Sunday, August 28, 2016

"Passing through Pig's Eye" by Flying Foot Forum at Park Square Theatre

The dance/theater company Flying Foot Forum never disappoints, with it's fast, rhythmic, and yes, flying foot choreography, performed by top-notch dancers with much theatricality and storytelling. But with their newest creation, Passing through Pig's Eye, they're offering all this and more! Starting at Park Square Theatre's Andy Boss Stage in the basement of the historic Hamm building in downtown St. Paul, the cast leads the audience through the building and out onto the streets, where we learn a bit of the history of our fair capital city. It's an exceedingly fun time, watching the incredible dancers/singers/ performers, walking around beautiful downtown St. Paul, and even participating in the music and dancing (if you choose, the audience participation is completely voluntary and without pressure). I highly recommend experiencing Passing through Pig's Eye for yourself for an entertaining, immersive, non-threateningly participatory, uniquely fun night of music, theater, dance, and history.

Not knowing what to expect, I was actually surprised that more than half of the evening was spent at the Boss Stage. But not unpleasantly so, because the pieces performed on the stage are highly entertaining. The central conceit of the show is a school field trip, led by a somewhat grumpy teacher (charmingly played by director Joe Chvala). The field trip is all about the history of St. Paul. We learn about the beginnings of the city, once known as Pig's Eye after the city's first non-native resident and bar owner Pierre Parrant, as well as other times throughout history, most notably the prohibition days when gangsters were allowed to live in St. Paul as long as they didn't commit their crimes within the city limits. This allows for some fantastic '20s costumes and dancing, with music by noted vocalist Natalie Nowytski and narration by "tour guide" Colleen Somerville-Leeman.

The field trip conceit also introduces us to two mischievous students, played by Rush Benson and Brian J. Evans, in a series of dance pieces. I could watch these two All. Day. Long. Their pieces, including a secret handshake that goes on for ten minutes, a fight in which they use imaginary weapons and never touch, and detention spent drumming with pencils on desks, are so fun and playful and absolutely delightful to watch, a definite highlight of the evening.

the cast of Passing through Pig's Eye (photo by Rick Spaulding)
After a few numbers, the audience is split into two groups and have slightly different experiences. My group saw an additional performance on the Boss Stage, then moved to a rehearsal room for another fantastical dance piece. After intermission, we embarked on the ambulatory portion of the show, following our guides out onto 7th Place (once a home for many Vaudeville theaters, including the soon-to-be renovated Palace Theatre). We made our way over to the beautiful and historic Landmark Center, stopping a few times to hear stories, like the escaped slaves who started the first black church in Minnesota. The groups meet up for a time-traveling performance on the third floor of the Landmark Center, and my group caught another fun performance by Rush and Brian on the way back to the Theatre.

Passing through Pig's Eye continues through September 11, with performances Wednesdays through Sundays, even over Labor Day Weekend when many theaters are dark, so it's a great choice if you're staying in town. So go, wear comfortable shoes and weather-appropriate attire, participate in the dancing or sit back and watch the pros, learn a little of our history, and enjoy this truly unique and highly entertaining event.