Sunday, October 18, 2020

"The Awakening of Spring" - a live virtual performance by Feral Theatre Company

Spring Awakening is one of my favorite musicals, so much so that 11 years ago I named my new kitten Moritz Stiefel. I've seen it on stage eight times, including twice on Broadway (the original run with most of the original cast, and the stunning 2015 revival by Deaf West). The musical is an adaptation by Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater of the ahead-of-its-time late 19th Century German play Frülings Erwachen by Frank Wedekind. The play was often banned or censored due to it's frank (no pun intended) discussion of the sexual awakening of teenagers in an oppressed society. Feral Theatre Company is offering us this 100+ year old play for 2020, complete with zoom and masks. The themes of this play - suicide, abortion, sex education, child abuse - never lack relevancy, and are perhaps even more important now as we approach this election. It's an ambitious undertaking for a new theater company, and they do a great job bringing this story to life within the limitations of the current world, with a talented young cast that gives raw and vulnerable performances to a camera, nicely edited together with graphics of modern social media communication.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

"Everything Changes: A Parking Lot Concert" by Yellow Tree Theatre in a parking lot

Everything changes, and that's perhaps never been more true in my lifetime than this year. But what hasn't changed is people's need to share stories and music, and the connection that it brings to us. Yellow Tree Theatre's outdoor drive-in parking lot concert entitled "Everything Changes" is a prime example of that. A parking lot full of cars, five performers on a makeshift stage, some speakers and a radio frequency - an unconventional set-up but a familiar and beloved experience of audience and artists sharing stories, music, energy, and light.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

"A Pickup Truck Opera; Volume One: The Odyssey; Episode Three, The Song of Telemaco" by Mixed Precipitation at Various Outdoor Locations

One of my favorite summer #TCTheater traditions is Mixed Precipitation's delightfully playful mash-up of classic opera and pop music, performed outdoors with passed small bites of delicious food. While the "Picnic Operetta" (which I've attended for the last six years) is on hiatus this year due to the pandemic, Mixed Precipitation is still bringing us fun and and accessible outdoor opera in the form of what they're calling "Pickup Truck Opera." In a 2011 royal blue Ford pickup, they've been "popping up" all over the Twin Cities with their 25-minute performance of yet another opera/pop mash-up. I was lucky enough to catch one of their 11 performances, at a little not-park in St. Paul on a perfectly gorgeous fall afternoon. Their final two performances will be as part of Park Square Theatre and Steppingstone Theatre's "Family Day Out" event on October 25.

Monday, October 5, 2020

"Understood" by Trademark Theater, an Audio Play

Two years ago, Trademark Theater premiered the new play Understood, written by resident playwright Tyler Mills, about a divided couple and a divided nation. Now, when that division has only increased, and a global pandemic has made live performance dangerous, they've pivoted this piece into an audio play, updating it for 2020. It works remarkably well in this format. Removing the visuals and the staging allows the audience to really focus on the words, and what's in between the words. And this play is all about what's being said, or not being said, or how it's being said. Understood is available now through the election, and is such an advocate for the kind of communication, listening, and connection we'll need to survive the next few months.

Saturday, October 3, 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 next two, Diesel Heart and Wilson's Girl, the latter of which is available for streaming this week with a live talk-back on Friday. Read on for details of all five new works and how you can watch them.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

"The Cafe" by Collide Theatrical Dance Company Outdoors at Gremlin Theatre

Since 2013, Collide Theatrical Dance Company has been creating original dance musicals that really blur the line between dance, theater, and music (their name refers to a collision of art forms). Most of their shows tell a story strictly through dance and music (typically pop songs performed live), with little or no dialogue. In February they remounted their adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, which I didn't see because I had seen the original in 2014 and I was so busy with #TCTheater that I couldn't fit it in (can you even imagine?!). But in the last 6+ months my life has become the complete opposite of that, so my schedule was happily free and clear to see their new production, being performed outdoors for a limited time only. In fact only one performance remains, tonight, and can be viewed in person or virtually. I saw it in person last night and was smiling under my mask for 60 minutes! Click here for all of the details of how you can take in this delightful dance show.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

"Live at the Loading Dock: Ordway Cabaret" outdoors behind the Ordway Center

St. Paul's Ordway Center for the Performing Arts had planned a 2020-2021 Broadway season that included touring shows and original productions, classics and new musicals. But as this extended intermission is lasting longer than any of us had hoped, due to a pandemic that isn't slowing down, at least in this country, their plans have changed. The only show on the schedule as of now is a summer 2021 Ordway Original production of RENT, which of course is still dependent on what happens with the virus between now and then. To celebrate this season-that-wasn't, and to show their commitment to producing these shows at some future date, the Ordway is presenting an outdoor cabaret concert consisting of songs from the planned upcoming season, as well as one cancelled show from last season. Live at the Loading Dock is performed outside behind the theater in the loading dock area, which is really a perfect outdoor venue. Seeing this show nourished my theater-starved soul and gave me hope for that day in the future when we can all gather together safely to share music and stories again.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

"An Evening with Kate Beahen" at Crooners Lakeside Cafe

What good is sitting alone In your room?
Come hear the music play.
Life is a Cabaret, old chum,
Come to the Cabaret.

I don't know about you, but I've been doing more "sitting alone in my room" the last six months than any six-month period in my entire life. For someone who's used to going to the cabaret, i.e., theater, 3-5 times a week, that's quite a change. As I told someone last night, life just feels a little empty right now. But fortunately, there are still cabarets that are safely happening; one of the few places is at Crooners Supper Club, which has a couple of different options for outdoor concerts. I've been to enough of their drive-in concerts that the workers recognize me and/or my bug, but this was my first time attending a concert at their lovely Lakeside Cafe, to see the one and only Kate Beahen.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

"Minnesota State of UnFair" by Classic Alley Performers on YouTube

In another example of the performing arts adapting to this strange time, the sketch comedy group Classic Alley Performers has partnered with Strike Theater to bring us virtual performing arts, which they're calling "Minnesota State of UnFair." The 40 minutes of sketch comedy airs live on Strike's Facebook page this Friday through Sunday nights, but I got a sneak peek of this funny and topical show.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

"Roseville in Bloom" Art Display in Roseville

Since there's not a whole lot of #TCTheater going on during this seemingly never-ending pandemic, I'm trying to find art in other places. Fortunately the city of Roseville has made that easy to do with their "Roseville in Bloom" campaign - 20 statues of 6-foot tall roses beautifully painted by local artists scattered around the Northeast suburb. While I've never lived in Roseville, I've lived adjacent to Roseville for 24 years, so I'm pretty familiar with the neighborhoods. This past weekend, on my way home from attending a play for the first time in six months (MJTC's wonderful 25 Questions for a Jewish Mother) I found 9 of the roses. I went out on my bike another day to visit 6 more, and saw the final 5 today (via car). I don't know if this was planned pre- or post- pandemic, but either way it's a fantastic safe activity to do right now; a fun way to experience art outdoors and appropriately distanced. Take the map, your GPS or Google Maps, sunscreen, and go find some art! (You can find more details, as well as deals at Roseville businesses, on their website.)

Monday, August 17, 2020

"25 Questions for a Jewish Mother" by Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company at Harriet Island Target Stage

The last time I saw a play was on February 22. In fact I saw two plays that day (as I sometimes had to do to fit everything in in the good old days) - the Children's Theatre's new original play Spamtown, USA, and Theatre Pro Rata's production of Silent Sky at the Bell Museum. If someone had told me that I wouldn't see a play live and in-person for almost six months, I would not have believed them. I would have said that's impossible. But a few days after seeing those plays, I left the country to spend two weeks in paradise (aka New Zealand), and returned home to find that the world had turned upside down. We found ourselves in a global pandemic that we're still very much in, with theater being one of the first things to go, and unfortunately one of the last to return. The good news is some #TCTheater companies have gotten creative in this time (see also Park Square Theatre's delightful original Zoom play series RIDDLE PUZZLE PLOT). Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company is opening their 26th season with an outdoor, masked, socially distanced play. I cannot tell you how wonderful it was to gather together again and listen to a story, simply and beautifully told. To anyone else who's craving that, go see this play! And not just because it's the only thing out there right now in terms of live theater, but also because it's a really moving, funny, relatable, heart-warming play.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

"RIDDLE PUZZLE PLOT" by Park Square Theatre on Zoom

Original post from July 25, 2020:
Friends, I am beyond thrilled to post my first #TCTheater review in almost five months. Yes it's a virtual performance streamed over Zoom, so it's not quite the same, but it's a chance to see some of my favorite artists being creative and having fun, while putting out new content during a pandemic that doesn't seem to be getting any better. That's cause to celebrate. And it's not too late to get in on the action. Park Square Theatre's RIDDLE PUZZLE PLOT is a new play written for this format by one of my favorite #TCTheater playwrights, Jeffrey Hatcher, about a group of actors connecting over Zoom during a pandemic (how meta!). It will play out over four installments, beginning this weekend, with a $30 ticket getting you access to all episodes, either with live and interactive pre- and post-show content on Friday or Saturday night, or to watch on demand later in the week. I watched it last night and it was truly delightful, and such a comfort to experience something akin to theater again.