Monday, November 30, 2020

"A Cattywampus Christmas" - an audio 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.

Friday, November 20, 2020

"Tears of Moons" streaming from Park Square Theatre

#TCTheater artist Antonio Duke first wrote his solo play Tears of Moons in 2016, and it's now being produced by Park Square Theatre. Virtually, of course. But he did perform it on Park Square's basement thrust Boss Stage, a recording of which is being streamed over Zoom just three more times this weekend. This powerful and affecting piece is described thusly: "Join the poetic journey of a man traveling through time, witnessing our country’s shared history and the ongoing violence against Black people. Both personal and expansive, Tears of Moons interweaves African spiritual figures and mythology with Greek epic theatre to reckon with the past and share a vision of strength."

Sunday, November 15, 2020

"The Things They Carried" streaming from History Theatre

The History Theatre continues to offer recordings of past productions to stream during this extended intermission. Currently available is the 2017 production of The Things They Carried. I did not see this production, but I did see a 2014 production of this play, presented in rep with Lonely Soldiers: Women at War in Iraq. I hope that they stream the latter play at some point too, because stories of the sexual harassment and assault that women in the military face are just as important to tell as stories of the soldiers of the Vietnam War. But in the meantime, the roughly 70-minute play (with a 20-minute post-show discussion) is a powerful piece and a great choice to watch at home.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

"Last Stop on Market Street" streaming from Children's Theatre Company

Like many theaters, Children's Theatre Company is offering recordings of past shows to be viewed during this extended intermission from theater. The current show is Last Stop on Market Street from 2018, a show I didn't see because there was so much #TCTheater happening I couldn't fit everything into my schedule (what a great problem to have). I watched it today and found it to be a sweet and entertaining show with a great message. It's available for a 24-hour rental through November 22 (ticket price beginning at $25).

Saturday, November 7, 2020

"Liberty Falls 2020" web series by The Moving Company

The Moving Company is remounting their absurd comedy Liberty Falls 54321 as a four-part web series called Liberty Falls 2020, and I couldn't be happier about it. We revisit the specifically odd characters from the play (last seen in early 2017) in the specifically odd year that is 2020. The first three episodes are free to view, and if you like what you see, the fourth episode can be viewed for only $6.99. The talented and hilarious original cast (plus a few welcome additions) has reunited in creative ways to bring us wonderfully silly story, not without some social commentary. Click here to watch.

Sunday, November 1, 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.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

A Love Letter to Theater

I sent this letter, along with two paper cranes, to Broadway Up Close, a tour company and gift shop in NYC, for their "Broadway Paper Crane Project," in which theater lovers all over the world are making cranes with a wish for the return of theater. They're a great follow on Instagram (or Facebook, where you can find details of the Crane Project) that's helping me feel connected, at least a little bit, to Broadway and theater in general. I also ordered some of their merch, including a beautiful custom engraved wooden magnet representing the ticket stub from when I saw Hamilton, and a Broadway passport in which I've recorded the 60+ shows I've seen at the 41 Broadway theaters over the last 20 years, which I hope to add to next year.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

"Flip the Script: The Great Divide IV" an audio play series by Pillsbury House Theatre

"During the 2016 presidential election, the American political landscape ruptured into one of the most heated divides in recent history. In response, Pillsbury House Theatre began The Great Divide project, commissioning five new ten-minute plays each year tackling the rising political tensions in America. As we head towards the 2020 election, on the heels of a pandemic and a global uprising, that divide has grown even larger. For the fourth and final installment of The Great Divide, Pillsbury House Theatre has invited five former Great Divide playwrights to write a companion piece to their earlier work that imagines a way to move forward, beyond the divide. By pairing playwrights' earlier work with pieces written in this election year, Flip the Script is a powerful examination of the past, present, and future of our political divide."

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

"Operation: Immigration" streaming from Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company

One of the hits of last year's Minnesota Fringe Festival was #TCTheater artist Avi Aharoni's solo show Operation: Immigration, which was the highest selling Fringe show at Mixed Blood. Now, Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company (where Avi has frequently performed) is offering an updated and filmed remount of the show as part of their 2020-2021 season, entitled "Theater Six Feet Apart." Avi and the creative team (including director Robert Dorfman, cinematographer Ryan Melling, sound designer Reid Rejsa, and lighting designer Todd M. Reemtsma) have done a great job transferring the on-stage show to a filmed production. One of the great things about the Fringe show is that Avi played very well off of the live audience, which of course is gone here. But he's still very personable as he tells the story of his twice-immigrant father, an Iranian Jew, and how delving into this story has influenced his own identity. One thing that remains true about this updated version of the show is this, that I wrote in my review last year: "This is a fascinating and inspiring immigrant story, about a man who sacrificed his whole life for his family's safety and security. But even more than that, it's a love letter from a son to a father, one that it was a privilege to witness."

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.