Sunday, January 17, 2021

"To Breed, Or Not To Breed" by Fortune's Fool Theatre at the Crane Theater and Now Streaming

Back in early November when theaters were open at limited capacity, just before the November surge tightened things up again, Fortune's Fool Theatre presented a new piece called To Breed, Or Not To Breed at the Crane Theater* in Northeast Minneapolis. I chose not to attend, because I've been very cautious since the start of the pandemic and don't anticipate returning to the theater until the vaccine is more widely distributed and/or local case numbers decrease significantly (maybe this spring if things go well?). But fortunately for us, Fortune's Fool recorded these performances and have made them available to view on YouTube for free, with a suggested donation if you're able. I watched all three 50-ish-minute installments this weekend and found this series of storytelling pieces about the choice to have or not have children very engaging, moving, relatable, and honest.

Saturday, January 9, 2021

"I'll Be Seeing You Again" - an audio play from Jungle Theater

The third and final installment of Jungle Theater's "Jungle Serial" series of short audio plays was released last week. This has been such a wonderfully creative, inspiring, and entertaining series, but I'll Be Seeing You Again is my favorite of the three. Written and directed by #TCTheater artist JuCoby Johnson, it's a sweet and simple story of a relationship set against the backdrop of a very complicated time - Minneapolis in the uncertain, terrifying, inspiring days shortly after the murder of George Floyd, in the middle of a global pandemic. The intro invokes the physical theater space that we all miss so much, and the play itself feels like a teaser of the incredible art and theater that will be coming out of the events of the past year. As always, the audio play is best enjoyed sitting or lying in a comfortable position, with eyes closed and all other distractions removed, to fully immerse yourself in the experience.

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Oh What A Year - 2020 #TCTheater Wrap-Up

Well friends, here we are. This is the time I would normally be agonizing over the list of 200-some shows that I've seen in the last year, trying to narrow it down to a few dozen favorites. But there's nothing normal about this year, at least not since early March. I saw my last indoor live performance on February 23 (a cabaret show by Colleen Somerville and friends called "Songs that Make Me Feel Better" at Bryant-Lake Bowl), then I spent two weeks in paradise (aka New Zealand), and came home on March 11 to a world I'd never known, a world I could never have imagined - a world without theater. And now, nearly 10 months later, we're still living in that world. My heart breaks for all of the artists, theater companies, and performance venues who have lost work and income over that time. For me, I haven't lost income, just my reason for living. Or one of the biggest ones anyway. It's not just that I have more free time than I've had since college, or that I'm bored, or even that I miss theater. It's bigger than that. Theater is my way of experiencing the world, theater is my way of interacting with the world, and after ten years of blogging (I "celebrated" my 10th anniversary in August), I'm not quite sure who I am without it. Yes, I've found things to fill the time, and fill my soul a little (I bought a Minnesota State Parks permit for the first time in my life and visited 22 of them, I went on a scavenger hunt around Roseville looking for 20 beautifully painted six-foot statues of roses, I started cross-stitching and playing around on the piano again), but nothing is the same as sitting in a roomful of humans (now a scary thought) experiencing storytelling that takes you to another place. I believe that there is a light at the end of this theater-less tunnel, but how long we have yet to travel in that dark tunnel is unknown. So at this time, I'd like to look back on the year that was 2020, in hopes that the worst is behind us.

Monday, December 21, 2020

"Dickens' Holiday Classic" streaming from Guthrie Theater

The Guthrie Theater has been presenting Charles Dickens' classic story A Christmas Carol for over 40 years. The show has gone through many iterations - different adaptations, different directors, different casts, different uses of music and dancing. 2020 sees yet another new version of the classic - a virtual one you can watch in your own home (for just $10 per household). Starting from an adaptation written by Dickens himself for the one-man-show he performed, Guthrie Artistic Director Joseph Haj teamed up with #TCTheater artist E.G. Baily, who also has a film company, to adapt and direct this piece, creating something entirely new. Not exactly theater, and not exactly film, the show combines bits of both media for an experience that is smaller, quieter, and more intimate than the Christmas Carol we're used to seeing on the Guthrie's thrust stage, but just as lovely, engaging, and moving as ever.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Virtual Holiday #TCTheater Shows

Well friends, we've nearly made it to the end of a very strange year, one filled with tragedy, grief, awakening, and maybe a little hope as we reexamine how and why we do everything, and have the opportunity to do it better. The holiday season obviously looks a lot different this year (and not just because there's no snow in Minnesota). But one thing remains the same - #TCTheater has produced an abundance of holiday offerings, virtual of course. Read through the list below (some of which I've watched already, some of which I plan to) and find one (or ten) that look appealing to you. Some are free to view or listen to, some are offered in exchange for a small fee, but regardless, please consider a donation to your favorite theater(s) as part of your end-of-year giving, if you're in a position to do so. I have great hope that theater will return in 2021, and donations help ensure that theater companies will make it through to that time. One thing I've learned this year is that artists will find a way to make and distribute art, no matter the circumstances they find themselves in.

Monday, December 14, 2020

"CenterPlay" - an audio play from Jungle Theater

The second of Jungle Theater's three-part "Jungle Serial" series is now available: CenterPlay is a 30-minute audio play from #TCTheater artist Vie Boheme, who wrote, directed, and performed in the piece. It's another engrossing audio experience, best enjoyed sitting or lying still with eyes closed to be fully absorbed in the story.

Monday, December 7, 2020

"Is Edward Snowden Single?" streaming from Jungle Theater

Jungle Theater's first ever virtual play Is Edward Snowden Single? is one of the best uses of this new medium that I've seen. Playwright Kate Cortesi wrote the play before this pandemic shut down all live performance, but the Jungle team has turned it into something that feels like it was written for this form that is sort of theater but not really, and sort of film but not really. Combining illustrations, animation, and fantastically versatile performances by two actors in front of green screens in separate locations, not to mention some pretty great voice acting, they tell this story of two best friends trying to navigate life, love, work, and the truth in a truly fresh and innovative 2020 kind of way.

Sunday, December 6, 2020

The History Theatre's Virtual New Works Festival "Raw Stages," Fall 2020

Every January, the History Theatre hosts a new works festival called "Raw Stages." Most of their programming is original works, so they rely on these annual workshops and readings as part of the development process. Faced with a long closure of the theater space due to the current and seemingly never-ending pandemic, they decided to hold another "Raw Stages" festival this year - virtually. Workshops and readings are done over Zoom, with the each of five recorded readings available for streaming for a week, spread out about a month apart. I missed the first one, Not In Our Neighborhood (which was supposed to premiere in the spring of 2020), but I've watched the other four. The most recent and currently streaming is the delightful Betty Crocker Musical, with a live talk-back on Friday. Read on for details of all five new works and how you can watch them.

Thursday, December 3, 2020

"Family Dinner" streaming live on YouTube every Saturday from Huge Theater

Everyone's favorite improvised holiday* show returns this year! But instead of parodying that awkward in-person holiday dinner with family and/or friends, this year Family Dinner is parodying that awkward holiday zoom call with family and/or friends - what could be more perfect for 2020?! A new dinner is streaming on Huge Theater's YouTube page for the next three Saturdays at 8pm. I watched it last Saturday night (bonus: if you're a morning person like me you can watch it in bed and not have to worry about staying up past your bedtime) and it's just as hilariously awkward as always. The show is free to watch, no need for tickets or reservations, but if you watch it please do consider donating $10 or $15 or more to support these artists through this extended intermission.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

"Mondo Tragic" - an audio play from Jungle Theater

The first of Jungle Theater's three-part "Jungle Serial" series was released recently. Mondo Tragic is a 30-minute audio play written and performed by Eric Micha Holmes, with seamlessly integrated sound design by Omar Zubair. It's an intense and mesmerizing exploration of race, racism, and racial identity, that traverses from the Mondo films of the '60s and '70s to Rachel Dolezal. I recommend listening while lying on the floor with your eyes closed to let the sounds, story, and ideas wash over you without any external distractions.

Monday, November 30, 2020

"A Cattywampus Christmas" - a radio play from Yellow Tree Theatre and A.D. Players at the George Theatre

2020 has been a year like no other. But one thing remains the same - fans of Yellow Tree Theatre can return to the charming and quirky (fictional) Minnesota town of Christmas Lake. Co-Founder and Interim Artistic Director Jessica Lind Peterson has written another very Minnesotan holiday* comedy, this one as an audio play, which I listened to whilst putting up my Christmas tree. For those of us who have grown to love Christmas Lake resident Martha Knutson and her tater tot hot dish, her pet lizard Katherine, and her obsession with Little House on the Prairie, listening to A Cattywampus Christmas feels like going home for the holidays.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

"The Empathy Project" streaming from Full Circle Theater

This past weekend, Full Circle Theater Company premiered a new play they've been working on for several years. Playwright and Full Circle Core Artist Stephanie Lein Walseth interviewed about 20 people around the state about empathy. She noted in a post show discussion (which followed all four showings of the recorded zoom reading) that she first had the idea for this project prior to the 2016 election, and started interviewing people about a year ago. Out of each interview, she pulled a short story, looking for moments of surprise or something that challenged our stereotypes. The stories are woven together in a structure she compared to the docu-theater style of a Laramie Project or Yellow Face, or like a story circle. The result is incredibly moving, and is well suited to the virtual format as it focuses on one person telling a story.