Friday, October 17, 2008

Shameless Plug of the Day - My play Dog Tag opens in Chicago

Just in case you have friends in the Chicago area, I thought I'd let everyone know that the year of the dog for my friend and co-writer Anne Bertram and I continues.

"Dog Tag," our short piece that started January in Baton Rouge, and then spent August here in Minneapolis as part of the Fringe Festival has been picked up by Appetite Theatre in Chicago as part of their short play showcase Bruschetta, running Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm from October 17 to November 1, 2008.

The plays are being performed at Act One Studios, 640 North LaSalle, Suite 535

$15 suggested donation, cash or check

Reservations 312.787.9384

Details can be found at

More on "Dog Tag" (including a little video clip) can be found here and here

Spread the word if you know anyone down there who might be interested.


Call for Suggestions for 24 Hour Play Ballot

Put on your thinking caps and send me your suggestions.

Theatre Unbound’s 24 Hour Play Project is February 7, 2009

But before the plays can be written, rehearsed and performed all within 24 Hours, we need to know what the plays will be about.

So we solicit theater folk for ideas for the “ingredients” for the six ten minute plays which will result.

The categories are, as always…

- an object

- an emotion

- a quote or line of dialogue

- another random element – such as a stage direction, a color, an animal, a particular word, a song, etc.

Suggest something for any or all categories, and just post a reply here on Callboard.

I’ll collect the results and pass them on to the powers that be at Unbound. Last year, we ended up with so many suggestions, they had to whittle them down quite a bit just to make the online ballot manageable.

Ah, the online ballot. Once the suggestions are compiled, the final ballot of choices will be posted online so that the general public, all of us included of course, can vote for their favorites.

The winning ingredients will be revealed to the writers on the night of the writing, February 6, 2009. And off they go…

Obviously, the sooner you get your suggestions in, the better. I still have to discover the cutoff date for this part of the process from the Unbounders. But I figured I’d get the ball rolling, since it’s election time. That’s our trigger to get started every year.

Oh, and don’t forget the vote, people. Not for this, although, yes, vote for this, too. But polls don’t vote, people do. We can only hope to get the result we want if we all actually get our butts to the polls. So vote November 4th, then say a prayer, cross your fingers, light a candle, whatever things you do after actually voting to try and sway the national will your way.

End of PSA.

Type up those ingredients and email them my way.

My primary email is mail AT matthewaeverett DOT com

Since my spam filter is selectively mischievous, it’s also a good idea just to copy the message to browder268 AT yahoo DOT com as well, just to be on the safe side.


Call for Writers for upcoming 24 Hour Play Project on February 6 & 7, 2009

I’m helping Theatre Unbound out again as volunteer playwright wrangler for their 24 Hour Play Project. So I thought I'd put out a general call to see if there were interested writers among the readership...

Theatre Unbound will be presenting another 24 Hour Play Project on February 7, 2009.

This is one of the main fundraising events for the company for the year and it's always a lot of fun.

We need playwrights with availability from 9pm Friday, February 6th until 6am Saturday, February 7th.

For those who are new:

The 24 Hour Play Project is exhilarating! (and perhaps exhausting, and other ex words I will leave to your imagination)

Friday night twelve playwrights are locked into a space, paired up and given "ingredients" to write a 10 minute play.

These "ingredients" usually consist of an object, an emotion, a quote or line of dialogue, and something else random.

These four things will be common to all the plays, but what the writers choose to do with them from there is up to them.

(Oh and snacks. Let us not forget the snacks - and coffee, and other caffeinated beverages :)

Cast size and composition - number and gender of actors - will also be assigned before the writing starts.

The next morning, six directors come in to read and analyze scripts.

The scripts are cast and rehearsed that morning and afternoon and finally presented that evening.


The 24 Hour Play Project will be presented in conjunction with the Theatre Unbound annual Benefit and Silent Auction at Theatre Unbound’s new home in The Neighborhood House of the Paul and Sheila Wellstone Center, 179 Robie Street East, St. Paul, MN 55107.

Playwrights will receive free admittance to the event, plus a discount pass to give to a guest.

This is obviously a charity event, so everyone will be working out of the goodness of their hearts - but there will be complimentary food and libation at the event for your enjoyment.

More details for the potential writers about the process itself...

To those of you who’ve done this before, much will be familiar.

But we’re also continuing to experiment with the formula a bit.

We’ll be pairing the teams again ahead of time like we have the past two years, as it seemed very helpful.

As in the past, it’s six teams of two writers each. Once we get initial responses from those who are interested in participating as playwrights, we’ll let people choose their partners up front, rather than leave it to the laws of chance on the night of the writing session.

I’ll send out a list of the participating writers to each of the interested writers individually, and then you can respond to me with your top three preferences for partners (or if you just want to leave it up to us to pair you, that’s fine, too).

All teams will still include at least one female writer (in some cases both, since the majority of the writers we try to recruit will be women in the first place - this is Theatre Unbound, after all :) But all writers - male, female and... however you care to define yourself, are welcome.

We’re also soliciting ideas again this year (like the past two years) for the ingredients to be included in the plays from a cross section of theater folk (in fact, I'll be blogging about that, too, in just another minute). We got so many suggestions last year that after I passed them on to the powers that be at Unbound, they had to whittle the choices down a bit to make the ballot manageable.

The ballot will then be posted online through which the general public, us included, can vote for their favorites. I'll post more details on the voting window, when and for how long it goes live online, etc., once they get that hammered out.

The winning ingredients will be revealed to the writers on the night they are to write the plays.

(Though if you're a writer, you can certainly view the ballot and do whatever homework you like in advance, if you wish)

Feel like joining the experiment...?

Email me if you're interested and available to participate as a writer on those dates.

My primary email is mail AT matthewaeverett DOT com

Since my spam filter is selectively mischievous, it's also a good idea just to copy the message to browder268 AT yahoo DOT com as well, just to be on the safe side.


I've done a few of these 24 Hour Play Projects in the past myself. Examples of ideas that I've come up with in the middle of the night with fellow writers Anne Bertram, Carol Critchley, Holly Davis, and Chris Kidder can be seen here, here, here, here, here, and here

Also, we've started publishing collections of the final scripts as an additional fundraiser for Theatre Unbound, for those writers who want to pitch their scripts in for the cause beyond the 24 Hour weekend. You can check out Volume 1 here.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Shameless Plug of the Day - The Chairs - Pangea World Theater

Another plea from another of the many great smaller theater companies around town, another production among the many that is heading into its final weekend of performances starting tonight that I thought deserved a special nod, given the caliber of the people involved. A very easy one to recommend. In my email box was the following...

"The Chairs" is a wonderful Pangea production! Richard and Claudia are extraordinary. It's a great treat to watch them at work in the intimacy of the Pangea studio. Please forward this information about "The Chairs" far and wide...

(But you don't have to just take their word - or mine - for it. There's a couple of reviews posted online that have already weighed in - here and here, if you need more input for your decision. Meanwhile, here are the basics...)

Pangea World Theater presents

"The Chairs" by Eugene Ionesco

In a lighthouse on the edge of civilization an old man and an old woman are waiting.

The old man is waiting to deliver a message to his audience.

The old man is ready to reveal all. Who he really is . . .what life really means . .
.what he should really have become.

What will his message be?

In this great absurdist masterpiece by Eugene Ionesco, "The Chairs" features Twin Cities favorites, Richard Ooms and Claudia Wilkens. It is a must see show for anyone who enjoys high quality theater with an absurd comic flavor.

Directed by Dipankar Mukherjee

Featuring Richard Ooms, Claudia Wilkens and Alberto Panelli

Dates: October 2 - 19, Thursdays through Sundays

Time: 7: 30 p.m.

Venue: Pangea World Theater Studio
711 West Lake Street, Minneapolis, 55408

Tickets: $15, $10 students/seniors

Box Office Number: 612-203-1088


Pangea's been a little hard for me to pin down recently - at least online (I always seemed to run across information on a show too late to catch it) - but it looks like they've rebooted their website - - with a new, cleaner look, and a good store of information on upcoming productions from now through February, including a couple of visiting productions and a revisiting of a classic of their own...

I-Land - taking place over at Intermedia Arts, November 20-22, 2008

Wong Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest - February 26 - 28, 2009

Conference of the Birds - March 12 - April 5, 2009

So if you can't catch them this time around, there are several other chances coming up as well. Look them over, find one you like, and mark your calendar.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Shameless Plug of the Day - 10/14 - Lamb Lays With Lion

You now have plans for Tuesday night.


the night, the play

It. Is. Unbelievable.

This is the latest play from Dan O'Neil, whose Players of Notorious Temerity produced two of my very favorite Fringe Festival shows of recent years - Desolation In America, and Baggage. Both of them were so good I did something I rarely do with theater, went back to see them each twice. "Desolation In America" landed in my pre-Fringe Top 10 that year and I didn't regret it.

Anybody who reads this blog knows I have very little patience for theater about theater, or writing about writers. Political theater can also be pretty dicey in my opinion. All three things are easy to do badly, or worse, self-indulgently on the part of the artist. On the rare occasions such things are done well, they're amazing.

Dan O'Neil's writing in "10/14", on all three counts, is amazing.

I remember hearing an early draft of this script read around a friend's kitchen table a year or so back. It was a cold reading, we were all seeing the pages for the first time. Most of us at that table weren't actors but fellow writers. Even with all that, the reading of the play that night still blew me away.

And he's been working on it since then. I can only imagine how good "10/14" is now.

Tuesday night, 10/14, the play "10/14," 8pm, Cedar Riverside People's Center (425 20th Avenue South in Minneapolis), suggested donation of $5 to $20 (and worth every penny you want to give them, trust me.)

Dan's so talented, and makes it look so effortless, I should hate the guy. But his writing's so great, I just want more. It's smart, it's funny, it's got a really big aching heart. It's beautiful stuff.

With luck, this is only the beginning for this play. But don't wait. Get in on the ground floor. This is the kind of thing you want to be able to say you knew about before everybody else caught on.

This thing is not to be missed. But enough from me. Here's their press release...

A World Overturned, A Play Re-Written

Lamb Lays with Lion Theater Company is proud to present a one-night-only staged reading of "10/14," written by Dan O’Neil and directed by Cameron Brainard, on October 14th, 2008 at 8pm at the People’s Center Theater (425 20th Avenue South in Minneapolis, $5 - $20 suggested donation).

A post-show discussion will be held following the reading for those who wish to participate.

A group of actors in a remote warehouse rehearse & prepare their "groundbreaking" new work, Cap'n Faust, in preparation for their opening night the following evening. Overnight, the world changes. In the midst of a developing nuclear fall-out, the theater opens its doors to receive their audience but instead find refugees from the disaster outside. Having spent many hours preparing a production that one hopes will "change the world," how is a theater artist to react when the world changes first?

10/14 - It's safer in the theater.

Featuring members of the Lamb Lays with Lion Company, this staged reading marks the launch of a new-play development initiative for LLwL. These intensive staged readings will provide a template of physical staging and directorial engagement to future playwrights and their works-in-progress as a means to transform the process; from cerebral exercise to the visceral experience of bodies in space. We invite the audience in as a collaborator and a witness to the birth of new plays, raw words, and (until now) unspoken questions.

Lamb Lays with Lion is an Original and Experimental company dedicated to the exploration of unique and radical new forms, virtual and spectral expressions, and the thrust into a new age of art; one in which expectations are checked at the door, to be replaced by ear plugs and open minds.

Quick Reference


Producer and Director
Cameron Brainard and the LLwL Company

Jeremey Catterton (Alfred)
Jacob Mullis (Sam)
Melissa Friedmann (Maggie)
Carl Atiya Swanson (Duncan)
Jake Lindgren (Connors)
Jayne Deis (Old Woman)
Ashley Smith (Amy)
Katie Rose McLaughlin (Eve)

Design Team
Dan O’Neil, playwright

One Night Only
Tuesday, October 14th, 8 pm

$5-20 suggested donation at door

In the midst of a developing nuclear fall-out, the theater opens its doors to receive their audience but instead find refugees from the disaster outside. Having spent many hours preparing a production that one hopes will "change the world," how is a theater artist to react when the world changes first?

Theatre Location
People’s Center Theater
425 20th Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55454

See. This. Play.

You can find information on the play and Lamb Lays With Lion at

Friday, October 10, 2008

Shameless Plug of the Day - Touch - Urban Samurai Productions

A shout-out to Urban Samurai Productions and their latest offering, the Twin Cities premiere of "Touch" - which closes this weekend.

Performances are Friday and Saturday at 7:30pm, Sunday at 2pm (that's tonight, tomorrow or Sunday afternoon) at The Cedar Riverside Peoples Center Theater (425 20th Avenue South in Minneapolis - 3rd floor, entrance on the 20th Avenue side of the building).

Why this show? Well, for one, they asked me in a recent email...

"Touch is going very well performance wise, it's a really great show. Unfortunately attendance has been exceedingly meager. If you could spread the word in some shape or form to get more butts in the seats I would be most appreciative."

But beyond that, I just like Urban Samurai in general. They're one of many scrappy smaller theater companies in town that tackle new plays, and unusual subject matter, sometimes both at once. Sometimes they also let their hair down - as evidenced by their wildly popular Fringe Festival offering this year "Musical - The Musical." So if you saw that, and want to see what else they do, this is a great example of something on the opposite end of the scale from bouncy and frothy.

Back in April, I got the chance to see "American Apathy" - a scathing but very funny look at... well, come to think of it, the consumer society and economy that's currently coming unglued all around us. Urban Samurai was ahead of the curve on that one. (Review here)

Now they're tackling the poetic and emotionally charged work of Toni Press-Coffman. "Touch" deals with those that live on after a loved one has been taken from them by an unspeakable crime. I know, not light and airy fare, but then again, neither is "Macbeth" or "The Laramie Project" and they're popping up around town, too. This production got a great review in the Star Tribune. My work schedule hasn't allowed me to get out to see it yet, but knowing the Samurai, and the script and playwright's reputations, I thought it was a pretty safe bet to recommend, even before the reviews started coming in.

So, if you're looking for something to focus on in a weekend full of options, I'm submitting this one for your consideration. After all, a lot of the other things on the docket are continuing on into the coming weeks. If you want to catch "Touch" by Urban Samurai, there's only this weekend left, and then it's gone. Catch it while you can.

Tickets available online, and they're cheaper if you go that rate - visit Tickets are $14 online, or $16 at the door. Student and Senior discount is $10 online, $12 at the door. You can also get a the student/senior discount by showing your Fringe button at the door. Good deal.

More information on the production, including a video trailer, at

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Review - 100 - Workhouse Theatre Co. - 4 stars

“Be thankful you have even that.”

This is a tricky one. The last time I saw a production at Workhouse Theatre Co., it was their brilliant production of Marsha Norman’s “’Night, Mother.” It was a great example of a perfect group of collaborators set loose on a riveting script. Both sides of the equation made the other better, and they ended up with a well-deserved Ivey Award for their efforts. Workhouse’s current production, the area premiere of “100” written by Christopher Hemann, Diene Petterle, and Neil Monaghan, is a little more imbalanced. It’s not the fault of the production. Diane Mountford’s direction is spot-on. The ensemble of actors work really well with each other, and individually, and the script calls upon them to do a lot of both. The design team does their usual great job. The set design by Sarah J. Leigh in particular is wonderful - opening up the performance space at the Warren in ways I haven’t seen Workhouse use it before, and director and cast take full advantage of having the whole theater space in which to roam. It’s a very engaging production of a pretty smart script. I just wish the story and characters went further.

100” starts with an intriguing premise. Four characters are dead and about to be, for want of a better word, processed back through the assembly line of souls and returned to the living world. They can only take one memory of their past life just ended with them. All other memories will be erased. They have a limited time in which to choose this memory. If they fail to do so, they lose everything and start their next phase of existence as a blank slate. The warning is that such an existence is less than ideal.

The problem with this premise, fascinating though it is, is that it immediately boxes in the characters, the story - and the audience. And the longer it goes on, the more limited the options become. Not that the show itself is long - it clocks in at only a little over an hour, leaving plenty of time to sit down for a drink or a meal and chew over the play (and with a subject like this, there’s a lot of food for thought). The danger with a story structured like this is that the audience can get way too far out ahead of it. (For instance, most audience members can probably see the last line coming from about a mile away.)

Another example - something as simple as a character who starts counting, which other characters pick up, clues us in right away that once the count reaches 100, the show is over. The trouble with this is that there’s no rhyme or reason to the number chanting in the script. It doesn’t recur with any recognizable pace, cadence or frequency. It is merely a convenience for the authors. Its significance is never explained. It could just as easily be some other standard of measure - increments of 12 or 60 hold as much significance as 10 or 50 in some cultures.

There are four characters onstage going through the processing ritual. As each one completes it, they disappear and do not return. So we know as we watch that the play isn’t over until everyone has had their epiphany, and as the story continues, there are fewer and fewer players to help in the telling. There is an additional character of a Guide (Robert Larsen) who seems to understand what’s going on, and doesn’t appear to be going anywhere (though in a telling reversal of everything else in the script, neither of those assumptions turn out to be right - and that is one of the story’s most satisfying payoffs). The character of the Guide, and Larsen’s performance, are intriguing enough to keep one guessing, and when the revelation finally comes, you don’t feel tricked, which is a nice bit of work by authors and actor alike.

Maybe I don’t handle random well. That could be it. The inscrutable nature of the memory device is clearly a stand-in for either a judgmental or indifferent controller of the universe in matters of life and death. The memories which these people seem to think are the most important for them, aren’t. Or at least, they aren’t in the judgment of whoever or whatever is pulling the strings. The first time each one of the characters choose, they choose wrong. They and the audience know this because there is no flash of light that preserves that memory and erases all others. The characters are still there, memories intact. Which begs the question, if you aren’t really allowed to choose the right memory but someone has already chosen it for you and you’re merely playing a cruel guessing game, what’s the point? The writers are playing god, with the characters and the audience, and they’re not playing fair. The rules we’re given aren’t really the full set of rules, and the characters and the audience are going to keep getting jerked around until the writers are done with them. That’s not a fun place to be sitting, on or off stage. Perhaps it’s the writers’ intention to provoke. The point of the provocation remains largely unknown.

The problem with a script that’s constructed like a puzzle box is that the structure and the puzzle become the point. The characters are merely pieces being moved around a game board by the authors. Rather than story and character being advanced by the characters interacting with and influencing one another, the changes in character are solitary. The whole thing has a distancing effect. It’s hard to be unsettled when you’re only being engaged on an intellectual level and not an emotional one. You are always aware that you’re watching a play from the outside, rather than being allowed to immerse yourself in the story.

The inscrutability does have some payoffs. When we think we’re being handed easily digestible platitudes, we find we’re ultimately not spoon-fed anything. Sure, the character of Sophie (Sigrid Sutter), who realizes she’s not beautiful and then throws herself into her work, isn’t going to be allowed to take the moment of the pinnacle of her career with her as her most treasured memory. But the play doesn’t pretend that there is no satisfaction in life lived for work alone, or that all Sophie really needed was love. The play doesn’t imply that she wasted her life. And the peculiar memory she does end up taking with her may actually stand her in good stead to get more of what she wants the next time around. Alex (Joel Raney) and Nia (Jen Rand), scruffy young lovers who died together and want to find some way to stay together in that one key memory, find they each have very different, if equally pleasant, ideas about the memory of the day they first met. It is the inability of one of them to choose, or share, that key memory that threatens to tear them apart for eternity. Ketu (Khary Jackson) learns that it is not his great discovery and quest to spread knowledge among his tribe that is his primary memory, but perhaps simply learning to live and make peace with the ingrained ignorance of society for the sake of his family.

Side note - I have to admit that my knee-jerk liberal reaction to the only actor of color in the cast being put in the role of the savage who learns the world isn’t flat after all had me resisting parts of that last storyline. But it also got me thinking about all kinds of other creative casting which might have taken place. When one character is recounting their memories, all the other members of the ensemble step into supporting roles in each other’s personal dramas. It’s a seamless piece of work, with each tiny role fleshed out with the same care and attention to detail as if the roles were much larger and more significant. In lesser hands, these seeming throwaway mini-roles might have been less rich. In Workhouse’s production, several miniature worlds are created in service of the larger story. If the actors and director can do that (and they do, oh they do - it’s one of the chief pleasures of watching this production), imagine what other things they might have done by turning this script inside out and playing fast and loose with gender and race roles as well. The more predictable elements of the script might have garnered a little unexpected freshness in the process.

Despite my issues with the script, the actors do great work, the direction keeps things moving along and visually interesting, and the design creates an engaging netherworld that surrounds the audience in the dark. If you haven’t seen a Workhouse production yet, this is a fine example of the kind of work they do best. They keep raising the bar for themselves with every production, and “100” is another step up the ladder. All scripts, great or flawed, would be lucky to get this sort of treatment.

Highly recommended.

The area premiere of “100” runs through Saturday, October 18, 2008 at Workhouse Theatre Co.’s performance home at The Warren, 4000 Vincent Avenue North in Minneapolis. For information and reservations, visit or call 612-386-5763. On the website, there's also a little video preview.