Tag Archives: children’s theatre

Climbing Through the Mouse Hole

“On the road again… I just can’t wait to get on the road again…”

It’s finally happened. I’m doing it and couldn’t be more eager for the sense of adventure and romanticism that lays in store for the next two weeks, as I inhabit that mythical role of the traveling performer. 

And the show? The age-old tale of “Country Mouse, City Mouse” presented as Country Mouse & City Mouse: The Mousical by Grace Weiner and Nikki Tuttle. CLIMB Theatre is the producing company and is based in the Twin Cities. This production, however, is being toured throughout northern Minnesota in a region called the “Arrowhead”. Peppered by lakes and small towns, the region is also known as the Iron Range, thanks to it’s rich mining history. This is a part of the state that is mostly rural and happy to experience events such as plays and music.

Mice

I always say that one of the reasons I make my home as an artist in Minnesota is because of the culture of art that the state actively cultivates. This is thanks, in large part to the Clean Water, Land & Legacy Amendment, that voters passed in 2008.

This in turn allows local libraries in small country towns to afford plays like the one I’m touring now. Parents enjoy it, sure, but the children are obviously the target audience and it’s inspiring to see their little faces light up and learn a lesson or two about acceptance and self-care.

I’m two days in right now and yeah, I’m ready to hit the hay after long hours but it neat to know that exhaustion of the road. Packing in, packing out, swilling gas station coffee and eating cheap hamburgers… like a real traveling actor! Or maybe like a traveling actor circa 1920… regardless, I’m going to fancy myself the regular vaudevillian in the coming weeks.

 

 

 

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Return of Frankenstein!

Speaking of work that gets seen by hundreds upon hundreds of people (assuming you’ve read my previous post), my touring stage adaptation of Frankenstein is once again on the road for the Hampstead Stage Company.

Frankenstein2017-1.jpgAs you remember from last year, I was charged to write this play by my bestie Jay Pastucha (Artistic Director) as they were trying to integrate more material for high schools/ young adults. The feedback was really great and with that jolt of confident (and a bigger budget), Jay and I were inspired to revamp the script and add… wait for it… a third character! And what’s more, cast a woman! What an insane concept, right? 

Jokes aside, we found that to tell a one-act version of Frankenstein with two people, for children, was a little restricting in our own creativity. We resolved, therefore, to actually write in the character of Elizabeth, rather than have her represented by hard-to-hear voice overs. To use a monster metaphor, there is just so much more meat on the bones, with characters, intentions and scenes fleshed out to a point that I can comfortably be proud of as a playwright.

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Last year’s Frankenstein. Hampstead Stage Company. Directed by Austen Edwards with Robert Wright III and Patrick Sylvester.

Currently the show is being toured throughout New England and the Midwest, but not just to schools. Hampstead Stage is great in that they are willing to perform for anyone anywhere. Productions that I’m excited about were staged at the Heartwood Regional Theatre Company in Newcastle, Maine and FrankenFest in Indianapolis.

Praise to Jay and managing director, Anna Lynn Robbins, for believing in the show enough to take a risk on improving the show. In a world controlled by bottom lines, it is a beautiful thing to make art for art’s sake on such a scale. So if you’re looking for a short yet explosive adaptation of Frankenstein, let me know! I don’t know if it will hit the road again next year on tour, but it won’t be the last you’ll see of Victor and the Monster (oh, and Liz now too). 

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I’m afraid Elizabeth just can’t catch a break.

 

 

When Work is Play

Whenever people or the IRS ask what my occupation is, I do say “actor”. That’s what my training was in and I’m fortunate enough to often be cast in something or another. While my occupation may be “actor”, that’s not exactly how I “make my living”, i.e. making the money I need to literally survive. Yes, I have a “day job” (lots of quotes in this one) but fortunately that job isn’t something I hate and in fact, it’s at a theatre company! The National Theatre for Children, to be exact, here in Minneapolis.

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Communications Rep and sometimes director (it’s cold in Minnesota, what?)

As a company, NTC works with clients in the corporate world to provide schools free educational plays based on that client’s message. So for instance, if a big utility company has money allotted to spend on community outreach, NTC will provide just what they’re looking for – a play to teach students the finer points of energy conservation. So what do I do during the week, Monday through Friday? More often than not, I’m on the phone’s calling prospective schools and simply trying to get a dubious principal or harried secretary to book the show.

I’m going on my third year now, and while it’s all pretty routine at this point, once in a while I get to shake things up and jump over to the production department where all the magic happens.

That was the case this month when I was asked to direct my second show for the company. Last year I jumped in the deep end with The Conservation Caper and this year I tackled The Energized Guyz. Both plays are by in-house playwright, Jon Mikkelsen, and while it ain’t fine art, the scripts are actually rather clever and quick-witted. My two actors, in turn, were committed to the material and over the course of a week’s rehearsal, they managed to continuously crack me up. Trust me, that is high praise when you’ve seen your same show for the umpteenth time! Below is a great example of exactly the show I handled. 

As an actor, I really do make the effort to practice other aspects of my field. Not only do I recognize the benefits that directing has for me as a performer, but I do like directing and it’s a nice change of pace when those opportunities arise. Thankfully, I work for a theatre company that allows me to stretch those muscles and funny enough, as The Energized Guyz tours throughout northern Ohio, being seen my hundreds upon hundreds of students, it’s gotta be the most viewed work I’ve ever done!

 

A Triple Play

A couple weeks ago I was simultaneously involved in three different productions, wearing three distinct hats: actor, playwright and director. I love it when this happens! Even though it’s only happened once before… nonetheless it counts in my mind as being a bonafide triple threat. If I can’t dance or sing then I gotta give ’em something else.

In this case I didn’t have to go far to find my chair as a director. For those of you who don’t know I’m actually not a full-time actor and do have a day job to sustain my daily ragers. I’m what they call a “desk-jockey” at the National Theatre for Children, who’s mission is to provide free educational theatre to the youths of America. It’s actually a pretty great company who has had a presence in schools now for decades.

I’ve been with them for a year now and as actors were being hired and tours developed I had to the notion to break free from the cubicle world and actually get involved on the creative end. The production manager went for it and I was assigned to direct the show, The Conservation Caper. A 25 minute two-hander that follows a superhero-in-training named Nikki Neutron as she learns (and consequently teaches us) all about energy technology and conservation. It ain’t winning any awards but it’s does have a slick script and my actors and I had a ball improvising a ton of comedic bits.

The gig itself only last a week (including my Labor Day – what gives?) and was only down the hall from from my regular-programmed job, but it was a great experience and I relished the chance to do something creative with my days. The show itself ended up being great and my actors, Sasha and Katie, are currently somewhere in North Carolina inspiring and educating the little ones.