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Posts about Behind the scenes

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.

James Sewell working on ballet with filmmaker Frederick Wiseman

Posted by: Claude Peck Updated: September 3, 2014 - 3:14 PM
James Sewell of Sewell Ballet / Star Tribune photo by Tom Wallace

In what may seem like an odd pairing, James Sewell of the Minneapolis-based Sewell Ballet is working with veteran documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman on a new ballet based on an old Wiseman movie.

Wiseman's 1967 "Titicut Follies" documented the residents and inmates at Bridgewater State Hospital for the Criminally Insane in Bridgewater, Mass.

This early Wiseman documentary ignited controversy when state authorities sought to prevent its release, saying it violated inmates' privacy. The legal case rolled through various jurisdictions, but the film was withheld from distribution for years. Wiseman went on to wide fame for his fly-on-the-wall documentaries on a variety of subjects, including high-school life, meat, public housing, boxing and, in two movies, the world of dance.

Fast forward to 2014, when a new Center for Ballet and the Arts is set to open at New York University. Wiseman is among the center's first group of fellows. He announced this week that as part of that fellowship he is planning a ballet based on the film, to be created by choreographer Sewell.

Sewell said Wednesday that he and Wiseman have been talking by phone about the project this summer, and that Wiseman is due in Minneapolis later in September for meetings and in-studio improvisation. Wiseman is a "visionary," Sewell said, "and it extends beyond his medium. We've synthesized how our worlds can connect."

Sewell said the ballet, which may retain the movie's title, is likely to require 10 male dancers, as well as other characters to potray the state hospital's doctors and nurses. Likely to premiere in Minneapolis about two years from now, the ballet will include music and possibly video from the original film, Sewell said.

"When I first saw the film -- so intense, so strange -- I thought, 'how could you make a ballet of this?' But the elements are all there -- humorous, poetic, horrifying, sad," Sewell said.

The movie's title comes from an annual variety show that Bridgewater officials and inmates staged at the hospital. "These violent criminals and mentally ill inmates would put on a show, singing Gershwin with pom-poms in their hands," Sewell said.

While funding and other details remain to be worked out, Sewell said he "could not be happier" about this collaboration, which "dropped in my lap." He hopes to find a way, in dance, to portray "the inner landscape" of the often abused, catatonic or disruptive Bridgewater population.

Wiseman, 84, just won the Golden Lion Career Award at the Venice Film Festival.

"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.

Minnesota actor lands high profile role

Posted by: Neal Justin Updated: August 25, 2014 - 1:59 PM

 

 

Steve Zahn/ photo courtesy of ABC

If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.

Earlier this year, Minnesota native Steve Zahn had a major bomb on his hands in the guise of ABC's "Mind Games," his first network series that was quickly canceled.

But the network hasn't given up on him.

Entertainment Weekly is reporting that Zahn will have a recurring guest-star role on "Modern Family," playing the husband of an annoying family that moves in next door to the Dunphys.

It's unclear just how many episodes will feature Zahn, who still spends a considerable amount of time in Minnesota.

"Modern Family" returns Sept. 24.

Changes at WCCO morning show

Posted by: Neal Justin Updated: August 20, 2014 - 11:45 AM

Matt Brickman and Kim Johnson/ photo courtesy of CBS

The Twin Cities' top-rated morning show is doing the ol' switcheroo.

Meteorologist Matt Brickman and traffic reporter Kim Johnson will join current anchors Jason DeRusha and Jamie Yuccas at "WCCO 4 News This Morning" starting Sept. 1.

Brickman will take over for Mike Augustyniak who, in a statement released by WCCO, said he asked for a reassignment.

"My body doesn't work as well at 3 a.m. as it does at 3 p.m.," he said.

Current traffic reporter Natalie Nyhus will become anchor of the Saturday morning show, the gig currently held by Brickman.

"After four awesome years on mornings, I was ready for a new challenge," Nyhus said.

In a letter sent out to staff, news director Mike Caputa reiterated that the changes were made at the requests of Nyhus and Augustyniak.

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