Tag Archives: Minnesota

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.

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

 

 

 

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The Oresteia Strikes Back

For those of you who are interested, the adaption of The Oresteia that I was in last year is actually being published! The original is by Aeschylus, of course, but Minnesota writer and poet, Rob Hardy, turned the trilogy of Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers, and The Eumenides into one action-packed narrative.

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I think it’s pretty good and will definitely be getting my own copy, which includes a forward about the original production from Hero Now Theatre. Fun fact, this is the first time I have been listed as an actor in a published script!

Check it out here at http://heronowtheatre.org/store/

 

Romeo: Ah, Dear Juliet…

In just a few weeks I will have the enormous pleasure to portray Romeo in Mission Theatre Company’s Romeo and Juliet!

The show is directed by Penelope Parsons-Lord and will be at the Crane Theater in Minneapolis from June 2 – 17. What excites me most about doing this show is the chance to breathe some freshness into a story we all know. We all know what “violent delights” brings at the play’s conclusion, but what I’m challenged to do as a performer, is make you completely forget that the ending is as inevitable as all that.

That is my challenge and my joy. Romeo to me is not only a young lover but the embodiment of a love we all wish we knew. Whether it’s been lost or never had, that kind of undying, passionate, over-the-moon love is so beautiful and (whether it exists or not) the idea of it is enough to make us burst with emotion. Those feelings are certainly fueling Romeo’s desires, but it’s also the very real stakes of the play that really drive it all home.

Romeo and Juliet are two characters constantly fighting for what they believe in since it seems everyone is against these two people simply being together. Their parents, the government, even the freakin’ stars. I’m simplifying, of course, but by boiling it all down to the basic “what is this about”, you really expose the absurdity those aforementioned obstacles. Why can’t people live and let live? Why can’t love just be pure and innocent? Why do people and governments feel as if they have a right to butt into other people’s private affairs?

Romeo, therefore, is a truly hopeless romantic. He is a good person, a stand-up guy who is well liked and only wants to marry the girl of his dreams and yet… he is killed, thereby causing the death of his equally innocent counterpart, Juliet. Now that is some fickle shit from ye old Fate. Nonetheless, that is life after all and the tragedy the play presents. To present a show just about two angsty teenagers who kill themselves would be absolutely unbearable to watch. No, what the play is about is why they come to the conclusion that this is the only way out. How suffocating does a situation have to become for someone to take such drastic actions? When you look at the play that way (and most plays, really) it is as compelling and riveting a story as any in the canon.

I’m so grateful to be telling this story to audiences and doing so with a truly remarkable team, both on stage and off. It may be Romeo and Juliet but they are only as good as the ensemble around them.

 

From Mission Theatre Company:

You think you know the story of two star-crossed lovers who took their lives… but there is so much more than the title characters; there’s something bright, attractive, and urgently relevant about this play when fearlessly performed. And that is what this production will bring to audiences. We will aim to look specifically at unending cycles of violence, at the people it affects, and that violence is NEVER self-contained; violence breeds violence. This production will be ambitious, brave, fast, funny, and relentlessly tragic.

Showtimes:
Friday, June 2 @ 7:30pm
Saturday, June 3 @ 7:30pm
Sunday, June 4 @ 2:00pm
Monday, June 5 @ 7:30pm
Thursday, June 8 @ 7:30pm
Friday, June 9 @ 7:30pm
Saturday, June 10 @ 7:30pm
Monday, June 12 @ 7:30pm
Thursday, June 15 @ 7:30pm
Friday, June 16 @ 7:30pm
Saturday, June 17 @ 7:30 pm

Featuring:
Eric Balcerzak as Lord Capulet
Tyus Beeson as Tybalt
Michael Terrell Brown as Balthazar/Ensemble
Gary Danciu as Friar
Caitlin Featherstone as Ensemble/Dance Captain
Vincent Hannam as Romeo
Ashley Hovell as Benvolio
Tamara Koltes as Mercutio
Jason Kornelis as Prince/Ensemble
Bethany McHugh as Juliet
Stanzi Schalter as Friar John/Ensemble
John Stark as Paris
Anneliese Stuht as Nurse
Maggie Mae Sulentic as Ensemble/Fight Captain
Andrea Rose Tonsfeldt as Montague/Ensemble
Amy Vickroy as Lady Capulet

Technical Team:
Penelope Parsons-Lord: Director
Ellen DeYoung: Stage Manager
Tony Stoeri: Lighting Designer
Leazah Behrens: Set Designer
Steve Herzog: Sound Designer
Penelope Parsons-Lord: Costume Designer
Krista Weiss: Assistant Costume Designer
Michael Kelley: Fight Choreographer
Andrea Rose Tonsfeldt: Hair/Makeup Designer
Turi Jystad: Assistant Stage Manager

All Aboard The Ghost Train

With every blog I write here, I try my darndest to make the title as clever a pun as possible. I consider this in the spirit of good journalism. I also consider this in the spirit of my current show, The Ghost Train, which lends itself to a litany of loco locomotive puns.

  • Wow, that rehearsal really went off the rails.
  • But don’t worry, we’re right on track.
  • That was my train of thought.
  • Full steam ahead!
  • And my personal favorite – chug life.

Now in case you’re still thinking The Ghost Train is a serious commentary on the state of the U.S. infrastructure, let me clarify even further by saying that it’s about a band of disparate travelers who’s night train has broken down, leaving them stranded at a rural station in northern Maine. This is no ordinary train station mind you… in fact, it is HAUNTED by a paranormal locomotive that drives any witness to madness. The travelers must then put aside their personal troubles to solve the mystery and save the day.

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For my part, I play Charles, a newly married young man who would love nothing more than to get to his honeymoon hotel. Believe me, those are some pretty high stakes but don’t get too caught up in the details, this play is just plain fun.

Aiding in the irreverence is the time period in which The Ghost Train was written. The play, by Arnold Ridley, is full-on 1920s and premiered in London in 1923, running sold-out for over a year. In the subsequent decades it was made into several movies and established the trope of “strangers who get stranded and have to come together to defeat something bigger than themselves.” I would also say that William Hanna and Joseph Barbera were probably familiar with this play when they produced Scooby-Doo – there are so many of the same conventions!*

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My personal favorite rendition of the “people stranded together” story – the haunted train episode of Hey, Arnold!

With such a history, it escapes me as to how I’ve never heard of this play. It may be almost a hundred years old but the humor is astoundingly fresh; it’s silly and absurd what some of these characters do in the midst of a haunted train station.

This production also promises to offer a unique perspective on the play. Produced by Wayward Theatre Company and Mission Theatre Company, the show is be performed in partnership with the Minnesota Transportation Museum in St. Paul. The museum itself is in an old train depot and includes actual train cars! It’s super cool and brings a level of authenticity to the hi-jinks abounding. Definitely look into it and come to the show early enough to be able to look around the place and seeing some really interesting bits of history, when trains were the only practical mode of transportation.

You can do that soon when The Ghost Train pulls into the station on March 31st!

Choo Choo.

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*Joe Ruby and Ken Spears were the actual creators of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!, so in all fairness to them, it was probably they who were inspired by The Ghost Train.

 

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

 

Merry Christmas, ya Filthy Animal

With the turning of the calendar into November, I guess you can finally say that it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Especially if you’re in the theatre world, you’re either currently rehearsing a holiday show or determining when you can go see A Christmas Carol (I’ve got two right now – A Christmas Carole Petersen at Theatre Latte Da and A Christmas Carol at the Commonweal Theatre).

Gratefully, I am also in the first camp, although what I’m rehearsing is a little different than the familiar Dickens tale. This play is by Adam Hummel and called Snowed Inn. No, not Snowden, but Snowed_Inn. Not only is it a pun, but it’s also hilarious, telling the story of a disillusioned Hollywood screenwriter returning to his family inn in rural Minnesota on Christmas Eve, 1932. Like all good screwball comedies, of course, events quickly spire out of control when a mobster and his moll crash the party looking to run some hooch into Minneapolis. The play is a wonderful tribute to those romantic comedies of the ’30s as well as the classic gangster movies that I love so so so much!

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In fact, I get to play the role of the gangster! His name is “Dutch” and he’s got his own work cut out for him; trying to keep his cool and get promoted up the ranks with no help from his dizzy dame of a girlfriend, Flossy. Although I don’t get to say any of the famous lines, I do get to wear a fantastic suit and play the part of so many of my favorite actors. Certainly James Cagney and Edward G. Robinson, but I’d throw in George Raft, Humphrey Bogart and Paul Muni as well.

With that said, you can bet in addition to learning my part, I’ve taken this as a perfect opportunity to reacquaint myself with those pictures. Back in high school I went through a phase and now own about a dozen of them. Classics like The Public Enemy, Little Caesar, White Heat, Angels with Dirty Faces, The Petrified Forest, and Each Dawn I Die. Whew, even the titles are enough to set your imagination running!

All that is to say, of course, that I’m really stoked about this one and want to share it with as many people as possible. It’s directed by Ben Thietje and is at DalekoArts in New Prague, Minnesota. It’s really not that far (this is where I did Wait Until Dark last year) and with a cast of goofballs having the kind of fun we are, it’s definitely worth it. With such a quirky mix of holiday cheer, fun and thrills how can you resist?

SNOWED INN
a DalekoArts original holiday show
by Adam Hummel
directed by Ben Thietje Nov 25 – Dec 18, 2016
Fridays & Saturdays @ 7:30pm
Sundays @ 2:00pm

After failed screenwriter Archie Ježek leaves the glitz and glamour of 1930s Hollywood to return to the small, Minnesota town where he grew up to run the family hotel, his dreams of a quiet, steady Midwestern life quickly devolve to madcap holiday hijinks and mayhem. Featuring a cast of zany characters and silver screen slapstick, Snowed Inn is a family-friendly Christmas card celebrating your favorite classic films and the nostalgia of holidays past.

It’s another DalekoArts original holiday show!

DalekoArts recommends SNOWED INN for ages 13 and up.

Cast
Bobby Gardner*
Susan J Gerver
Vincent Hannam
Lindy Jackson
Zakary Morton
Dann Peterson
Emily Wrolson

Production
Jane Ryan (sets)
Kurt Jung (lights)
Elin Anderson (costumes)
Abbee Warmboe (props/scenic painter)*
Ben Thietje (sound)*
Janice Geis (stage manager)
Trevor Muller-Hegel (technical director)

*denotes company member

What is Love?

I LOVE announcing this bit of news about an upcoming production of my ten minute play, Jay & Julia!

Directed by my good friend and theatrical maestro, Philip Muehe (of Looking for Fun(Bags) fame), the play is part of a larger evening of theatre called “It Is Love” that aims to explore the various ways in which love is expressed. Big stuff, right? It promises to be hilarious and touching. No pun intended.

I should also say that the show is produced by In Heart Theatre, a new company in Rochester, Minnesota co-founded by Muehe and Amanda Pyfferoen. I would definitely suggest checking out their rad IndieGoGo campaign here and consider donating towards the production of “It Is Love”!

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Poster design by Joanna Walters

As for my own play in the cycle, Jay & Julia concerns a newlywed blue jay couple who are dealing with the trials and tribulations that come with a not-necessarily-planned marriage. They’re trying to make their nest a home and keep everything together when they’re suddenly faced with an intruder and an uncertain future. I would say it’s both funny and bitter.

Come see it! It runs Thursday, Dec 8th thru Saturday, Dec 10th at the Rochester Repertory Theatre.

And consider helping out independent, local and kick ass theatre!!!