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Posts about Behind the scenes

Charles Keating had a long association with the Guthrie

Posted by: Graydon Royce Updated: August 12, 2014 - 1:50 PM

Veteran actor Charles Keating, whose roots extended to the early years of the Guthrie Theater, has died at 72. He had been diagnosed with lung cancer three year ago.

Keating is best known to the wider universe as a soap opera star, particularly for his superbly oily lothario Carl Hutchins on “Another World.” He was nominated for an Emmy in 1996 for his work as Carl. He also performed on “All My Children” and “As the Word Turns.”

But long before he was a daytime villain, Keating trained with Sir Tyrone Guthrie in Minneapolis. He appeared in “The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui” and “The House of Atreus.” He returned to Minneapolis in the past 15 years as Malvolio in “Twelfth Night” and as Scrooge (at right in Michal Daniel's photo) in the 2004 production of “A Christmas Carol.” His performance in that role was considered the best in Twin Cities theater that year by Star Tribune critics – an estimable achievement given how familiar the character is.

He also played a key role when Joe Dowling staged Brian Friel’s “The Home Place” on the Guthrie proscenium. In 2007, he brought a solo show, “I and I, about aging and the self, to the Guthrie studio.

“Charles Keating was a quintessential actor’s actor,” said Dowling, the Guthrie director. “Mercurial, flamboyant, highly intuitive and with a deep and rich voice. He was a joy to work with and brought his great intelligence and his inquiring mind to every role he played.”

His film credits included "The Thomas Crown Affair," and "The Bodyguard." In addition to the soaps, he did TV with "Alias," "Xena: Warrior Princess" and "Hercules." And on stage, he was Tony nominated for a revival of “Loot” in 1986.

Keating, London born, was married 50 years and died at his home in Connecticut. His wife, Mary, and two sons survive.

Fringe Festival hits new ticket record

Posted by: Graydon Royce Updated: August 11, 2014 - 11:57 AM

The Minnesota Fringe Festival, which ended Sunday, eked out a new attendance record. The 11-day flurry of theater, dance and spoken word issued 50,226 tickets to 878 performances (an average of 57 people per show) and beat the previous high of 50,222 in 2010.

“It’s always great when we break through that 50,000 ticket mark,” said Jeff Larson, who is in his first year as executive director. “But it’s even better to have a new record.”

The festival has is calculating total revenue, about two-thirds of which is paid to artists. In 2013, total income was $365,101.


Photo by Renee Jones Schneider


Bollywood Dance Scene’s “Hi! Hello! Namaste?” (above) had the highest attendance of the festival. “Fotis Canyon,” produced and performed by Mike Fotis finished second and “Mainly Me Productions’ Our American Assassin; or You Can’t Handle the Booth!” (favorite title in the Fringe) was third.

“Into the Unreal City” sold out 11 performances (with capacity of about 20 people for each show) and “Crime and Punishment” by Live Action Set sold out eight performances. “The Sex (Ed) Show” presented by V as in Victor packed out six shows.

The Minnesota Fringe is the nation’s largest unjuried theater festival. Next year’s 11-day run – the 22nd annual – will be July 30-Aug. 9.

Get your Fringe on: an early look at what's in store

Posted by: Graydon Royce Updated: July 29, 2014 - 11:17 AM

Do you have your comfy walking shoes, shorts and t-shirt ready for Thursday night? That’s our first taste of the Minnesota Fringe Festival and by Saturday the sidewalks and lobbies will be full of avid Fringers dishing recommendations and pans.

I posted some titles from the first Fringe Preview that seemed worthy of a chance. Last Monday’s second preview yielded these possibilities. Again, this is based on three minutes of what you have to assume is the best face the producers could put forward. Go to the Fringe site for more details.


“The Jungle Book” seemed so charming in a little song; “The Confederate” is an interesting story; “Fifth Planet” (at left) is by David Auburn (“Proof”) so it has a pedigree; “Mainly Me Productions’ Our American Assassin” has Shanan Custer – good enough for me; Same with Sam Landman in “Kitty, Kitty, Kitty;” “Into the Unreal City” is a musical that seemed good in preview; “Sole Mates: An Almost Romantic Comedy” is iffy but maybe worth a look; “The Finkles Theater Show” has a clumsy humor that’s well done; “Hi! Hello! Namaste?” had an exciting, slightly ragged and energizing dance in the preview that had me writing “Yes!” until they got to the wooden dialogue; “The Sex (Ed) Show!” (below right) should be enjoyable, the Dirty Curls; “Shakespeare Apocalypse: A New Musical” was great – again, for three minutes.


Glancing through the schedule yielded a few other nuggets that weren’t seen in preview. So this is based

strictly on reputations and hunches (isn’t that how the world works?).


“Amateur Hour” has the Scrimshaw magic, Levi Weinhagen, Joe Bozic and Mike Fotis. Great potential. Speaking of Fotis, he’s back with “Fotis Canyon,” which sounds like Mike sitting around telling funny stories. Fotis is always worth the effort.

Colleen Kruse and Karen Paurus team up for “Becoming Inga.” Funny story teller, great singer and lots of blue material. Definitely worth considering.

I love the Ausland boys, Andy and Rick. They’re back with “Buckets and Tap Shoes” this year. If you need to get your heart re-started, this is the show.

“Crime and Punishment” has this going for it: Live Action Set in the basement of the Soap Factory. ‘Nuff said.


"Unreal City" at the Fringe Preview No. 2. All photos by Renee Schneider Jones.


“Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend” is by Hardcover Theater, which does well with its literary adaptations. More traditional for those who want to feel like they are actually watching a real play at the Fringe.

“Habibi” has James A. Williams in the cast. Not often you see a Broadway actor in the Fringe. “History of Minnesota – Unscripted” has the imprimatur of Theater of Public Policy. “Native Man” is a new musical by Minneapolis playwright Rhiana Yazzie. “Natural Novice” is an out of towner that has gotten some good notice at other festivals.

I like Minnesota history, so “The Ohman Stone” caught my eye. It’s about the controversy over whether the Kensington Runestone is real or a fake. “One Arm” is a Moises Kaufman project using a Tennessee Williams screenplay. Those are pretty good names.

I trust Nautilus Music Theater implicitly so “Reach” should be well worth your musical tastes; “Real Dead Ghosts” is by a New York company that has done good work in this Fringe. You can also trust Peter Moore to do well with “The Second Oldest Profession,” a memoir of sorts of his 40 years in the biz.

Some Shakespeare buffs are putting together “Twelfth Night” and “What You Will,” two pieces of the same script, it appears (I could be wrong). Terry Hempleman, Catherine Johnson Justice, Alayne Hopkins, Sasha Andreev and Sam Bardwell are some of the actors involved. Very impressive.

Finally, “Four Humors Do Every Show in the Fringe” banks on this talented gang of pranksters to find something funny in each of the other 168 shows in the festival.

Otherwise, look for reviews starting Friday morning online at Star Tribune.    

These Fringe shows are selling well

Posted by: Claude Peck Updated: July 25, 2014 - 10:33 AM

Cast members of "Another Opening, Another Show" previewed their Fringe show on July 21. Star Tribune photo by Renee Jones Schneider, reneejones@startribune.com

The Minnesota Fringe Festival, that unpredictable, 11-day cavalcade of monolog, dance, comedy, drama and musicals, opens in a week and runs July 31 to Aug. 10. Based on ticket sales in the past seven days, Fringe executives says these are the top-selling shows.

1. There is No Myth
2. Crime and Punishment
3. The Tiger in the Room
4. Top Gun: The Musical
5. A Very Merry Unauthorized Children’s Scientology Pageant
6. A Christmas Carol Passover
7. The Whole World is Here
8. It Only Takes One
9. Sex & Turkey
10. Flushing New York

We preview the risk-takers who produce musicals at the Fringe in a story on Sunday (July 27). We publish the complete Fringe schedule online and in print on Thursday (July 31). Those with intense interest may view this year's complete Fringe listings right this minute right here.

Beginning next Friday and Saturday, watch the Star Tribune for short reviews of 40 Fringe shows by our crack squad of veteran Fringe-critiquers.

The captains of Fringe have gathered short preview videos of a bunch of shows on their YouTube page.



Cast members of "Strangetalk," a Fringe show by Theatre Passe-passe. Star Tribune photo by Renee Jones Schneider.

Minnesota Opera gets new support from Mellon Foundation

Posted by: Graydon Royce Updated: July 17, 2014 - 10:03 AM


Minnesota Opera’s reputation for developing new work has drawn interest and encouragement from many sources nationally and internationally. The company announced Thursday that it will receive a $750,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support upcoming commissions of “The Manchurian Candidate,” “The Shining” and “Dinner at Eight.”


The gift, which stretches over three years, completes fundraising for the Opera’s $7 million New Works Initiative and launches a new phase.

The gift “sets the stage for the Initiative’s continuation and underscores the national importance of this landmark program for the development of new opera,” Opera President and General Director Kevin Ramach said in a statement.

The initiative was launched in 2008 with the intention of supporting new commissions and revivals of newer work (which in opera can mean anything from the last century) or work seldom performed. Among the world premieres developed through the program are “Silent Night” (Photo above by Tom Wallace) by Kevin Puts and Mark Campbell and “Doubt” by John Patrick Shanley and Douglas Cuomo (below, photo by Tom Wallace).


Puts won the Pulitzer Prize for music for his “Silent Night” score. He and Campbell are working on an adaptation of “The Manchurian Candidate,” which is in development and targeted for a premiere next March.

Campbell will also serve as librettist for “The Shining” with composer Paul Moravec (slated for May 2016) and he will write “Dinner at Eight” with composer William Bolcom (headed for 2017). Both those productions are part of the second phase of the initiative. Additionally, the New Works Initiative incorporates a co-commission of “Cold Mountain” (based on Charles Frazier's Civil War novel) with Santa Fe and Opera Philadelphia, with a score by composer Jennifer Higdon.


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