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Posts about Theater

Will Mark Rylance be the Guthrie's next artistic director? His answer

Posted by: Neal Justin Updated: January 19, 2015 - 4:57 PM

Mark Rylance

LOS ANGELES -- The highest-profile candidate to take over as the Guthrie's artistic director is not in the running.

Acclaimed actor Mark Rylance said Monday morning that he won't be replacing Joe Dowling who previously announced that this will be final season at the helm.

"I can't do that at the moment," he said. "It wouldn't be the right time. Maybe, I think, five or 10 years from now, I'd be much more interested. Maybe when the next person moves on."

In many ways, Rylance would have been the ideal choice.

His success on Broadway, which includes Tony-award winning work in "Boeing Boeing" and "Jerusalem," have made him an international star, one who would certainly attract major talent.

He has ample experience on the Guthrie stage through a 2008 production of "Peer Gynt" and 2013's "Nice Fish," which he co-wrote with Duluth poet Louis Jenkins. He grew up in neighboring Wisconsin, attended the University School of Milwaukee and has an affinity for Midwest audiences.

"There's a side of me that English audience don't know," said Rylance who was born in England. "They wouldn't know the references. People have asked why I haven't taken 'Nice Fish' to London, but that particular dry humor won't work over there. Minneapolis people say if a Wisconsin man tells you a joke, you don't laugh until a week later. That's how dry it is."

Rylance also has the experience. He was the Shakespeare's Globe Theatre's first artistic director, a post he stepped away from in 2005 after a 10-year run.

But there's a problem: Rylance is too hot right now to spend much of time behind a desk.

He was attending the TV Critics Assocation press tour Monday to promote a PBS production of "Wolf Hall," in which he plays Thomas Cromwell. Emmy winner Damian Lewis. The mini-series, which has already aired in England, was described in the Telegraph as "masterful" and described Rylance's performance as"steely yet vulnerable, mesmerically still."

His film career is also on the fast track. He'll soon appear in a Cold War thriller opposite Tom Hanks, Amy Ryan and Alan Alda. Later this year, he'll start production on "The BFG," a film based on a kids' novel by Roald Dah. Both movies are being directed by Steven Spielberg.

"I'm in a moment in my career after 10 years at the Globe where all this kind of film stuff is opening up," he said. "It very challenging and interesting to me."

Rylance was somewhat coy about whether or not anyone from the Guthrie directly asked him to consider the post.

"I've talked to a lot of people, including Joe, about it and his hopes for the place," he said. "They asked me my views as someone whose worked there. I hope they want me to carry on in some capacity. It's so very handy for me to have a place where I can express things that have to do with my Midwest upbringing, the four seasons and the people from that time in my life."

When asked what he thought Dowling would do next, Rylance predicted he'd take a rest. When I countered that that didn't sound like Dowling, Rylance quickly concurred.

"Yeah, that's true. He's been a phenomenal artist for that theatre and that community," he said. "I hope he'll enjoy being a freelance artist and be able to focus only on his acting and his directing. That's been something I've certainly enjoyed after all the responsibilites, the fundraising and being a leader in the community and dealing with frustrations and the triumphs of communities. A lot gets put on an artist that shouldn't necesarry be part of his responsibility."

Dianne Hill-Hines dies from cancer at age 67

Posted by: Graydon Royce Updated: January 14, 2015 - 2:21 PM

Dianne Hill-Hines as "Mother Goose" at Children's Theatre Company in 1995 (with Robbie Droddy and Cassie Fox). Photo by Rob Levine.

Dianne Hill-Hines “never thought of herself as God’s gift to the stage,” said Gary Gisselman, who directed Hill in many theatrical productions. “But she was. She could sing and act, she had great warmth and you could put her in any role and she’d be terrific.”

Hill-Hines, 67, was a longtime presence in the Twin Cities theater scene under the name Dianne Benjamin-Hill. She died Monday of cancer at N.C. Little Hospice in Edina.

“She was everything I wanted to be,” said Molly Sue McDonald, a veteran actor and singer who counted Hill as a close friend. “There was something about Dianne. She had that gift you can’t describe that made you want to watch her.”

Hill-Hines was born in Aberdeen, S.D., with an early love for theater. After receiving an MFA in Theatre at Wayne State University in Detroit, she moved with her then-husband to Los Angeles. After a divorce, she relocated to the Twin Cities.

She and actor Jim Cada dated for years while they were both working with Actor’s Theatre of St. Paul.

“She had a lot of trust from actors and directors,” Cada said. “She took it very seriously — a real pleasure to work with backstage and on stage.”

Actor Sally Wingert, who notably worked with Hill-Hines in “Blue Window” at Actor’s Theatre, considered her a mentor.

“I idolized her,” Wingert said. “She was really gorgeous and such a good actor — just a beautiful, wicked sense of comic timing but also very heartfelt.”

 She was one of the top performers at Chanhassen from 1977-85. Gisselman remembered her appearances in “Hello Dolly” (There has never been a better Irene Molloy,” he said), “Beyond Therapy” and “Blithe Spirit.” She also filled in for Susan Goeppinger in “I Do, I Do” for eight months and “Quilters,” which ran for 12 months in 1984-85.

Hill-Hines also acted at Old Log, Mixed Blood and other theaters locally.

For several years in the late 80s and 1990s, Hill-Hines stepped away from the stage to raise her son, Matt.

“She was definitely a hands-on mother,” said her husband, Paul Hines of Minnetonka. “We used to tell her that eventually she couldn’t accompany Matt wherever he went, especially to school. But she got a bus pass and got on the bus with him for the first day. True story.”

She returned to the stage at Children’s Theatre Company, where she developed a strong kinship with director/choreographer Matthew Howe. Hill-Hines played the Wicked Witch in two productions of “The Wizard of Oz” and also performed in “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and “Pippi Longstocking” in 2001 under Howe’s direction.

“Dianne brought so much to the rehearsal room and the stage,” Howe wrote in an email from Vancouver, B.C., where he now teaches. “She had talent, a generous heart, and a deep love and appreciation for those she worked with.”

Paul Hines said that in recent years, Dianne worked in the Hopkins school district with special-needs children.  She also spent recent summers working for friends who owned Southern Colorado Repertory Theatre Company. She and Twin Cities actor Clyde Lund performed “On Golden Pond” there in 2013.

In addition to Paul and Matt Hines, Hill-Hines is survived by her mother, Doris Evenson, stepchildren Brad Hines and Lesli Launer Hines and four siblings. Her life will be celebrated at 11 a.m. Friday, at All Saints Lutheran Church, 15915 Excelsior Blvd., Mtka., with visitation one hour before the service.

Torch and Gremlin team up for four-show season

Posted by: Graydon Royce Updated: December 17, 2014 - 3:11 PM

Torch Theater and Gremlin Theatre – two middle-aged small troupes – are collaborating on a season of four shows in what could be the final year of the Minneapolis Theatre Garage. The corner at Lyndale and Franklin Avs. in Minneapolis has been targeted for redevelopment although the project plans are a bit unclear.

Stacia Rice and Peter Christian Hansen starred in "Sea Marks" at Gremlin Theatre in 2012.

Regardless, Torch and Gremlin will co-produce “Death and the Maiden,” by Ariel Dorfman. A reaction to Chile’s authoritarian past, the play is a taut melodrama about torture and revenge. David Mann will direct Stacia Rice, Peter Christian Hansen and Craig Johnson – all Torch/Gremlin regulars. The production runs Jan. 30-Feb. 21.

Torch then gives the regional premiere to “Boeing Boeing,” the Marc Camoletti farce that Mark Rylance sent into orbit on Broadway several years back. Zach Curtis, Rice and Mo Perry will be directed by Johnson. Lots of slamming doors, confused identities – that sort of thing. It runs March 13-April 4.

Gremlin then takes charge with “H2O,” a regional premiere of the play by Jane Martin. Ellen Fenster, who directed last spring’s “Rocket to the Moon” for Gremlin, is back for this production. The play is about callow actor who will star in “Hamlet” and meets his match in the woman who will play Ophelia. No casting news about the production, which runs June 5-28.

The fourth production will be another collaboration between the two companies. The title and dates and have not been announced. Nothing on the web sites as of this moment. Rice and Hansen -- artistic directors of each troupe -- promise that information will be forthcoming. Check back.

Robert Stearns (1947-2014) ex-Walker Art Center performing arts director.

Posted by: Mary Abbe Updated: December 15, 2014 - 4:51 PM

Robert Stearns, who headed Walker Art Center's performing arts department from 1982 - 1988, died December 3 at his home in Palm Springs, Ca after a brief illness. He was 67.

While working at the Walker, Stearns was the executive producer of the Minneapolis workshop and concert performances of "The Gospel at Colonus," a contemporary reimagining of Sophocles' "Oedipus at Colonus," directed by Lee Breuer and composed by Bob Telson. Co-produced by the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the show was presented as part of the 1983 Next Wave Festival. It subsequently toured internationally from 1984 - 1988.

In 1984 he was executive producer for the Walker's staging of "the Knee Plays for the CIVIL warS: a tree is best measured when it is down," directed by Robert Wilson with music by David Byrne.

During his Walker tenure Stearns also oversaw performances and residencies by such Walker stalwarts as John Cage, Spalding Gray, Ntozake Shange, William Burroughs, Robert Bly, Fab Five Freddy, the Trisha Brown Dance Company and the Merce Cunningham Dance Company.

Stearns left the Walker in 1988 to become the first director of the Wexner Center for the Arts which was still under construction at Ohio State University in Columbus. Exhibitions organized under his leadership include a series surveying art in Europe and America beginning with the 1950s and '60s, followed by the 1970s and '80s, and wrapping up with "New Works for New Spaces: Into the Nineties."

In 1992 he established Stearns + Associates, a Columbus-based firm providing curatorial and arts programming to galleries, arts councils and festivals throughout the country. The firm produced the exhibition "Photography and Beyond in Japan: Space, Time and Memory," which opened at the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo in November 1994 and subsequently toured to the Museo Rufino Tamayo, Mexico City; Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, BC and was presented in the United States at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the Denver Art  Museum and the Contemporary Art Museum in Honolulu.

Over the following decades, Stearns' exhibitions focused on Ohio artists, early-American painting, artists from Mexico City, and visions of the American heartland.

While based in Columbus, Stearns retained ties to Minnesota, serving from 2000 - 2006 as senior program director and curator for Arts Midwest, a Minneapolis-based non-profit that produces exhibitions and programs that travel throughout the Midwest.

"Robert was an extremely gifted curator," said David Fraher, president and CEO of Arts Midwest, in a statement. "He was quirky, erudite, curious, and extraordinarily thorough with his research. He was also so very bright and passionate about his work, the artists he worked with, and the projects he built."

Fraher credited Stearns with helping Arts Midwest expand and strengthen its ability to produce international programs and exhibitions.

Prior to arriving in Minnesota, Stearns worked in New York first as assistant director of the influential Paula Cooper Gallery (1970-72) and then at The Kitchen (1973-77), a pioneer in video and installation art. He was director of Cincinnati's Contemporary Arts Center from 1978-1982. He graduated from the University of California, San Diego in 1970.

A celebration of his life was held Dec.10 in Palm Springs.

Peter Vaughan, theater critic, dies at 76

Posted by: Graydon Royce Updated: December 8, 2014 - 2:37 PM

Peter Vaughan, a longtime theater critic and reporter for the Minneapolis Star and the merged Star Tribune, has died at his French home in the Loire Valley. His 77th birthday would have been Friday.

Vaughan moved to France with his wife, Dana Wood, after retiring from the Star Tribune in 1997.  They lived in a country manse in Saint-Senoch, in central France, where Vaughan was able to indulge his tastes for good wine and food.

Born in London, Vaughan and his mother moved to St. Paul when he was a child. His father, Tom Vaughan, was an amateur theater enthusiast who became a critic himself after he retired from an academic career.

Peter Vaughan graduated from St. Paul Academy and received degrees from Yale and the London School of Economics. He started his career at the Minneapolis Star as a reporter, winning an award in 1974 for working on a team that investigated the value and reliability of auto repairs. It was as a theater critic, though, that he was remembered best.

“Guys like me and Lou [Bellamy] over at Penumbra, owe our careers to him,” said Jack Reuler, who founded Mixed Blood Theatre about the time Vaughan started to cover Twin Cities theater. “His own personal world view fit in with what our mission was.”

Bob Lundegaard worked with Vaughan at the newspapers and shared an enthusiasm for the arts and sports. The two played a regular tennis match each week for more than 10 years, Lundegaard recalled.

“He was very enthusiastic about theater – he’d review three or four shows a week,” Lundegaard said.

Vaughan could also be irascible when he felt the occasion necessitated it. Lundegaard remembered that the critic would often look at his reviews after they had been edited and restore his original word choices.

He also had dry sense of humor. At a breakfast with Rohan Preston, his successor at the Star Tribune, Vaughan was asked how he kept up with the plethora of theaters producing shows.

“Your job is to kill half of them off,” Vaughan said without missing a beat.

In a valedictory when he left the Star Tribune, Vaughan called theater “a unique forum to probe the political, social and personal forces that shape our lives.”

“Probably the most disappointing aspect of Twin Cities theater is how often good, even exceptional work, is ignored by audiences,” he wrote. “One might argue that we have too much theater and that the
exceptional often gets lost, but I fear that too often, people shun theater for the very reasons I am attracted to it.”

Vaughan is survived by his wife, her daughter and his two sons. There was no news about a service.


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