Sweet Home Chicago… (Avenue Project)

Friends, I am so thrilled to let you know that next week I am acting in the world premiere play, John and Shawn’s Summer Vacation, by emerging playwright Lamonte at the Pillsbury House Theatre here in Minneapolis.

You mean you haven’t heard of this play? Or of Lamonte? Well, you will. It may be twenty years from now, but you will! That’s because Lamonte is a playwright with the Chicago Avenue Project – a really wonderful event that teams young children with playwright-mentors to write a play all of their own. The kicker then, is that professional directors and actors are brought on board to bring these visions to life. Leave it to the uninhibited imagination of children to come up with the zaniest stories you’ll ever see. Included in next week’s line-up, for instance are such titles as The Haunted Principal’s Office and Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream. Sounds pretty great, eh? I sure have had a blast bringing my own play to life.

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The theme of this years Chicago Avenue Project.

That play, John and Shawn’s Summer Vacation, concerns two twin brothers who desperately want to go to Disney World but when their mom informs them that they will need to raise the money themselves, they quickly form a plan to mow lawns in the neighborhood. Of course things turn out for the duo but Lamonte has such a keen eye for his age and sense of what he wants (I hope he googles his name one day and reads this), that he is able to develop arcs for both characters in just six pages. For my part, I am trying to have some serious fun singing and dancing to the Mickey Mouse theme song and mowing some tenacious turf to “Eye of the Tiger”.

My show, however, is just one in an evening of ten plays that I would urge everyone to come see! The work put into these scripts is astounding and the kids really do tremendous work and are beyond excited. I mean, they are literally bouncing off the walls every time I see them. Calm down. (But not really.)

Here’s my info below but a link to the whole evening here at Pillsbury House Theatre.

Lamonte’s Play: John and Shawn’s Summer Vacation
Playwright Mentor: James Tyler
Directed by Addie Gorlin
Starring Vincent Hannam and Michael Hanna

NOVEMBER 2 and 3, 2015

MONDAY at 7:00 PM and TUESDAY at 4:00 and 7:00 pm

at Pillsbury House Theatre, 3501 Chicago Avenue S., Minneapolis

Admission is FREE — just show up!

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Ivey! Ivey! Ivey!

Yeah, yeah, yeah, the Ivey Awards were last month so I’m way late on this headline but I figured, “hey, it’s still news worthy right?”  RIGHT? Right.

O.K.

So for those of you who don’t know, the Ivey Awards are the theatre awards given out to honor live, professional theatre in the Twin Cities but unlike the Tony Awards (or any other equivalent ceremonies), there are no nominees and nobody knows the winner of each category until… right… when… it’s… announced. The system is certainly unique and has its critics, but I found it to prevail in the core message of there are no winners or losers, just one big happy family of extremely devoted and ferocious artists. As for Diana and I’s place in that family, we may be knew, but we were soaking it up like nobody’s business with the Girl Friday crew representing our show from the summer, The Matchmaker. No, we didn’t win anything, but remember… it’s not about that 🙂

The Matchmaker (2)

What it WAS about was dressing to the nines and milling around the State Theatre in a huge throng of people in suits and dresses and taking photos and sipping from flasks and just having a blast! Then once we were inside, Diana and I made our way to what we thought were our seats and plunked down in the second row. Yes, we thought it was strange none of our compadres were sitting with us, but hey, we weren’t going to give up these prime seats and we didn’t have to! We really lucked out and were able to witness funny skits, glorious musical numbers and the one and only Joe Dowling accept the Lifetime Achievement Award. Afterwards we ran into Team Matchmaker and only then did our seating faux-pas reveal itself to us.

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Sorry, not sorry!

Following the show, the thespian swarm buzzed over to the after-party where I got to hang out with many good friends and loosen the tie a little bit. They say it’s like “theatre prom” but I had way more fun that night than I did at my actual prom. What I would compare it to would be the closing night ceremonies of the State Thespian Festival back home every year in high school, where you’d have an award ceremony but everyone’s just chomping at the bit to hit the dance floor.

Thespian Festival, 2009
Thespian Festival, circa 2009

Those nights were always so special- and last month’s Ivies brought those same feelings back. I felt extreme gratitude and pride in being a part of such a rich, diverse and HUGE theatre community. Seriously, everyone is so dedicated to making good work here that I am beyond thankful in being able to join in the fun. Can’t wait until next year and all the plays in between!

Ivey Awards

Ivey Awards (2)

Wait Until Dark? But I Want It Now!

Wauuu

This Friday I am opening a production of Wait Until Dark at DalekoArts in New Prague, Minnesota. It’s a charming little theatre nestled in between brick facades on main street that just begs for you to take a peek inside. And what will you find in there? Well, right now I whole lot of lighting instruments, building material, sound equipment, the occasional empty pizza box and a team of devoted artists working tirelessly on this show to get it ready for opening. So come on opening night and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

You’ll laugh! You’ll scream! You’ll find yourself on the edge of your seat in this adaptation by Jeffrey Hatcher, based on the Audrey Hepburn movie of 1967. I have not seen it yet myself, but I am very much looking forward to settling in one October night (so soon!) and putting it on. I hear it is actually quite suspenseful, which it better be because the play certainly is!

The first time I read it I was clutching my hair, eagerly anticipating the finale. Maybe I just love this type of pulp storytelling too much, but if you want to see theatre that is going to fill you with dread then this is it. Set in NYC in 1944, it tells the story of a group of professional thieves trying to get a hold of a certain MacGuffin that happens to be in the possession of a blind woman with enough cunning to give them a run for their money.

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For my part, I get to play Sam, the husband. He’s a photographer who had a rough time over in Italy so he’s back in the States trying to hold down a career and keep his marriage together. To make things worse for the guy, he’s even in the way of the crooks, so they concoct a story to get him out of the picture. And wouldn’t you know it, the poor sap falls for it and leaves his wife alone to fend off the criminals. You’ll be on the edge of your seat just waiting for Sam to come home!

But honestly though, I couldn’t be having a greater time with this show. I love this genre and have always wanted to do something like this. I even get to light and smoke a cigarette on stage! An e-cig, sure, but these are things our imaginations can latch on to and end up having a heckuva lot of fun with. The cast and crew have been stellar, DalekoArts has really been superb to work for and our director, Anne Byrd, is top-notch. There is no good reason to not come out to New Prague between September 11 and October 4 and see Wait Until Dark.

OK, so the show takes a break between September 18-20 but that’s because there is a CZECH FESTIVAL in town so there’s still no excuse to not want to go to New Prague. Really. It’s not that far. There’s even a swanky little wine bar across the street where you’ll find yourself having as much fun as these guys.

And they know how to have fun.

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A Farewell to The Matchmaker

Today saw the closing of my first professional show in the Twin Cities (we did rehearse in Minneapolis and perform in St. Paul, after all), The Matchmaker by Thornton Wilder and I have to say it was a really special one for me. Beyond it being my first, it was the welcome wagon to the incredible theatre scene here. I moved in May 25th and our first read through was the 26th.

It was a gorgeous production from Girl Friday Productions that featured an ensemble of twelve of the best actors I have ever known! The direction was bar-none, of course, and the designers really brought 1880s NYC to life for me. I could go on and on about the experience but I will let this trailer speak to the adventure.

“Even if I have to dig ditches for the rest of my life, I’ll be a ditch-digger who once had a wonderful day!”

Looking for Summer Fun….?

Funbags

Coming this summer to the Minnesota Fringe Festival will be the world premiere of my play, Looking for Fun(Bags), from Up Top Theatre Company!!!

Friends, it has been more than two years since I first cooked up the idea for this play while driving to a rehearsal one night at UCF. My bud, Bryant Hernandez, was in the car with me and we were running late and I posed the question, “What if we tried to reconnect with a past girlfriend but all we really wanted was to just fulfill a certain fantasy that we never got the chance to.”

After we laughed about it, I said, “You know.. there’s a play in there.” Then we laughed some more. While I admit the initial joke was shallow and immature, it did spark an idea about  something that would evolve heart and meaning, with characters I wanted to flesh out and make people care about. Yes, the play is definitely rated R, but my aim is to use that in order to showcase the real struggles we have with relationships and sex these days: The misconceptions, our preconceived notions, and all the false-expectations that are constantly dished out to us through too many sources.

Of course on the other hand, it is also a good old fashioned sex-comedy about four people who have no idea what they are doing and shenanigans ensue.

Therefore, despite the fervent profanity and frank talks of sex, I really think it has a little bit for everyone. Except maybe children. No, definitely not children.

Looking for Fun(Bags) has given me a real playwright’s experience; watching the play evolve, the characters grow, and ultimately being able to share the story with so many people. I remember in Orlando at UCF, we staged a reading of the play and I thought that was the tops. We had a great cast and crew, sound effects, and an audience that really enjoyed the evening. And man, I gotta admit I was a little nervous. What would people think? My reputation! Well, my worries were unfounded because people not only loved it, but gave me extraordinary feedback on how to fine-tune the piece even more.

Now the culmination of that process is the Minnesota Fringe Festival in a land far from Central Florida, but still full of friends and warm-hearted audiences. This play has only ever been possible with those key ingredients and I am forever thankful.

If you want to know even more about the show and would like to consider a financial contribution please click here!

What: Looking for Fun(Bags) by Vincent S. Hannam presented by Up Top Theatre

Where: The Ritz Theater at the Minnesota Fringe Festival

When: 

7/30/15 8:30 PM
8/2/15 2:30 PM
8/7/15 4:00 PM
8/8/15 5:30 PM
8/9/15 7:00 PM

With: Philip Muehe (Director), Sarah Wolf (Stage Manager), Vincent Hannam (Brandon), Alyssa Brooke (Shirley), Mike Swan (Bud), Diana Jurand (Jackie)

The Matchmaker in Minneapolis

I am VERY pleased to finally announce that I will be making my Twin Cities theatre debut this July in Thornton Wilder’s classic, THE MATCHMAKER, from Girl Friday Productions! I will be playing the role of Barnaby Tucker in a large and talented cast, headed by Craig Johnson our director.

Following my year in Lanesboro at the Commonweal Theatre, this is the next step in my career as I make a permanent move to Minneapolis- St. Paul to pursue theatre as an actor, director and writer. I cannot express enough just how pleased I am to be a part of this show- and based on our first read through, it promises to be a hell of a show at that.

Come one, come all to THE MATCHMAKER this summer in the Twin Cities!

For more info, click here: http://www.girlfridayproductions.org/

Girl Friday Productions presents The Matchmaker by Thornton Wilder

Because adventure should be shared!

Directed by Craig Johnson

July 9-26, 2015

Playing on the new Andy Boss Thrust Stage at Park Square Theatre.

“When wealthy merchant Horace Vandergelder engages the services of legendary matchmaker Dolly Levi, he gets much more than he bargained for. Under Dolly’s clever guidance, a swirl of innocent clerks, spirited millineresses, snooty waiters and other eccentric characters become delightfully entangled in 19th century New York. Thornton Wilder’s hilarious farce about love, money and adventure features the signature humanity, wit and relevance of one of America’s greatest playwrights. A tonic for our troubled times, The Matchmaker celebrates the spirit of generosity and living life to the fullest.”