Tag Archives: plays

Vincent Hannam Goes to the Dark Side (Guest Blog)

This blog was written and originally posted by my colleague Ting Ting Cheng for Park Square Theatre on the theatre’s own website. You can read it here.

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In Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, Vincent Hannam plays the cruel and menacing Curley, the boss’ son at the ranch where migrant workers George and Lennie have just arrived. Upon their first encounter, George immediately sizes him up as a “son-of-a-bitch.” It’s an accurate assessment supported by the older ranch hand Candy’s description:

“. . . . Curley’s like a lot of little guys. He hates big guys. He’s all a time pickin’ scraps with big guys. Kinda like he’s mad at ’em because he ain’t a big guy. You seen little guys like that, ain’t you–always scrappy?”

Curley’s insecurity is also evident in his controlling nature toward his new wife. He treats her like a prized possession to show off as a testimony of his power and masculinity. She’s forbidden to talk to the workers, but she does so behind his back anyway, which simply highlights his lack thereof.

Vincent himself lacks admiration for his character, describing Curley as “a punk and a brat, used to getting his own way” and “a bully.” To play Curley three-dimensionally, though, he needed to find even a shred of sympathy for him. To do so, Vincent built a backstory that explores Curley’s familial relationships. He asked questions, such as: In what way does Curley really care about his wife or his father? Why is his mother never mentioned? Did he grow up without one? How might that have impacted his relationship with his father? Did his father give him the attention that he needed?

Despite being the mean antagonist in Of Mice and Men, Vincent is having a blast on the set. He basically gets to play cowboy, wearing Western boots and a hat and getting into fights.“Hate and love are close emotions,” Vincent said. “Sometimes the only way that some people can express love is through hatred.”

“It’s also a fun change of pace to show that villainous side,” admitted Vincent, who has played plenty of “good” characters throughout his career.

“There’s nothing like being on stage, connecting with someone and doing a scene,” Vincent said of acting, but he is also a multi-talented theatre professional who directs, writes and teaches. Amongst his other skills are the ability to do Chewbacca and Godfather impressions and to whistle (but not simultaneously).

As my fellow Park Square blogger, I know Vincent as a lighthearted, easygoing individual. But I can’t wait to see him unveil his dark side as Curley in Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. Bring it on!

 

Ting Ting Cheng
Ting Ting Cheng joined Park Square Theatre’s Front of House staff in 2014. Born in Hong Kong and raised in Los Angeles, she became a Minnesotan after graduating from Carleton College with a B.A. in English Literature. She loves live theatre and has a passion for writing.
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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.

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.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

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

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

Feed My Frankenstein

Super duper uber excited to share with the world that the fundraising campaign for my play, Frankenstein, is… wait for it… alive!

Okay, just had to get the puns out of the way there before you think that this adaptation is anything close to cheesy or corny. We’ve all seen those movies and cheap Halloween costumes so why would I create something even close to that? This adaptation is as true to the original novel as I could make it, keeping in line with all the themes of mortality, religion and self-being. Only one act, the classic story is told with two actors, who along with the whole creative team, are dedicated to keeping everything as grounded as possible.

Frank 1 for paper

As the playwright, though, I have to give all the credit to the Hampstead Stage Company who commissioned the piece and is producing it as part of their Young Adult series this fall. With a focus on middle and high schools, the play will be toured throughout New England at a theatre near you.

My friends at Hampstead have been working tirelessly to get the project off the ground and now as we’re about to start production, we come to the final stage of preparedness; raising the last amount of funds we need! I can go on and on about how important I think the mission of Hampstead is but fortunately, the Artistic Director and Company Manager have made a hand-dandy video that explains everything so much better than me.

Please take a look and consider donating to a company who really takes advantage of theatre to affect the lives of both young and old. Let me know too, if you would like to know more about either Frankenstein or Hampstead as a whole, because there is so much to this company than my little old play.