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Posts about Theater

Playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney sees "Marcus," visits with its actors

Posted by: Rohan Preston Updated: September 22, 2014 - 9:28 AM

Luminary playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney (right) flew into Minneapolis over the weekend to see “Marcus; or the Secret of Sweet,” the coming-of-age and coming-out play that is the final installment in his Brother/Sister trilogy.

It was his first trip to the Twin Cities, where the two other works in the trilogy — “In the Red and Brown Water” and “The Brothers Size” — were memorably staged by director Marion McClinton, who also helmed “Marcus.”

Produced by Pillsbury House Theatre and the Mount Curve Company at the Guthrie, “Marcus” drew a full house to the theater on Saturday.

Before the performance, McCraney, who often is compared to August Wilson, dined with director McClinton, assistant director E.G. Bailey and producers Faye Price and Noel Raymond of Pillsbury House, and Frances Wilkinson of Mount Curve.

McCraney said that he often is fully engaged, sometimes in call-and-response style, when he watches his shows.

"It's supposed to be fun," he said.

To wit, he laughed out loud during Saturday's evening performance of "Marcus," sometimes talking back (encouragingly) to the actors.

“That’s it,” he said during a musical number called “Sun Shower,” performed by Nathan Barlow as Marcus and Lauren Davis and Joy Dolo as his friends Osha and Shaunta. 

McCraney was vocal during turns by all the performers, especially Thomasina Petrus as under-her-breath cusser Elegua, James A. Williams as funerary marcher Ogun, Jamila Anderson as bible-reading Oba, and Mikell Sapp as Marcus' funky school friend Terrell.

After the performance, McCraney, a Miami native and McArthur “genius” fellowship winner, posed for pictures with the cast. It started with one, and then quickly mushroomed. 

McCraney also bought cast-members drinks at Sea Change. He regaled the actors with stories from his life and career, and made clever comments that riffed on their stories.

And McCraney created an in-joke that actors have now begun re-creating. Sometimes, he said, whenever you're pondering something or not in the mood, you just have to sleep on it. 

But don't sleep on "Marcus."

Burning the midnight oil

Posted by: Graydon Royce Updated: September 11, 2014 - 10:45 AM
Photo by Ann Heisenfeldt

As host of “A Prairie Home Companion,” writer Garrison Keillor works up to the Saturday performance deadline, tinkering with his script. Playwright Garrison Keillor knows that will not work in the theater – although he’s pushing things as far as he can with “Radio Man,” at the History Theatre in St. Paul.

Keillor delivered a significant rewrite on Wednesday. An aide delivered the copy to director Ron Peluso, who leafed through a few pages and muttered something about “having a heart attack.” But he put on his best smiling face when the playwright arrived at rehearsal for the show, which opens Sept. 27.

"You've been busy," Peluso joked when Keillor arrived at rehearsal a little later. In an interview, Keillor said he felt he owed it to the actors to be finished with the script by Saturday – which coincidentally is the opening show of the 40th annniversary season of “A Prairie Home Companion.”

Keillor mentioned this Saturday deadline to Peluso as they walked into the rehearsal hall after a break. “Saturday? I was thinking maybe tomorrow,” the director said. They agreed on Friday and then got back to work.

Playwrights' Center announces line-up of new play festival

Posted by: Rohan Preston Updated: September 10, 2014 - 5:34 PM

The Playwrights’ Center has announced the line-up of its 31st annual PlayLabs festival, which runs Oct. 20-26 at its facility in Minneapolis.

The series, in which plays get staged readings and other developmental work, kicks off with Sarah Gubbins’ “Cocked,” about conflicts and gun ownership. “Cocked” is directed by Playwrights’ Center head Jeremy Cohen.

The PlayLabs roster also includes Ken Urban’s “The Absence of Weather,” which limns defense secretary James Forrestal’s fall from the pinnacle of power during World War II to being hospitalized for mental issues a few years later. Lee Sunday Evans directs.

PlayLabs includes Philip Dawkins’ “Le Switch,” about issues that swirl in the life of a commitment-averse gay man in the age of marriage equality.

The festival concludes with a showcase of works by winners of fellowships from the Jerome and McKnight foundations.

The center also has announced five plays in its Ruth Easton new play series. For the first time, each work will have two readings.

The Ruth Easton line-up kicks off with “Forget Me Not When Far Away,” by Kira Obolensky (pictured). The play revolves around a presumed-dead veteran who returns to his hometown after a decade away. He is stuck in his Don Juan ways even as folks in the town have moved on (Dec. 8-9).

Qui Nguyen’s “Dust” also will get a staged reading. “Dust” is about the 16-year-old daughter of an American G.I. and Vietnamese mother who comes to live with her paternal family in Arkansas (Jan. 12-13, 2015).

George Brant’s “Marie and Rosetta” revolves around Sister Rosetta Tharpe, a pioneering guitarist and gospel music songwriter who influenced many notable music stars, including Ray Charles, Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley (Feb. 2-3, 2015).

The Ruth Easton series also includes Idris Goodwin’s “The REALNESS: the second break beat play,” which tackles issues of authenticity in love and art. It revolves around a suburban young man who has come to the inner city to immerse himself in hip hop (March 2-3, 2015).

Kathryn Walat’s “Romeo & Naomi Ramirez,” which concludes the series, orbits a rookie cop and an honors English student in Florida (Aprl 6-7, 2015).

All events are free but reservations are encouraged. 612-332-7481 or online.

Park Square will open second stage Oct. 24

Posted by: Graydon Royce Updated: September 3, 2014 - 5:05 PM

Richard Cook, kneeling in blue jeans, is leading the Park Square project for its second stage/photo by Petronella Ytsma

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.

"Theater People" is about theater people

Posted by: Graydon Royce Updated: September 3, 2014 - 12:33 PM

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.

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