Friday, July 20, 2018

A Weekend in the Country - Great River Shakespeare Festival

Y'all, we can NOT say enough good things about the Great River Shakespeare Festival, now in its 15th season (June 22 - August 5). You still have a few weekends to travel down to beautiful Winona and see some amazing theater and thoughtful programming.

A bit of background on the Great River Shakespeare Festival from the Welcome statement in the season program:
"Everything we do at Great River Shakespeare Festival aspires to create conversations with and among our company and audience....We start with Shakespeare because, of any work of art we could choose, Shakespeare's plays give us the best chance to inspire deeply nuanced, complicated, unexpected conversations that embrace with compassion the universal experience of being human and welcome every person into that conversation with their own unique and valuable perspective....At this moment, we need the honest give and take of real conversation more than ever."
Melissa Maxwell, Anna Sundberg and Christopher Peltier in
Shakespeare in Love (Dan Norman)
This dedication to conversation is not mere lip service. In addition to presenting four mainstage productions, the festival also includes a wealth of concerts, conversations, workshops, classes and other opportunities to connect with the community.

Friends, we LOVE the theater festival experience. Shows are performed by a company, in repertory, so in a matter of days, you have the opportunity to see the same actors performing different roles in several plays. Not only is it a super impressive feat of acting, but you get the opportunity to really see an actor's range. We have become devotees of  Wisconsin's American Players Theatre, and the Stratford Festival in Canada should be on every avid theatergoer's bucket list. But Great River Shakespeare Festival is right in our backyard, and it's a gem not to be missed!

Sweet Shakes-swag
In their 15th season, GRSF is featuring four mainstage plays: All's Well That Ends Well, Shakespeare in Love, and A Midsummer Night's Dream, with Venus in Fur playing in the black box theater. They're also presenting an intern/apprentice production of The Merchant of Venice, which sadly wasn't playing the weekend we attended. We saw the three mainstage productions, missing only Venus in Fur, which luckily, our friends Cherry and Spoon and Twin Cities Stages saw.

In order to get the full festival experience, we started our visit to GRSF on a Saturday morning with one of their Front Porch Conversations. These are "moderated discussions with artists, academics, and fellow community members to more deeply explore the themes and ideas that begin in the theater."

Our Front Porch Conversation was with Tonia Sina on Intimacy Directing: Creating Safe Spaces On and Off Stage. Tonia Sina is one of the founders of Intimacy Directors International, which is dedicated to "choreographing of Moments of Intimacy in performance. The focus is on subtle and specific details in movement and intention, for the purpose of telling the story of the scene." Sina was invited to GRSF for a series of intensive workshops and talks, and her work is absolutely fascinating and so relevant. We will discuss her work more extensively in an accompanying blog post.
All's Well That Ends Well (Dan Norman)
But on to the theater! Our first play, on Saturday afternoon, was All's Well That Ends Well. This is a Shakespeare play we'd never seen before, which is always exciting. Here's the story (summary from GRSF website):
All’s Well That Ends Well explores how we can grow up under pressure. In this play, we find Helena, a poor orphan, in love with Bertram, the son of a count. When Helena saves the life of the King of France, he grants her permission to marry whomever she chooses, and she chooses Bertram. Unfortunately, Bertram thinks Helena is beneath him, and abruptly leaves her. What follows is a “problem play,” a story of forgiveness, grace, and learning to have humility as we mature which is as messy and beautiful as a life well lived.
Christopher Peltier and Caroline Amos in All's Well
That Ends Well (Dan Norman)
Directed by Rick Barbour, All's Well featured strong performances across the board. Standouts include Caroline Amos as Helena and Melissa Maxwell as the Countess of Rossillion, Bertram's mother, both of whom make Shakespeare's characters emotionally accessible and relevant. We were utterly amazed by Zach Curtis's performance as the ailing King of France, and his physical transformation when his character regains his health and power. Parolles ("a boastful follower of Bertram"), played by Christopher Gerson, added comic relief touched with poignancy. The spare set, exquisite lighting, and costuming all created a timeless feel to this play. One element we loved was the director's handling of the end of the play, wherein he creates a powerful demonstration of forgiveness.

On Saturdays, between the matinee and the evening performance, GRSF offers a Narrated Set Changeover, where audience members are invited to stay and watch the transformation from set to set. We didn't stay for this, but it sounds super interesting.

This year, GRSF has Concerts on the Green an hour and a half before every performance. We listened to music (Burke Band/Patina according to the handy bookmark of events for the weekend), grabbed a Winona Burrito from a food truck, enjoyed an Island City Radler in the wee beer garden and headed off to our evening show.

Christopher Peltier and Benjamin Boucvalt in
Shakespeare in Love (Dan Norman)
We had seen Shakespeare in Love at Chicago Shakespeare Festival a few years ago, and weren't overwhelmed by it. But we gave it another chance, and found it very enjoyable. Based on the screenplay for the 1998 film by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard, and adapted for the stage by Lee Hall, the play tells a fictional story of William Shakespeare's love affair with noblewoman Viola De Lesseps, who dresses as a man to become an actor and inspires some of the playwright's greatest works.
"I will have poetry in my life. And adventure. And love. Love above all."
Twin Cities favorite Anna Sundberg (now based in NYC) plays Viola De Lesseps with zeal and affection, and Christopher Peltier makes a charming William Shakespeare. Again, the cast is uniformly excellent with a definite standout in Benjamin Boucvalt, who creates such a roguish, irrepressible Kit Marlowe that we definitely felt the loss when his character disappears from the play. Christopher Gerson gives another hilarious performance as Fennyman, the producer who learns to love the theater and his small role in it.

Shakespeare in Love (Dan Norman)
Director Doug Scholz-Carlson and choreographer Brenna Mosser do an amazing job with a spare but evocative set (by R. Eric Stone), keeping the cast in constant motion, which created an incredibly energetic and dynamic production. It was particularly compelling to watch the themes of love and intimacy on- and off-stage play out after hearing Tonia Sina discuss intimacy direction. Our huge kudos to GRSF for bringing her to Winona and addressing these issues so directly.

On Sunday morning, after Cherry and Spoon ran the Will Run (a 28-furlong race around Lake Winona hosted annually by GRSF--with the CUTEST tee shirts), we joined some of the company at Blooming Grounds coffee shop for a Company Conversation with Tonia Sina, Artistic Director Doug Scholz-Carlson, Managing Director Aaron A. Young, and Marketing & Sales Director Eileen Moeller. They put it on Facebook Live, so you can see it below!


This was another fascinating discussion of intimacy on the stage, and what makes it truly unique is that it was open to the public, but also included members of the GRSF company, so the discussion was wide-ranging and still very relevant. We feel so fortunate to have come down to GRSF this weekend and have to been introduced to the world of intimacy direction.

A Midsummer Night's Dream (Dan Norman)
And then, all too soon, it was our last show of the weekend: A Midsummer Night's Dream, directed by Beth Gardiner, with an eight-person cast, all of whom were exceptional. Benjamin Boucvalt, Andrew Carlson, Anique Clements, Zach Curtis, Antonio Duke, Leah Gabriel, Silas Sellnow, and Anna Sundberg were ALL fantastic. Apart from being an utterly lovely, lyrical production, we have to call out the wonderful costumes by Rebecca Bernstein. From Puck's gorgeous screen-printed coat, to the fantastic (literally) Bottom head/hat, to Hippolyta's power suit, to Peter Quince's foreman ensemble, the costumes perfectly delineated each character, as the actors made quick-change transformations. We adored Zach Curtis as Puck and Silas Sellnow as Bottom, and were delighted to learn that they had been intended for each other's parts.

A Midsummer Night's Dream
(Dan Norman)
The entire company and creative team at Great River Shakespeare Festival is outstanding. We loved having the opportunity to see a number of varied and delightful performances by wonderful actors (so lovely to see Zach Curtis again), and we loved the racial diverseness of the company (always love seeing Antonio Duke and we appreciated new--to us--discovery Anique Clement).

Friends, put Great River Shakespeare Festival on your theater to-do list. Winona is a lovely small town, it's not terribly far from the Twin Cities, and the theater? Is unbeatable.

We'll leave you with these words from Doug Scholz-Carlson and Aaron A. Young's Welcome statement:
"We offer instead a few stories. ... You'll certainly need your brain, but this summer you will use it in service of your heart. We won't untangle all the great issues of the day, but in this little corner of the world, for the fifteenth summer, let's have a conversation."

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Must-Sees at the 2018 Minnesota Fringe Festival

At last count there were 137 shows in the Minnesota Fringe Festival 2018, but fear not! We are here to help you sort through the copious offerings

First, note that this year's Fringe is limited to just two main areas: The Northeast Hub and the Cedar-Riverside Hub. Easier parking, navigating and yay, no Uptown! 

Secondly, you should follow our friend Cherry and Spoon, who dives into Fringe with admirable enthusiasm and has lots of useful advice for Fringe newbies. Check out the rest of the Twin Cities Theater Bloggers on Facebook for even more Fringey goodness.

Third, don't forget to utilize the My Account feature on the Fringe website to keep track of your favorites and plan your schedules. It's immeasurably helpful, as are the tags that classify each show.

And now, here's our highly personal list of the shows we can't wait to see at the Fringe. (Text in italics is from the Fringe website.) 

IT'S A MUSICAL! 


Couple Fight: The Musical! by Weggel-Reed Productions
In Short: Real couples reenacting their real fights as a fully-fledged musical review. Enjoy new couples and returning favorites perform never-before-seen fights made palatable by clever writing and inspiring music.
Venue: Rarig Center Thrust
Why We're In: This year's Couple Fight now features music by Keith Hovis AND includes Max Wojtanowicz. Who would have thought this crowd-pleasing Fringe favorite could be even more delightful?


Not Fair, My Lady! by Colleen Somerville Productions
In Short: Not Fair, My Lady! is an all-woman, company-created musical theatre parody review! It's 2018 and misogyny is alive and well on Broadway. And in the world. Everywhere. Let's...sing about it! Shit.
Venue: Mixed Blood Theatre
Why We're In: Ticks all our favorite things boxes, has a great cast and its creators include Shanan Custer. Yes, please.


In Short: Weaving in original pop musical numbers and sci-fi romantic comedy, Proof! follows lonely office temp Zoe as a bad date, too much to drink, and an alien abduction force her to rise up and save the world.
Venue: Augsburg Studio
Why We're In: The premise sounds adorable and it's a musical. Also, who among us has not suspected that their humdrum work life masks the fact that they have "been selected by a desperate alien race to be the test subject of their soul-harvesting experiment." Just us? Oh, okay.

The Breakfast Club: The Musical! by FredPictures
In Short: An entirely sung-through adaptation of the beloved and iconic teen movie classic, The Breakfast Club, featuring all original '80s-style music.
Venue: Southern Theater
Why We're In: Because it's The Breakfast Club: The Musical. Enough said. Oh, and a great cast/crew including Denzel Belin, Dorothy Owen and Matt Tatone.

HORROR AT THE FRINGE:
Minnesota Fringe Festival is giving the Twin Cities Horror Festival (TCHF) a run for its money with its delightful horror-y selections. Check out these spoooooky shows!


Blood Nocturne by The Winding Sheet Outfit
In Short: You may have heard of that Hungarian Countess. Killed 650 virginal girls. Tortured and maimed them. Bathed in their blood. That is the story we know. Because that is the story the world has chosen to hear.
Venue: Southern
Why We're In: We loved The Memory Box of the Sisters Fox by The Winding Sheet Outfit, and the subject sounds fascinating.

Far Away by Caryl Churchill by Wayward Theatre Company
In Short: Cloaked in complacency, Far Away sinks the audience into a dystopian future begging the question: where do you stand? It’s a haunting premonition of a not so distant future with horror, humor and live music.
Venue: Rarig Center Arena
Why We're In: We saw Far Away years ago at Pillsbury House Theatre and the production was memorably haunting and disturbing. Can't wait to see it again. Plus, Wayward's been doing some great site-specific work around town.


Geminae by Oncoming Productions
In Short: Astronaut Cassie Matheson is in orbit, and she's doomed. With nothing left to lose, she discovers there is nothing to hold her back... except the sister who won't let her go.
Venue: Southern Theater
Why We're In: We've loved Oncoming Productions's haunting, sensory-rich work, like Deep Dark at TCHF and The Last Bombardment at Fringe. Also, we can't get enough of shows about sisters.


Sidesplitting by Ruckus Productions
In Short: Laugh, scream, and try to survive a killer comedy fueled by 80s nostalgia and the terror of throwing together a comedy show in 3 months. Join us for a gut-busting tale of violence, blood and teenage hormones!
Venue: Theatre in the Round
Why We're In: It had us at the description. 80s nostalgia AND "all the horror characters you know and love in a night of raucous bloodshed."


The Moirologist by Life-sized Meme Productions
In Short: John Morton is a professional mourner with Fond Farewells Funeral services. He makes a profit off of other peoples' grief. As a rule, he never mixes business with personal life, but that turns out to be tough.
Venue: Ritz Theater Mainstage
Why We're In: Incredibly intriguing and unique premise. Possibly a hard watch (there is a trigger warning), but professional mourning? Um, yes from these granddaughters of a cemetery superintendent.


The Mysterious Old Radio Listening Society Versus the Nazis by Mysterious Old Radio Listening Society
In Short: Join the Society for two classic World War II era thrillers from the golden age of radio, performed in the style of an old-time radio broadcast, including original announcements, commercials and sound effects.
Venue: Rarig Center Thrust
Why We're In: Because we are big fans of The Mysterious Old Radio Listening Society podcast, which is a practically perfect podcast. (Seriously: If you're creating a podcast, listen to MORLS. They do everything right.)

LITERARY CLASSICS REIMAGINED:

Deep in The 100 Acre Woods: A "Pooh"-dunnit? by Fearless Comedy Productions
In Short: A film noir, murder mystery set in the nitty gritty 1930's with the loveable characters of Winnie-the-Pooh.
Venue: Minnsky Theatre
Why We're In: There is SO MUCH HAPPENING in this description. This show has EVERYTHING. Also, Gregory Parks.


Eddie Poe by The Coldharts
In Short: A stand-alone sequel to the 2014 and 2015 smash hit 'Edgar Allan'... Sixteen-year-old Edgar Allan has one goal: to gain mastery over his subjects at the University of Virginia. He has one obstacle: Eddie Poe.
Venue: Ritz Theater Mainstage
Why We're In: Cause we love The Coldharts as they do weird and adorable musical shows. And, we're intrigued to see what's changed in this iteration of Eddie Poe since we saw it at TCHF.


The Screaming Skull by Ghoulish Delights, LLC
In Short: In this one-man adaptation of F. Marion Crawford's classic ghost story, a sailor spends a stormy night descending into drink and madness, haunted by the cries of a woman he may have inadvertently helped murder.
Venue: Rarig Center Thrust
Why We're In: Literary adaptation? Ghost story? Sound effects by three actors? You got us.

SITE-SPECIFIC GOODNESS:


Have You Seen This Girl? by Mermaid Productions
In Short: 16 yr old Annie Parks left for school on May 3rd and didn't come home that evening. Join us as we visit popular spots for runaways on the West Bank to find her and bring her safely home.
Venue: Hard Times Cafe
Why We're In: Because of this: "The Watch is planning a series of group walks in August to popular spots for runaways around the West Bank. If we are lucky, the locals in the area might be willing to talk with us and point us in the right direction. Come help us find her and bring her safely home." Site-specific and a fascinating premise.


The Member of Some Gods by Impossible Salt
In Short: Welcome! We've got good news & bad news. The bad news: you're dead. The good news? You can live forever! It's confusing, but we'll guide you through it. Watch out for crocs, & whatever you do, DON'T die again!
Venue: Casket Arts Building
Why We're In: "The audience—souls of the departed—must survive a trip through the underworld to gain eternal life." Site-specific, devised and Gregory Parks. Yes, please.

Let's DANCE!


BollyProv: NOT a Dance Drama! by Bollywood Dance Scene
In Short: Bollywood Dance Scene brings you personal stories of Immigration, assimilation, and more from the community. A new story every show, with some music, dance and improv. It's something different this year!
Venue: Ritz Theater Mainstage
Why We're In: Because what could be more relevant and important than stories of immigration. Also, Bollywood dance!


Book of Shadows by Erin Sheppard Presents
In Short: With witchcraft as the underlying theme, spells are cast through dance and storytelling. Dances range in style from hip hop to lyrical while spells written by a 13-year-old Taj Ruler tie each piece together.
Venue: Theatre in the Round
Why We're In: Although we saw this already at TCHF, Erin Sheppard's unique blend of narrative, dance and amazing musical choices are well worth seeing again. Plus, it's a nice prelude to Sheppard's Book of Shadows II, coming up at this year's TCHF.


Zombies And Pirouettes by Pacific Midwest Ballet
In Short: A wedding takes a horrific turn as guests start eating each other. Dancing zombies hunt the survivors while the separated newlyweds desperately seek to be reunited. Will they find each other alive?
Venue: Southern Theater
Why We're In: We love dance with a strong narrative thread. And also? ZOMBIES.

DINOSAURS, MOVIES AND SUPERHEROES (Not All at Once):


What To Do In Case Of Dinosaur Attack by Monster Science Productions
In Short: Reverend Matt's talk provides the comedy jokes, real science facts, and instructive PowerPoint you need about how to defend yourself from dinosaurs of all kinds - predators and herbivores, real and cinematic!
Venue: Mixed Blood Theatre
Why We're In: Because of this: "So! You find yourself being attacked by a dinosaur. It happens to all of us at one time or another. The first thing you need to do: panic! The second thing: stop panicking. Number three: remember all of the helpful tips, tricks and techniques that you learned from 'What To Do In Case Of Dinosaur Attack.'" I mean, come ON.


Hidden in This Picture by Mosaic Productions
In Short: Production is 3 weeks behind and 6 million over budget. Now the sun is setting seemingly faster than it's ever set before when three cows walk into the final shot of the film.
Venue: Rarig Center Arena
Why We're In: We need a little Sorkin. Plus, plays about movies are almost as much fun as movies about movies.


A Justice League of Their Own by Mainly Me Productions
In Short: When the male superheroes are called away to fight an intergalactic war, the female superheroes rise up to protect their city by forming: A Justice League of Their Own. Who save the world?
Venue:  Theatre in the Round
Why We're In: Fun premise, fab cast, and we are total converts to the cult of Josh Carson. JOIN US.

LIGHTNING ROUND - A Few More Shows That Look Awesome:

A Gertrude Stein Christmas by Theatre Unbound
Devised by the ensemble from Stein’s play "Turkey and Bones and Eating and We Liked It." If you’ve ever felt like an expatriate at your own family holidays, “A Gertrude Stein Christmas” will ring a few bells.

A Family Friendly Pulp Fiction (Not Appropriate for Families) by Snikt! Bamf! Thwip!
A martyr flogging adaptation of the 1994 masterpiece that is 100% appropriate for audience of all ages. Except children. Or adults. Or dogs. You'll lose your monster fishing salt! Don't bring your kids. Really.



A Farewell to Armadillos by NEPTUNE
Clowns come in. Clowns do some stuff. Clowns go out. Now, there might be some Hemingway allegories along the way, but don't hold your breath. Seriously, don't. Have you ever seen a clown do CPR? Just...don't.

Broken English, Mother Tongue by minnerican productions
Stories of growing up between languages and cultures of Puerto Rico and the US. This post-hurricane update of a 2016 Fringe favorite will have its east coast premiere at the juried 2018 NYC Fringe Festival.

BurnOut County by MaryMackComedy.com
Nationally touring, married comedians Tim Harmston and Mary Mack perform comedic vignettes of life in Northern Wisconsin’s BurnOut County. This dark comedy is a collage of stories, essays, sketch, and songs.



Dangerous When Wet: Booze, Sex, and My Mother by Jamie Brickhouse
A sodomite's wickedly intoxicating odyssey from small-town sissy to louche Manhattanite as he hits alcoholic bottom & discovers he can’t escape the all-consuming love of his Texas tornado of a mother Mama Jean.

Gunplay! by Tom Reed
Set in the absurd alternate reality of America in 2018, this satirical romp follows a too-powerful gun lobby group’s attempt to stage a “hip, fun!” musical active shooter drill with high school theater kids.


Home by Michael Venske
How do you define home? Is it a person, place, or feeling? What happens when home goes away? An autobiographical solo storytelling experience examining home from Minnesota to China and back again.

I Never Knock by Berlin Productions
For fans of Hollywood divas, 1950's Broadway and the most famous scene from "Basic Instinct". A has-been movie star's plans to kill herself on stage are thwarted by several visitors to her dressing room.



ITCHY TINGLES by Heidi Arneson
Childhood in the eye of the tornado. Suburban gothic humor & exquisite classical guitar. A long-lost lake filled with secret urges, ardent mermaids & monsters lurking under the muck. "Beautifully vivid."

Kaboom by Sheep Theater
A nuclear missile is mistakenly armed and nothing is able to prevent it from launching. Kaboom. A new play presented by Sheep Theater (2018 Best of City Pages).

Locker Room Talk by WalthWorks
An original musical telling the story of a female coach and her high school boys basketball team as they encounter a chauvinistic, narrow-minded and asymmetrical culture still alive and well in a "man's world".



MEDUSA by Vox Medusa and Infiammati FireCircus
MEDUSA storms the Fringe, more fiery than ever! A mythological priestess' story of devotion, wrath and her cursed fate. Outdoor performance of contemporary dance, fire performance, original music and video.

Our Best Life by Custer & Schmidt
Despite global & personal chaos, Shanan & Emily are living their best lives! I mean, really trying! Do you believe them yet?! Through delightfully funny sketches, they prove everything's fine. (Nothing's fine.)



Rejection by Theatre Corrobora
Five friends become subjects in a study on intimacy, forcing them to be honest about their relationships. ‘Rejection’ explores how much a little bit of truth can alter lives and outlooks on love.

Saree-ously Speaking? Uff-Da! by Mollywood Productions
A wealthy family of Indian descent relocates to a small town in Minnesota for an unsurpassable opportunity. Hilarity ensues as the tight-knit community intersects with the new residents and cultures collide.



Summers in Prague by Sidecar Theatre
Mara, a thirty-five-year-old English teacher, goes on a trip to Prague and uncharacteristically hires a male escort. Join us for this funny, intimate and unexpectedly poignant journey of self- discovery.

Swipe Right by Blinking Eye Theatre
What if we talked to each other in real life the way people talk on dating apps like Tinder? Jump into a world where people introduce themselves OKCupid style and fail or succeed based on the first message sent.

Swords & Sorcery: The Improvised Fantasy Campaign by The Bearded Company
An improvised fantasy adventure where fate is decided by a 20-sided die. Dragons will be slain, dungeons will be explored and, nerd or not, you'll leave with a smile on your face and adventure in your heart.



The Flashlight Zone: 20 Science Fiction Plays in One Hour by Flash Grenade Productions
20 Science Fiction plays performed rapid-fire in under an hour. Aliens, robots, time travel and more - all at the speed of light!

TITUS: Sweet Water, Silent Walks by The Band Group
Beginning as a "traditional" Shakespeare play, the story devolves into a dynamic physical staging told through the POV of Lavinia; to echo the plight she and other assault victims have with no one to turn to.

WHEW! Overwhelmed yet? Us too. Remember to stay hydrated, wear layers and comfy shoes, and don't Fringe hangry.

Happy Fringing, y'all! 

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Caucasian-Aggressive Pandas and Other Mulatto Tales - Chameleon Theatre Circle

Yep, you read the title right. And yes, that word is the reason that a thoughtful, relevant, challenging show that tackles racism and identity was banned in Burnsville.

A bit of history:

Derek "Duck" Washington wrote Caucasian-Aggressive Pandas and Other Mulatto Tales in 2015, and it was performed at the Bryant Lake Bowl that fall, and remounted for the 2016 Minnesota Fringe Festival.

Chameleon Theatre Circle, then performing at the Ames Center in Burnsville, wanted to include the show in its season there. However, the Ames Center vetoed the production because of the title. The disagreement led to Chameleon ending their relationship with the Ames Center and generated national media attention (including this excellent summary by Howard Sherman at the Arts Integrity Initative). Chameleon and Washington also earned our deep admiration for standing true to their ethics.

Now, you can see for yourself what had the muckety-mucks of Burnsville so concerned. The show opened Friday just a few miles away in the Black Box Theater of the much more supportive Bloomington Center for the Arts and runs through June 24 (presented in association with Fearless Comedy Productions).

From the play's website: 
Racism will be mocked, racists shunned, and stereotypes exposed in this humorous exploration of what it’s like to be mixed race, deal with stereotypes, and find your place in the world. Inspired by playwright Duck Washington’s own experiences, this mix of story-telling and sketch comedy will move you to buoyant laughter and deep thoughts as it examines concepts that are always more than just black-and-white.
Duck Washington is biracial, and this show is very much his personal story, presented with sincere emotion and humor. Right from the start, a stentorian narrator (Matthew Kessen) informs us in no uncertain terms that we are allowed to laugh at this show, and you will.

It's a fast-paced 70 minutes (no intermission) of scenes both realistic and fantastical, in which four actors, including Washington, play the roles of black, white, multi-racial, male, female, human, and non-human characters without regard to the characteristics of the actors. It takes a minute or two to adjust, but then it's kind of refreshing to just take the characters as they come to you.

Alison Anderson, Suzanne Victoria Cross, and Jason Kruger are all terrific, whether playing pop divas, old racists, or ravenous animals. Director Jena Young does a great job of keeping things light without getting too fluffy, with assists from the occasional dry asides by Kessen.

Theater that educates, challenges, and makes you laugh is rare and all too important in these incredibly trying times. After each show, there is a talkback with the cast, which is helpful for processing some of the strong emotions that the show brings up--and for seeing how it resonates with other audience members.

Pro tip: When the questions wind down, do yourself a favor and ask one more. Ask Washington how he got the nickname "Duck." You won't be sorry. *

So in short: Go see Caucasian-Aggressive Pandas--a show that will make you laugh and think. Stick it to censorship: support a small theater with big ethics and enjoy a great show.

*In relation to this story, we are currently working on a children's book series about Duck Washington. See draft book jacket below.**

Coming soon to a bookstore near you!
**Not really. He is adorable though.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Just Because It's June, June, June - Upcoming Theater

Since this is a frequent conversation I'm having these days:

Friend: "Hey, what's a good show to see?"
Me: "Uhhhhhh ..."

Here are some shows we're looking forward to in June. Enjoy!



14th Annual 10-Minute Play Festival - Lakeshore Players Theatre
May 31 - June 10, 2018

About: "Ten short plays from around the world are presented by some of your favorite LPT performers and directors. It’s short attention span theater at its best!"
Also: Check out Lakeshore's beautiful new home at the Hanifl Performing Arts Center.


dat Black Mermaid Man Lady /The Show - Pillsbury House Theatre
June 1 - 24, 2018

About: "A performance processional celebrating the spirit of Black traditions. With dat Black Mermaid Man Lady / The Show, writer Sharon Bridgforth celebrates multiple ways of embodying gender and spirit, whisking the audience along on the journey to raise up a next generation healer."

Also: "Performers sing, move, tell stories, call the audience to process, chant, holler back, build altars – celebrate life. All present are responsible for the Journey." And the cast? Aimee K. Bryant, Florinda Bryant, PaviElle French, and Kenyai O’Neal. Whoo!



June 1 - 10, 2018 at Mojo Coffee Gallery

About: This show celebrates the Princess Musicals--musicals produced at the Princess Theater in NYC between 1915-1918. "The stories were simple and real. They were comedies, but the humor came from real-world situations. Because they couldn't afford big stars or high production values, the shows relied on good story-telling and great music. This original musical, featuring the music of Jerome Kern and his Princess Musicals collaborators, tells a story in much the same style, but with a modern twist."

Also? Ticketing includes either dinner, soup/sandwich and/or dessert depending on the performance day. And it's 90 minutes, no intermish.


Apples in Winter - Uprising Theatre Company
June 1 - 9, 2018 at St. Peder's Lutheran Church

About: "Twenty-two years ago, Miriam’s son, Robert, committed a horrible crime. Robert was caught, tried, and convicted of first-degree murder and has been sitting on death row ever since. In seven hours the state will execute him. As is the tradition, Robert is granted a last meal. His request: a slice of his mother’s apple pie."

Also: Apples in Winter is site-specific and performed with limited seating in an industrial kitchen. All tickets are pay-what-you-can and Uprising Theater combines "quality theatre with actual partnerships with community organizations to channel the energy and empathy created by theatre into concrete action for change."


BAD NEWS! i was there ... - Guthrie Theater
June 2 - 3, 2018

About: A promenade-style production featuring dialogue, music, sounds and movement performed in the Guthrie Theater lobbies created and directed by JoAnne Akalaitis, this play "explores the monumental impact of the Messenger character from classic drama – a theatrical device originated by the Greeks, who unapologetically used theater to ask questions of its citizens. Today, the Messenger is eerily reflected in the media reportage of terrifying events as heard in the common, heartbreaking refrain from eyewitnesses: “I was there.”

Also: This CAST. Megan Burns, Nathaniel Fuller, Emily Gunyou Halaas, JuCoby Johnson, Cynthia Jones-Taylor, Ann Michels, Eric Sharp, and Stephen Yoakam. COME ON.



June 8 - 24, 2018 at Bloomington Center for the Arts Black Box

About: "Racism will be mocked, racists shunned, and stereotypes exposed in this humorous exploration of what it's like to be mixed race, deal with stereotypes, and find your place in the world. Inspired by playwright Duck Washington's own experiences, this mix of story-telling and sketch comedy will move you to buoyant laughter and deep thoughts as it examines concepts that are always more than just black-and-white."

Also? You might remember that this is the show that the Ames Center in Burnsville vetoed due to the word "mulatto" in the title. Scrappy theater company Chameleon severed their relationship with the Ames Center, and has been performing at other venues around town, including the Bloomington Center for the Arts, which from all reports has been a more hospitable hosts. Read more about the contretemps here (Howard Sherman, writing at the Arts Integrity Initiative) and support free speech, open dialogue, Chameleon, this play, and Bloomington Center for the Arts, dang it!


Equivocation - Walking Shadow Theatre Company
June 9 - 24, 2018 at Gremlin Theatre

About: "The devilish gunpowder plot has failed! Long live King James! When Shagspeare is commissioned to write the "true historie" of the event, his investigation reveals that the official version is a cover-up – but for what? Should Shag keep digging – and perhaps lose his head? Or take the money and lie? A timely, high-stakes political thriller… with witches."

Also: "...with witches." Sold!


The Minotaur or: Amelia Earhart Is Alive And Travelling Through the Underworld - Sheep Theater
June 14 - 23, 2018 at In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theater

About: "After crashing her plane on a mysterious island, Amelia Earhart and her co-pilot, Snook, must venture into the underworld to try to get home. However, their presence has unleashed an apocalyptic force that has been locked away for 800,000 years: the Minotaur."

Also: Sheep Theater's tagline? "Original Plays. Deranged Sincerity." Hee.


June 15 - Aug 5, 2018

About: "McKenna Kelly-Eiding stars as Sherlock Holmes and Sara Richardson as Dr. Watson. The remaining 40 characters in this smart send-up of The Hound of the Baskervilles are played by just three actors: Eric "Pogi" Sumangil; Ricardo Beaird; and Marika Proctor. Cue the lightning-fast costume changes as wealthy Henry Baskerville is threatened by the fable of a bloodthirsty hound on the moors and the dynamic duo sniff out the culprit."

Also: It's directed by Theo Langason, who says: "'This show clips along with a very atmospheric, cinematic quality that I think will be really satisfying to both the artists and the audience. Peter Morrow (the sound designer) and I are working hard on where the sound comes from in the auditorium, trying to achieve the sensation you get in a surround-sound movie theatre. I want those ‘howls off the moors’ to give us all the heebee jeebees!'” 

Peter Morrow just lost a ton of valuable instruments and equipment in the Robert's Shoes building fire--you can support his efforts to replace the equipment.


Fellow Travelers - Minnesota Opera
June 16 - 26, 2018 at Cowles Center

About: During the McCarthy-era Lavender Scare, communists aren’t the only enemies. Hostility directed toward abolishing “homosexual tendencies” in the government creates a world of fear and shame for recent a college graduate and handsome State Department official. Full of sincere heartbreak, Fellow Travelers is an ode to the importance of being one’s self and the bravery it takes to stand up to political oppression.

Also: More opera! In the summer! Yay!


French Twist - Flying Foot Forum
June 22 - July 15, 2018 at Park Square Theater's Andy Boss Thrust Stage

About: "A cabaret of gorgeous music, theatrical storytelling and percussive dance set in a Paris Nightclub. Director/choreographer Joe Chvala fuses vaudeville, tap, cabaret, follies, opera, and percussive art forms to evoke American’s wildest imaginings of life in the City of Light."

Also: There will also be two nights of works in progress created by Joe Chvala and company members including a work in progress premiere of a Flying Foot Forum film project Mondays, July 2 and 9.

Enjoy all the summer theatergoing madness!!