Tag Archives: St. Paul

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.

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.

 

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.

Ivey Awards (1)
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)