lee
Bergan Wolf
Gabe Wernimont
Ella Dando
Avery Mikolai

Technical Crew:
Noah Stephens, Jacob Behr, Thomas Theising,
Luke Schultz, Nadia Fessenmeir, Talia Eddy, Nate Lindblad

Technical Director/ Producer:
Julie Schottler

It’s a *Death* trap!

This past weekend I had the immense pleasure of opening Deathtrap at Theatre in the Round Players in Minneapolis. From the cast to the director and most certainly the script, it has been an all round joyful experience.

deathtrapplaybillWithout revealing too much, Deathtrap is a thriller that tells the story of a veteran playwright named Sidney, who’s a bit washed up and eager for inspiration. Inspiration then walks in, in the shape of Clifford- an eager young playwright and former student of Sidney’s. There’s so much more that ensues, but I’ll leave you with words like “diabolical”, “conniving”, “murder” and “thrilleritis malignis” – the fevered pursuit of the one-set five-character moneymaker. The play itself was just that, running on Broadway for four years and 1,809 performances. Good enough for fourth all time (when it comes to straight plays).

Now in Minneapolis in 2017, Theatre in the Round Players (TRP) has it’s own venerated distinction as one of oldest theatres in town, opening in 1953. Amazingly enough, in 65 seasons, Deathtrap has never been produced. A thousand other plays have, for sure, including a production of The Great White Hope in 1975 that starred Ernie Hudson and is still talked about in the theatre community here.

deathtrap-promotionalAside from working at TRP, the show itself has been great. My director, Shanan Custer and stage manager, Stacey Britt, have made the process a delight, as well as my stage companions Charles Numrich, Meri Golden, Tina Frederickson and Todd O’Dowd. Ira Levin, too, who is the playwright and mastermind behind the curtain. In addition to Deathtrap, Levin is stupid famous for works such as Rosemary’s Baby, The Stepford Wives and The Boys from Brazil. If you know me, you know how much I love a good thriller and how much I relish the chance to play the genre on stage.

Part of Deathtrap‘s charm is that it references the famous stage thrillers of it’s day; shows like Sleuth, Angel Street and Dial “M” for Murder. I’ll admit that I was not familiar with those plays before, but I’ve loved the chance to revisit some of my favorite movies of that grisly ilk. Why I love playing in Deathtrap so much is because it’s the closest I can get to being in Misery or Psycho or The Silence of the Lambs. Of course now that Misery is itself a play maybe I can get even closer…

So without having said too much about the actual plot of Deathtrap, I hope I’ve still managed to paint an enticing picture nonetheless. If you love any of the aforementioned titles then by all means comes to Theatre in the Round. You’re guaranteed to jump, laugh and cover your ears!

Theatre in the Round Players
presents

DEATHTRAP
by
Ira Levin

Directed by
Shanan Custer

With
Charles Numrich Vincent Hannam
Tina Frederickson Meri Golden and Todd O’Dowd as “Porter”

February 17 – March 12, 2017

 

I Tell ya Chum, it’s Time to Come… Blow Your Horn

Originally published as: “Blow that Horn!”

Happy New Year from sunny Jacksonville, Florida where I’m currently employed at the Alhambra Theatre & Dining playing Buddy in Come Blow Your Horn.

It’s a gem of a comedy by Neil Simon and happens to be the first one he ever wrote, about two brothers desperately trying to escape the overbearing thumb of their businessman father. Buddy is the youngest of the two. He is an aspiring playwright who’s just turned twenty-one and wants nothing more than to emulate his older brother’s swinging, bachelor life. Of course the play is hilarious but it has the right amount of dramatic heart-to-hearts to keep it deeply engaging.

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In fact, that’s why I love Neil Simon and know when he’s on the money, boy is it a good night at the theatre. Since plays like Barefoot in the Park, The Odd Couple and Biloxi Blues are among my favorites, knowing that Come Blow Your Horn was first is a real treat. Within these lines you see the blue prints of what was to come – the arguments between Alan and Buddy scream Oscar and Felix, the relationship between Alan and his girlfriend Connie is basically that of Paul and Corrie, and there is even an offstage character named Felix Ungar! It’s all right there, blended into its own unique one-liners.

The play opens this week at the Alhambra Theatre & Dining, which happens to be the nation’s longest running professional dinner theatre, opening in 1967. The fact that I’m getting to play on a stage shared by Sid Caesar, Omar Sharif and Betty Grable (among many many others) is deeply inspiring. Additionally, since I am in Florida after all, my family and friends are able to see it and I’m able to relish a sense of homecoming. I’m incredibly thankful to be in the position I am now with the cast and crew of the Alhambra.

Tickets and Info: http://www.alhambrajax.com/show/come-blow-horn/

Playbill feature: http://www.playbill.com/article/booth-family-to-perform-together-for-alhambra-theatres-50th-anniversary

The Alhambra Theatre & Dining
presents

Come Blow Your Horn
by
Neil Simon

Directed
by
Tod Booth

with
Adam Kaster
Vincent Hannam
Tod Booth
Lisa Valdini
Jessica Booth
Abby Jaros

Neil Simon Theatre.jpg
The Neil Simon Theatre in NYC. Love this playwright! (Photo by Terrance Jackson)

A Tempest is A-Brewin’!

This summer I’ve been back in Maine at the Heartwood Regional Theater Company, rehearsing Shakespeare’s The Tempest. We open this Friday!

I get to play King Alonso of Naples of Milan, who with his nobleman, must battle storms, harpies and lingering melancholy while they search for Ferdinand – the young heir to the throne. Little does Alonso know that his old arch-rival, Prospero, is is full control of all these maladies.

The Tempest, 2016
Photo Credit: Jenny Mayher

Not only is the show truly delightful to be a part of – with all it’s heartbreak, love and fantasy – but it’s just great being back in Damariscotta so soon after Our Town! Griff Braley is directing again and this time the cast features so many old and dear faces: Diana Jurand, Jay Pastucha, Deirdre Manning, Jason Osorio and Patrick Sylvester! I wonder if so many UCF alums have ever been in a show together after college? Of course the cast is more stacked than that with Helena Farhi, Steve Shema, Steven Czajkowski, Jahmeel Powers and Sebastian LaPointe.

So here we are about to tell this magical story, the last of old Billy Shakes, while the sea beats on not eight miles from here, against the timeless rocks.

Clybourne Park

Happy Opening to the cast and crew of Clybourne Park at Yellow Tree Theatre!

Clybourne Park

This was an opportunity that came my way last summer in the midst of moving to Minneapolis and in the thick of Fringe and The Matchmaker (where I first worked with the wondrous Craig Johnson and Dan Hopman). I remember feeling like it was going to take a million years to get to February, but of course, the year went faster than I thought it would and here I am playing the role of “Kenneth”. I won’t say too much about the part, but it involves a very poignant scene in the play about a young man, a vet from Korea, who never got any breaks upon returning home and has run out of options.

The play itself is perfect in almost every way. I first read it in college when it was fresh off its 2011 Pulitzer Prize and 2012 Tony for Best Play and instantly falling in love with it. Then when I was in New York for the summer of 2012, I was able to catch the show on its original Broadway run (closing weekend no less!)

Clybourne-Park-Playbill-03-11Related to the events of A Raisin in the Sun, Clybourne Park deftly navigates from sobering drama to gut-busting comedy quickly and un-apologetically.  It deals with race and gentrification in ways that leaves no one group spared from a not very PC joke, comment or observation. It is with little surprise then that I say this play is not for those without a sense of humor, but then again, it’s also for those who truly want to engage in a serous conversation about everyday race relations; not about riots and corrupt police, but about the way we handle ourselves in day-to-day interactions with those who are “different” from us. Indeed, these are very powerful subjects that are made easier to swallow by the comfort of laughter.

Clybourne Park runs now until March 6th and I would encourage anybody and everybody to see it! The already incredible script is made even stronger by the cast who never lets you go until the thrilling conclusion. Here’s some more specific info:

  • Directed by Craig Johnson and featuring Laura Esping, Patrick Coyle, Ashley Rose Montondo, Jason Peterson, Dan Hopman, Ricardo Beaird, Vincent Hannam and Joetta Wright.
  • 7:30 p.m. Fri.-Sat., 2 p.m. Sun., 7:30 p.m. Wed.-Thu. Ends March 6.
  • Yellow Tree Threatre, 320 5th Av. SE., Osseo. $15-$25. 763-493-8733, yellowtreetheatre.com