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Sally Wingert, up close and personal at the Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company

Posted by: Rohan Preston Updated: July 17, 2014 - 4:29 PM

Some lucky theatergoers will get to spend an intimate evening with stage star Sally Wingert in the dog days of summer.

Wingert will perform in “Rose,” Martin Sherman’s one-woman show about an 80-year-old Holocaust survivor. The two-hour show will be staged in various Twin Cities homes in August as the kick-off to the Minnesota Jewish Theatre’s 20th anniversary season.

Wingert has headlined other shows at MJTC, including "Family Secrets," "Woman Before a Glass," and "2.5 Minute Ride." Randy Latimer starred in MJTC’s production of “Rose” in 2002 and 2003. Hayley Finn directs the current revival (Aug. 9-24).

MJTC’s 2014-2015 line-up includes David Ives’ “New Jerusalem, the Interrogation of Baruch de Spinoza at Talmud Torah Congregation: Amsterdam, July 27, 1656." While Ives is known primarily for comedy, the funniest thing about "New Jerusalem" may be its long title.The drama, which centers on a would-be chief rabbi accused of atheism, will be directed by Kurt Schweickhardt, who has acted in or staged several shows at the St. Paul-based company (Oct. 18-Nov. 9).

Jenna Zark’s “The Chanukkah Guest,” which was commissioned by MJTC commission from Eric A. Kimmel’s book of the same name, will be MJTC’s holiday offering. Zark previously adapted “The Magic Dreidels” for MJTC. A director for “The Chanukkah Guest” has yet not been named (Dec. 4-21).

Stars of David,” a musical revue adapted from Abigail Pogebrin’s book, celebrates the lives of figures such as Leonard Nimoy, Sarah Jessica Parker, Steven Spielberg, Tony Kushner and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Michael Kissin directs (Feb. 14-March 8, 2015).

MJTC closes its season with Jack Canfora’s “Jericho,” which orbits the lives of 9/11 survivors. Warren Bowles directs (April 18-May 20, 2015).

Three- play season passbooks, $55-$75, are available. Individual tickets to “Rose,” $45-$55, also are avaialbe. The Aug. 9 opening performance includes pre- and post-show receptions. Tickets to the holiday production go on sale Nov. 7.

“It’s a very strong season with many different types of work,” said MJTC artistic director Barbara Brooks. “I’m thrilled that [producer] Daryl Roth’s office contacted me about the musical, ‘Stars of David.’ I’m thrilled that Mike [Kissin] is doing it. ‘Jericho’ is a very absorbing piece of theater that was first seen last fall. And I’m glad to be working with Sally again. It's a great season for us.”

Southern Theater announces membership model for 2015

Posted by: Graydon Royce Updated: July 15, 2014 - 3:26 PM

Photo by David Joles

For many years, there has been idle chatter about how smaller performance groups and venues could somehow leverage their disparate values into something greater.

The Southern Theater has put that concept to work in ARTshare, a new program that uses the subscription model to let audiences sample work from 15 resident theater and dance troupes. Patrons buy an $18 monthly membership and then are all set to pick and choose. Memberships go on sale July 22 for calendar year 2015. The Southern hopes to sell 1,500 memberships and will stop at 2,100.

At the same time, the Southern will change how it schedules performances and allow several companies to run in repertory.

“When multiple resident companies perform in the same week, audiences have more opportunities to see new work,” said Damon Runnals, the Southern’s executive director, in a statement.

The program provides stability for the companies involved, variety for audiences and a much stronger sense of purpose for the Southern, which has in recent years had financial and programmatic issues. The 200-seat theater on Washington Av. now has something that loosely resembles an eclectic season that relies on the strengths of the producing companies.

“The end result is hopefully a better fulfillment of The Southern’s mission: to foster a community of exceptional artists,” Runnals stated.  

There will be 15 productions, according to the press release, with 144 performances through 2015. A partial list of the companies includes: Black Label Movement, Four Humors Theater, Live Action Set, Mathew Janczeski’s ARENA DANCES, Sandbox Theatre, Savage Umbrella, Swandive, Sossy Mechanics, TigerLion Arts, Workhaus Collective.

Memberships and information will be available at the Southern’s website, starting at 2 p.m. on July 22.

Patrick Scully's Walt Whitman show premieres

Posted by: Claude Peck Updated: July 11, 2014 - 1:06 PM

Patrick Scully poses as poet Walt Whitman. Star Tribune photo by Jeff Wheeler.


Sometimes the best way to learn about an artist is through the perspective of another artist. With  “Leaves of Grass – Uncut” Patrick Scully summons  the radical spirit of 19th-century poet Walt Whitman. Over the course of the show, which had its first performance Thursday night as part of the Fresh Ink Series at the Illusion Theater, we learn that the two men have much in common when it comes to defying rules and embracing life.

Scully assumes the role of Whitman, talking through his life story, railing against the puritan morals of his day, lauding the love of other men, extolling his contemporaries (Ralph Waldo Emerson, Oscar Wilde) and reading excerpts from his works. Whitman, as portrayed by Scully, is a confident man who explains how he would code his language to escape the wrath of a rabidly homophobic society. Despite these efforts, Whitman’s works were banned and critics were quick to denounce him with their harshest words, which is hard to imagine today given the significant influence and great beauty of his writing.

But Whitman was undeterred by these obstacles, which explains why he is such a hero to Scully, a proud rabble-rouser himself. With “Leaves of Grass – Uncut” Scully creates an onstage world that Whitman would have appreciated. Seventeen men dance together in tender, sensual and playful moments. In the opening scene they strip down entirely to bathe, setting the tone for an evening about relationships between men and how society has sought to deny them.

The movement itself is based in contact improvisation, which emphasizes the intuitive give and take of dancing with another person. Scully’s company members take great care to support and inspire one another. Kevin Kortan makes an appearance as Whitman’s lover Peter Doyle and in one of the work’s more poignant moments they discuss the poet’s refusal to use the pronoun “he” (instead using “she”) in his writing to describe their passionate relationship. Scully shows us that Whitman wasn’t always so bold.

The Fresh Ink series provides opportunities for artists to try out new ideas. Scully still has some work to do with tightening up the production – there are a couple of false endings – but it is a heartfelt salute to Whitman. Without this daring poet’s soaring words and his willingness to take risks in a hostile era, we may never know what it means to “sing the body electric.” Scully is the perfect caretaker for Whitman’s legacy.

“Leaves of Grass – Uncut” continues through Sunday, July 13 (8 p.m. Fri.-Sat., 7 p.m. Sun). Illusion Theatre, Cowles Center, eighth floor, 528 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls. $14-$19, 612-339-4944 or illusiontheater.org.

'Once' will be in the Twin Cities twice in a span of just over a year

Posted by: Rohan Preston Updated: June 30, 2014 - 5:45 PM

"Once," the celebrated musical based on John Carney's 2007 Academy Award-winning film, is coming back to the Twin Cities.

Director John Tiffany's Broadway tour, which played the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis in the spring, will return to the State Theatre June 23-28, 2015.

The show won eight Tonys. It’s about a flower Czech flower girl and an Irish musician who collaborate even as their mutual attraction grows. The actors also play instruments in the production.

Tickets are on sale to subscribers, groups and donors to Hennepin Theatre Trust, which administers the Broadway houses in Minneapolis. Single tickets will be available at a later date. 1-800-859-7469 or online.

Theater Latte Da announces 2014-15 season

Posted by: Graydon Royce Updated: June 13, 2014 - 11:12 AM

Theater Latte Da brings familiar faces to the stage in some unfamiliar places -- which is kind of neat.


Photo by Tom Wallace/Sally Wingert, who played Fraulein Schneider in "Cabaret," returns in the singular role of Maria Callas in "Master Class." The play, which you will recall features a spare amount of actual music, shows Callas reflecting on her life and career as she coaches opera students at Juilliard. Artistic director Peter Rothstein directed this Terrence McNally play at Park Square, way back in 2001. Andrew Bourgoin plays Callas's accompanist and music director. "Master Class" opens the season, Oct. 8-Nov. 2, with performances at the MacPhail Center for Music -- a venue Latte Da has never used.

Photo by Mark Van Cleave For the third straight year, Latte Da will partner on Hennepin Theatre Trust to reimagine a familiar musical. Bradley Greenwald (pictured) will portray Fagin in "OLIVER!" Feb. 4-March 1, at the Pantages Theatre. The partners launched the effort in 2013 with "Aida" and "Cabaret" followed last January. Rothstein said he hopes to illuminate "the story's rich exploration of class, family and social responsibility." Greenwald was in last season's "Steerage Song" and recently has been seen in Frank Theatre's "The ThreePenny Opera." Rothstein's "OLIVER!" will feature 30 members of the Minnesota Boychoir.

Photo by Michal Daniels/ Greta Oglesby will make her Latte Da debut as the Witch in "Into the Woods," the fairy tale mash-up by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine. Oglesby is best known for her performance in "Caroline or Change" (pictured) at the Guthrie Theater. She's worked at Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the Goodman in Chicago and recently played the family matriarch in "Raisin in the Sun" at Chicago's TimeLine Theatre. David Darrow, who played George Gibbs in Latte Da's "Our Town," has also been signed for "Into the Woods," which will run March 4-29 at the Ritz Theater in northeast Minneapolis, another new venue for Latte Da.

In addition, Rothstein will stage "All is Calm" with Cantus Dec. 17-21 at the Pantages. And the season will conclude with "NEXT: New Musicals in the Making" April 30-May 17 at the Ritz.

Information at latteda.org or 612-339-3003.


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