Sunday, May 9, 2021

"Beehive" streaming from Lakeshore Players Theatre

Lakeshore Players Theatre, the community theater of White Bear Lake, has been continuously operating since 1953. They weren't about to let a little thing like a pandemic that paused all live performances end that streak. Their virtual 67 3/4th season is now wrapping up with Beehive: the '60s Musical, recorded on stage at their gorgeous new home Hanifl Performing Arts Center. I watched it virtually with a friend that lives halfway across the country, and at the end she commented "that was swell." There's nothing new or ground-breaking about this benign jukebox musical, but it's chock full of songs that we love from the 1960s, well performed by a diverse all-female cast. That is pretty swell, and you can watch it from the safety and comfort of your own home at specific showtimes through May 16. And then mark your calendar for a special outdoor* performance of one of my favorite Sondheim musicals, Company, in July.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

2021 Summer Outdoor #TCTheater and More!

photo taken by me in the BWCA (no filter, it's just that gorgeous)
I've long believed that one of the best things about a Minnesota summer (besides lakes, like the one at left in the BWCA) is the opportunity for watching outdoor performances. Every summer there are many great options, from music to plays and more. But this year, when outdoors feels like the safest place to be, and we're starved for live in-person entertainment after a year (and counting) of theater closures due to the pandemic, outdoor performances are absolutely necessary to get us through to that joyous day when we can return to the theater indoors. Below is a list of outdoor shows in #TCTheater (and beyond) planned for this spring/summer/fall. I'll continue to update this list as I hear of more, and please let me know via email (, the comment section below, or social media if there are any I've missed.

Monday, May 3, 2021

"Audrey Saves the Universe" streaming from Children's Theatre Company

This Friday, Children's Theatre Company is releasing a new original web series called Audrey Saves the Universe, and I was lucky enough get an advanced viewing of this fun, silly, and sweet show. Entirely created/filmed/edited by company members Autumn Ness (playwright) and Reed Sigmund (director), who are conveniently married, this 90-minute saga is split into seven easily digestible episodes as it explores the power of creativity. The show could be subtitled "what artists do when trapped in their house for a year," in the best possible way. They've created an entire universe out of what's available to them, even enlisting their kids and adorable pug in telling this story. Available through May 28, the entire series can be purchased starting at $15 and is a great way to stay connected to the work that CTC does during this extended intermission.

Monday, April 26, 2021

Jamecia Bennett in "The Evolution of Jazz & Blues" at The Belvedere at Crooners

After a long winter of no live in-person entertainment, spring has finally arrived, a hopeful spring which is bringing us vaccines and the return of outdoor entertainment! Even before living under the specter of a deadly airborne virus, outdoor entertainment was one of my favorite things about summer in Minnesota. Now, when outdoors feels like the safest place to be, outdoor venues are even more important to our arts and entertainment industry. Last summer, Crooners Supper Club in Fridley stepped up with an outdoor drive-in performance venue and it was a life-saver for me; I attended four drive-in shows, plus one on their outdoor patio. This year, they've expanded that intimate outdoor patio into a larger space with appropriately spaced table seating under a tent. Called "The Belvedere," it's a great venue for outdoor entertainment that I hope they keep going for years to come. I can think of no one better to christen this new space than the incomparable Jamecia Bennett, local music and theater legend. I was lucky enough to experience one of her two shows last weekend, and if this is any indication, it's sure to be a fantastic spring/summer/fall at Crooners!

Sunday, April 25, 2021

"The Revolutionists" streaming from Lyric Arts

This morning I watched my third streaming Lauren Gunderson play in a week. Last week I watched Steppingstone Theatre's I and You and Jungle Theater's collaboration on Lauren's newest play The Catostrophist (the latter available through May 2, click here for info on both). Today I had the pleasure of watching Lyric Arts's first show since January 2020 - The Revolutionists, recently filmed on their Anoka stage. Like many of Lauren's plays, it tells a fictionalized story of well-known (or should be well-known) women from history with modern language and sensibility, and is funny, smart, poignant, and relevant. If you miss live theater and/or Lyric Arts' popcorn-scented Main Street Stage, don't miss this show (available through May 2 only)!

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Two Lauren Gunderson Plays: "The Catastrophist" by Jungle/Round House/Marin Theatres and "I and You " by Steppingstone Theatre

After a particularly difficult week (rising COVID cases, vaccine side effects, the continued murder of Black people by the police, mass shootings, i.e., just another week in America) I took a much-needed hiatus from my phone today and instead spent some time at my church - theater. Specifically, I streamed two plays by one of my and America's current favorite playwrights, Lauren Gunderson (she's one of the most produced living playwrights in recent years; I saw two of her plays in February 2020, just before this extended intermission began). In the last year or so of virtual theater, I've found that I love watching theater in the morning - 7am or earlier, first thing when I get up while I eat breakfast, before doing my morning zoom yoga. It's a wonderful way to start the day. I began my phone-less theater-filled day with Lauren's newest play, The Catastrophist, a Jungle Theater co-production with DC's Round House Theatre and San Francisco's Marin Theatre Company. Then, after yoga and a lovely bike ride around my neighborhood, I watched I and You over lunch, produced by Steppingstone Theatre, which has recently joined forces with Park Square Theatre. The two plays are quite different, but share similar themes as well as Lauren's smart, clever, witty dialogue and realistic characters (one of whom actually is real). Both plays are under 90 minutes and really great choices for your stay-home-stay-safe-stream-some-theater week.

Saturday, March 27, 2021

"Kodachrome" streaming from Locally Grown Theatre

One good thing to come out of this extended intermission from live theater is discovering new theater companies. I had not previously heard of Locally Grown Theatre, a community theater in "Cottage Grove, St. Paul Park, Newport, Grey Cloud Island, and the surrounding area," but this week I watched a virtual play in the zoom style of theater and quite enjoyed it. Kodachrome is a sweet little Our Town-ish play about life in a small town, with all the mundanity and profundity that entails. Even though they're each performing in their own little box, the seven-person cast (although disappointingly lacking in diversity) all give wonderful performances that create a feeling of community in this story of love and loss.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

"The Lady with All the Answers" streaming from Lakeshore Players Theatre

Recently recorded on stage at the beautiful new Hanifl Performing Arts Center in White Bear Lake, the one-woman show about advice columnist Ann Landers, The Lady with All the Answers, is now streaming from Lakeshore Players Theatre. #TCTheater favorite Shanan Custer inhabits the woman behind the famous words, whose real name was Eppie Lederer, as she navigates a challenging time in her life and the wish to share honestly with her readers. With full set, costumes, lighting, and even a bit of crowd laughter from the crew, filmed from several different camera angles, it really feels like an engaging and entertaining theater performance that we just happen to be watching from home.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

"Merge: Give Ear" streaming from the Cowles Center

Berit Ahlgren and Nathan Keepers
(photo by Shelly Mosman)
Give Ear is one of the many shows that were scheduled to open in March 2020; I call them "ghost shows." Some of them had a few performances before being cancelled, some of them just dress rehearsals or previews, some of them never even reached that point. Some of these shows will return in some form when theaters open again, but some will never come to be, and just remain an idea in the artists' minds. The Cowles Center gave creators Berit Ahlgren, Nathan Keepers, and company the opportunity to revisit Give Ear one year later and make it into something new. The result is a film/dance/theater piece that combines footage from the filmed final dress rehearsal last year and the new performance this year (both filmed on the Goodale Stage with no audience) with footage from the rehearsal/creative process (in one of the gorgeous studios in the Cowles Center) that sort of bridges the two performances. As Nathan says at one point, it "turned out to be super meta and weird." It's a look inside the artistic process as these artists try to make sense of the original piece they were trying to make one year ago and everything that's happened since. Nothing will be the same when this pandemic is over. Give Ear is an exploration of what that looks like for this one specific "ghost show."

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Ghostlight Series: "Re-Cast" streaming from Theater Latte Da

The second of Theater Latte Da's five-part virtual cabaret series called "The Ghostlight Series" is now available! Following January's powerful and moving Twelve Blocks From Where I Live, Regina Marie Williams's response to the murder of George Floyd in photos and song, Re-Cast gives some of our favorites the chance to sing a song from a role they would never be cast in. Or at least haven't been yet. Both shows are available to watch now and as many times as you want through August with the purchase of a season pass. These gorgeously filmed and edited 30-minute shows with fantastic performances from some of #TCTheater's best are worth every penny, helping to bridge the gap until we can gather in person again to share stories and music.

"Live From New York, He's A Prom Date!" streaming from Theatre Unmasqued

For your safe-at-home theater viewing, #TCTheater artist Jen Maren (perhaps most well know for playing the infamous Minnesota murderer and arsonist Marjorie Congden in History Theatre's smash hit original musical Glensheen) has adapted her solo show Live From New York, He's A Prom Date! to the streaming environment. Written and directed by her husband Pete Simmons, the show tells the story of when Jen's mom called the Sally Jessy Raphael Show and got them on the show for an episode about moms upset that their daughters weren't asked to prom. Yes, that actually happened, and yes, it's just as awful and cringe-worthy as you think. Jen plays all of the characters as she tells this story, which is as hilarious as it is poignant in her description of her relationship with her mom.

Friday, February 26, 2021

"DIGITAL" streaming live, by Emily Michaels King

image courtesy of Emily Michaels King
In one of the most innovative uses of the new virtual art media that I've seen, #TCTheater artist Emily Michaels King brings us a new creation called DIGITAL, streamed live via Zoom from her home to yours. Much like her solo show at the 2019 Minnesota Fringe Festival, DIGITAL combines various forms of art and media, is difficult to describe, is not always understandable, and yet is profoundly moving. As usual Emily puts her heart and soul into the performance, which is felt even from a distance through a screen. DIGITAL is definitely unique in the #TCTheater virtual space right now, and you have several more chances to catch it through March 6.