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Helen Sadler and Francis Guinan in "The Night Alive" at Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago. Set design is by Todd Rosenthal. Photo by Michael Brosilow.
Steppenwolf Theatre, the Chicago playhouse that has a knack for birthing hit plays, some of which have gone on to Broadway runs and Tony wins, just opened "The Night Alive," by Irish playwright Conor McPherson.
I saw the production in previews in September, and can't wait for the play to arrive in the Twin Cities. The Jungle Theater, which has produced such other McPherson plays as "The Seafarer" (2009) and "Shining City (2007), would be great home for this darkly amusing meditation on violence, mortality, charity, friendship, illusion and dreams deferred.
As directed at Steppenwolf by Henry Fishcamper (who is a resident artistic associate at Chicago's Goodman Theatre), "The Night Alive" takes place in the extremely messy, bare bones rented room of Tommy (Francis Guinan, marvelous), whose landlord Uncle Marice is played by veteran character actor M. Emmet Walsh.
One night, Tommy, one of the most lovable losers ever to have graced a stage, brings home Aimee (Helen Sadler), a young woman who has taken a beating. Their growing relationship plays out alongside Tommy's dim sidekick Doc (Tim Hopper), Maurice, and a malevolent Kenneth (Dan Waller).
While the action and plot are wonderfully grounded in quotidian detail -- dented cups of tea, piles of dirty laundry, a travel poster of Finland -- the script leaves open the possibility of multiple metaphoric interpretations. This became abundantly clear in the post-play discussion with Steppenwolf's Martha Lavey and Fishcamper, which raised more questions about the play than were conveniently answered.
"The Night Alive" continues at Steppenwolf through Nov. 16.
Francis Guinan, M. Emmet Walsh and Tim Hopper in Steppenwolf's "The Night Alive," by Conor McPherson. Photo by Michael Brosilow.
Park Square Theatre's second stage -- long anticipated -- should be finished in mid-October. The theater announced Wednesday that the 204-seat thrust will open with "The House on Mango Street" (in previews) on Oct. 24. The production will run through Nov. 9, directed by Dipankar Mukherjee.
The thrust, named for benefactor Andy Boss, is projected to cost $3.5 million and is set up to be independent of the main stage, with its own ticket office, lobby, galleries, rehearsal hall and dressing rooms. Nine productions are scheduled for the 2014-15 season, including six by Park Square. Partner companies Sandbox, Theatre Pro Rata and Girl Friday will provide the other shows.
Park Square still needs to raise $285,000 for the project.
"This is an incredibly exciting time for us," said artistic director Richard Cook in a statement. "This is the fourth theater space I've had a hand in creating for Park Square since 1975."
Cook always has been a master of building his theater cautiously and carefully but then understanding when it's time to make a bold move. And adding a 204-seat stage is pretty bold. That's bigger than the Jungle and roughly the size of Mixed Blood and the Guthrie studio. Cook has programmed 18 productions in his two stages this season. Park Square's attendance goal is 90,000.
If you have 30 minutes to spare, check out “Theater People,” a web series created by Matthew Anderson. He wrote, directed and edited ten episodes about the drama behind drama. It’s all locally made – which is important these days, right? At least when it comes to garden produce.
Anderson had toiled for many years in the Twin Cities theater market and then took a stab at Los Angeles. He came back but has put his energy behind a camera. The concept here is just to lampoon the quirks and tics of theater life. But it all feels friendly and cheeky as it lands its punches – kind of like Kate Wetherhead’s “Submissions Only.”
Theaters, private homes and public streets provide cost-free locations and the actors in “Theater People” are doing it mostly for fun.
And it is fun. Stacia Rice and Steve Sweere play former spouses who still run Theatre Unhinged. Sweere is an aging lothario auditioning potential Juliets to his Romeo – but really just trying to make out with young women. Rice’s character watches with simmering but controlled rage. In another scenario, Mark Mattison does a florid and pompous director crafting an original production that he is says is based on the work of Aleister Crowley. Jane Froiland, Jen Rand, Matt Sciple, Katie Willer and Sara Marsh all contribute.
There are ten episodes on the web site, each about eight minutes long. Anderson would like to put together another season and is hoping for some real funding this time. It’s definitely worth having a look and supporting.
Reed Kelly/photo courtesy of CBS
"Survivor" doesn't usually recruit players with Minnesota ties, but the show is making an exception for this upcoming season.
Reed Kelly, 31, may be best known for appearing in Broadway productions of "Wicked" and "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark." But around these parts, he's simply the son of former St. Paul Mayor Randy Kelly.
Kelly will compete against his boyfriend, composer Josh Canfield, in a season in which loved ones will be pitted against each other.
Kelly isn't the highest profile contestant. That honor goes to former Atlanta Braves pitcher John Rocker.
"Survivor: San Juan Del Sur" premieres Sept. 24 on WCCO, Ch. 4.
The old Brave New Workshop at 2605 Hennepin Av. S., Minneapolis, has been sold and will be rebranded as a performance space operated by a new nonprofit.
Dudley Riggs had moved his comedy troupe into the building in the early 1960s and it served as home to shows almost continuously until 2011, when the owners of the business moved the club downtown.
Still, the Workshop was using the 2605 Hennepin space as the Brave New Institute School, where classes in improvisation and other stagecraft were held. No one from the Workshop was available to comment on the future of that program. Mike Fotis and Joe Bozic, both veterans who had performed on stage, had been co-directors of the school. They both left earlier this year for other jobs. The Brave New Workshop business is owned by John Sweeney and Jenni Lilledahl, who purchased it in 1997 from Riggs.
The theater, which had about 200 seats, will be remodeled and operated as the Phoenix Theatre. A nonprofit called The Arts’ Nest is being launched to program the space, according to the group’s executive director, Jenna Papke.
Papke said the purchase price was $485,000 and the buyer was an individual who has organized a limited liability partnership called ERK. She did not identify the person, other than to say he or she is on the Arts’ Nest board of directors. The building is being rented to The Arts’ Nest for the cost of taxes and insurance, Papke said. Records show that the 2014 tax bill was about $25,000.
Those documents also show that the previous owner was RICMAR LLC, with an address for Richard Kohn of Cumberland, Wis.
Papke said the new space will open in November. Mission Theatre Company will be the first company to use the theater, with a new work by playwright Sam Graber. The play, "Detainee," will run Nov. 6-15.
Hundreds of actors and writers found their legs in The Brave New Workshop at 2605 Hennepin. Al Franken and Tom Davis did shows there. Hollywood screenwriter Pat Proft called the theater one of best rooms for comedy because of the way laughter resounded off the walls. Sweeney and Lilledahl had moved BNW shows to Calhoun Square for about three years but moved back in 2002.
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