Thursday, October 25, 2012

Two Times 8 For A Good Cause

This is the kind of thing that makes me giddy about the Twin Cities theater community.

We have not one but two readings of Dustin Lance Black's play 8 about California's fight over Proposition 8, which overturned the law allowing same-sex marriage in that state.  The readings are being done to raise money for Minnesotans United for All Families, the organization leading the charge against the marriage amendment on the Minnesota ballot for the election nearly upon us in less than two weeks.  There are numerous readings of this play taking place around the country, under the auspices of the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER) and Broadway Impact, during these election year battles over marriage equality - we get two made available to us in less than 48 hours.

Sunday, October 28, 2012 at 4pm at Our Savior's Lutheran Church (2315 Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis)

Prospero Theatre Company has gathered the following local actors for the occasion - Ann Carroll, Matthew Cerar, Rich Davenport, Tina Frederickson, Ankur Garg, Per Halaas, Ashley Halbach, Rebekah Henrickson, Becky Iverson, Jim Larson, Kristen Mathisen, Marylynn Mennicke, Paul Modderman, Jack Neveaux, Donn Saylor, Joel Thingvall, and Franklin Wagner; directed by Mary Wulf.

Admission is FREE, post-show discussion to follow, and all donations collected at the event will benefit Minnesotans United for All Families.

Then, the very next day...

Monday, October 29, 2012 at 7:30pm at the Varsity Theater (1308 4th Street SE in Minneapolis)

Producer Michelle Pett and director Peter Rothstein have assembled: Sasha Andreev, Patrick Bailey, Mark Benninghofen, Jennifer Blagen, Zach Curtis, Bob Davis, Beth Gilleland, Shawn Hamilton, Jeffrey Hatcher, Aditi Kapil, Linda Kelsey, Eli Newell, Tod Petersen, Raul Ramos, Mac Rasmus, Don Shelby, Brian Skellenger, John Skelley, Brian Sostek, and Sally Wingert

Everyone's new favorite football player Chris Kluwe will be in attendance.

You need tickets for this one, and they are, understandably, a little pricier.   Limited on-stage and general admission seating for $25 to $50, premier seating for $100, table seating starting at $400.  Tickets available here.

A little on the play...

"8 is an account of the Federal District Court trial in Perry v. Schwarzenegger (now Perry v. Brown), the case filed by AFER to overturn Proposition 8, which stripped gay and lesbian Californians of the fundamental freedom to marry.

Black, who penned the Academy Award-winning feature film Milk and the film J. Edgar, based 8 on the actual words of the trial transcripts, first-hand observations of the courtroom drama and interviews with the plaintiffs and their families.

Take a seat in the middle of the landmark Prop 8 trial that may decide the constitutionality of marriage equality. Experience both sides of this historic debate with staging that places the actors in the audience, and the audience in the midst of the courtroom."

I just want to take a moment to thank all the artists involved in these two readings, many of them giving up their one night off from other productions in which they are currently performing in order to do this.  It's great that so many are doing so much to put some more positive energy out there in the conversation in these last two weeks when things can get a little testy.  Many thanks to you all.

Days To Come (or, Theater I'm Bummed I'm Missing, part 3)

John Townsend, the critic for Lavender Magazine, has been very supportive of my plays, so I thought I'd return the favor.

Last weekend, a play opened which he directed for Lex-Ham Community Theater (a group which provided Mom and me with a great Fringe experience a couple of years back).

This weekend is their closing weekend - Thursday, Friday, Saturday, October 25 to 27, at 7:30pm.

The play is Lillian Hellman's Days To Come, about a labor strike in the 1930s.  Wow, a hostile environment against union workers - thank God it's just a period piece and all those problems are solved, huh?  Of course, I'm being silly.  There's a reason they're doing this play now.  It is sadly just as timely now as it was when it was first produced.

Performances are, fittingly, at the Wellstone Center in St. Paul (179 Robie Street East).

Lillian Hellman is a playwright best known for her scripts The Little Foxes, The Children's Hour, and Watch on the Rhine.  She was also one of the artists on the right side of history, refusing to name names to the House Un-American Activities Committee and getting blacklisted by Joseph McCarthy.

If you like your political drama served with a side of righteous anger to get you all fired up for the coming election, this is your show.

Thursday, October 25th they also have a post-show discussion on labor in the Twin Cities in the 1930s with Peter Rachleff - a specialist in labor history who has taught at Macalester College for thirty years.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Want to get some of the politics out of your theater...?

Theater isn't all about politics and gay people this month.  I know, shocking, but true.  While I've been tied up in theater over on that end of the spectrum, there's tons of stuff going on in the coming weeks for folks who want their entertainment to have nothing to do with the election, the marriage amendment or the voter ID issue.  For example…

Of the productions currently running, I have to give a special shout-out to the one I've actually managed to see...

Next To Normal, running over at Mixed Blood now through November 11, 2012 - a tricky production of a fantastic Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning musical that's very much worth your time - and it's free - my review can be found here.

Also going on right now, closing this weekend…

- Shakespeare's drama/comedy (comedy/drama?) of morality and hypocrisy Measure for Measure from Ten Thousand Things now through October 21, 2012
- Bucaneers, a show a friend of mine just raved about, over at the Children's Theater Company now through October 21, 2012
- The Diary of Anne Frank at Yellow Tree Theatre now through October 21, 2012
- Off Leash Area is finishing up their annual garage tour now October 20, 2012
- A Mighty Fortress Is Our Basement at Plymouth Playhouse now through October 21, 2012

Hitting the stage this weekend…

- Sandbox Theatre's latest ensemble-created work, Beatnik Giselle, at the Southern Theater - which I've already gone on at length about here.
- Newly minted Fringe favorite The Complete Works of William Shatner (Abridged) is revived on the Bryant Lake Bowl stage - October 19th to 27th, 2012
- Old time Fringe favorite The Lives of the Most Notorious Highwaymen gets the Six Elements Theatre treatment - October 20th to November 3rd, 2012
- One night only the Encyclopedia Show hits Kierans Irish Pub with The Zodiac Show on October 21st at 7:30pm
- HUGE Theater has the visiting Bassprov this weekend, as well as local improv comedy acts Free Association, The Bearded Men, Splendid Things, the regular Submarine Adventure Show, Saturday Late Night Mix, Improv-A-Go-Go, and Show X
- The Hobbit goes to the Far East thanks to Green T Productions - October 20th to November 4th, 2012
- Open Eye Figure Theatre trots out Episode 2 of The Learning Fairy - October 19th to November 11th, 2012
- The Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning musical Sunday in the Park With George out at Bloomington Civic Theater - October 19th to November 17th, 2012
- SteppingStone Theatre is presenting the Adventures of Tom Sawyer - October 19th to November 4th, 2012
- Skewed Visions has the latest in their ongoing series of Three Principles workshops for those interested in developing the skills they use in their own site-specific works of theater - Saturday October 20th, 10am to noon
- One weekend only Teatro del Pueblo presents Long Island Iced Latina - October 19th to 21st, 2012
- Also coming up Monday and Tuesday October 22 and 23 at 7pm is Pillsbury House Theater's award-winning Chicago Avenue Project - this time around with the young theater artists writing the scripts to be directed and performed by a who's who of local theater professionals.  Always a great time.

Currently running and closing next weekend...

- The classic ghost story Turn of the Screw from Torch Theater now through October 27, 2012
- The Kurt Vonnegut play Happy Birthday, Wanda June - Nimbus now through October 28, 2012 (can't go wrong with Vonnegut)
- A memory play, or a play about memory colliding with modern technology, Meronymy at Red Eye now through October 28, 2012
- Embers, the third play in the Guthrie Theater's Christopher Hampton celebration now through October 27, 2012

Opening next weekend…

- We Are Theatre (and So Can You) - a 24-hour letter reading extravaganza from the minds of George McConnell and Samantha Johns, the folks who brought us Snowf*ck - in the garage at 2209 East 33rd Street. Minneapolis MN - from 11pm on October 26th all the way to 11pm on October 27th, 2012 (stop by for a little or a lot)
- Just for the scary season - the Twin Cities Horror Fest at the Southern Theater - October 25th to November 3rd, 2012
- HUGE Theater has the improv comedy acts Theater of Public Policy, Space Jam, Free Association, The Bearded Men, Splendid Things, and the regular HUGE Wednesdays, Submarine Adventure Show, Saturday Late Night Mix, Improv-A-Go-Go, and Show X
- The Stephen Sondheim 70s classic Company gets a Theatre Latte Da makeover - October 25th to November 18th, 2012
- Open Eye Figure Theatre presents another Full Moon Puppet Show - October 27th at 9pm

For Halloween...
- Blacula: Young, Black and Undead at the Bryant Lake Bowl - October 31st, 2012
- HUGE Theater's Halloween Double Feature - October 31st, 2012

Special event for the following weekend…

- Public readings and feedback sessions for Savage Umbrella's new work in development, Rapture at Interact Center for Visual and Performing Arts on November 2 and 3, 2012 only

And three more currently running shows draw to a close…
- Photograph 51, about the woman who helped discover the structure of DNA (and the reasons we don't know that), at Minnesota Jewish Theatre now through November 4, 2012
- Tennessee Williams' Summer and Smoke at Theatre in the Round Players now through November 4, 2012
- Lombardi at the History Theatre now through November 4, 2012

- HUGE Theater has the improv comedy acts Theater of Public Policy, Space Jam, The Bearded Men, and the regular Submarine Adventure Show, Saturday Late Night Mix, Improv-A-Go-Go, and Show X

******* Please remember to VOTE on Tuesday, November 6, 2012 *********

And one more Fringe favorite currently enjoying a popular revival in the heart of the downtown Minneapolis theater district…

2 Sugars Room For Cream at the New Century Theater now through November 11th, 2012


Things I've already missed during this election season…

Lovers and Executioners - Theatre Pro Rata
Mean - Youth Performance Company

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Indefinite Articles - Debate Night Entertainment, one night only (tonight, 10/16/12)

It's the night of the 2nd big Presidential debate, but I think I might just allow the machine to record the debate for me, and enjoy a warm-up act from my favorite Libertarian first (no, not Ron Paul - *shudder*) before diving into the campaign spin cycle again.

One night only, tonight, Tuesday, October 16, 2012 at 8pm

$12, $10 with a Fringe button discount

It's phillip andrew bennett low so it takes place in, where else?, a bar

Kieran's Irish Pub in the heart of downtown Minneapolis, to be exact (601 North 1st Avenue)


"Use your aggressive feelings, boy.
Let the hate flow through you!"
-Emperor Palpatine, Return of the Jedi

It's a Federal election year -- just the time for a collection of classic jokes, stories, and rants by libertarian activist and internationally touring storyteller phillip andrew bennett low! Pull up a chair, down some whiskey, laugh, get angry, and tip your servers*. He'll be here one night.

*not necessarily in this order

WARNING: This show contains profanity, graphic language, and other reckless exploitation of the First Amendment.


"Angry common sense was never dripping with such tasty snake oil. This guy's got his tricorne hat on sideways, and he's menacingly waving his fife at you!"
-Lee Brennise, State Chair of the Libertarian Party

"...a scream (sometimes literally) for critical thought and intellectual clarity...surely not lacking in original, brainy tones."
-Quinton Skinner, City Pages

"Writer phillip low is a talented man with a gift for caustic monologues. But he also has a crazed sense of humor... "
-Kansas City Star

Beatnik Giselle - Oct 19-21 only (or, Theater I'm Bummed I'm Missing, part 2)

Mom's in town this weekend, visiting to see my play But Not For Love, so my time this weekend is spoken for.

Sadly this is the very same (and only) weekend that Sandbox Theatre is unveiling their lucky 13th ensemble-created production - Beatnik Giselle (Friday, October 19 to Sunday, October 21, 2012).

Now, with pretty much anyone else, the words Beatnik and Giselle side by side would have me rolling my eyes so strenuously they'd be in danger of popping out of my head.  But when you put the name Sandbox Theatre in front of the title, I immediately assume they know what the heck they're doing, and I'm gonna love the thing.  (After all, I worried about the same "pretentious theater" red flags with .faust - and I needn't have worried there either.  And The Mad Trapper Of Rat River was so much fun it easily earned a berth on my list of top 10 theater experiences in 2011.)

Then you hit me with a cast of characters including:

Kate Guentzel as Giselle
Ryan Hill as Allen Ginsberg
Derek Meyer as Neal Cassady
Derek Lee Miller as Jack Kerouac

and I'm well beyond being fully onboard with the idea.

(This is likely about 75 percent the actors involved, and 25 percent a happy gay love hangover from seeing the movie Howl but most theatergoing decisions are based on such strange equations.)

Also, live music conceived by designer Tim Donahue - which was a huge part of the fun in Mad Trapper; music created and performed by Greg Schutte, and Jacqueline Ultan

The ensemble also includes Katie Bradley, Nicole Devereaux, Evelyn Digirolamo, Erika Hansen, Theo Langason, Zainab Musa, and of course Heather Stone (what would a Sandbox piece be without Heather Stone?)

Sandbox's website further says the following...

Sandbox Theatre brings its highly stylized brand of movement-based storytelling to the uneasy, shifting America of the 1950s with Beatnik Giselle. Intersecting worlds of the Beats and the classic romantic ballet Giselle will dance and clash through issues of gender, sexuality, race and entitlement. A powerful, provocative piece, Beatnik Giselle features live music, dance, and Sandbox’s signature transformative set design, guaranteeing a Southern Theater like you’ve never seen.

Beatnik Giselle is currently in its creation process, and is proving to be Sandbox’s most provocative production to date. Gritty, stark and heavy; Beatnik Giselle is sizzling with sex, drug use and the raw language of the Beats. This show is intended for mature audiences.

Beatnik Giselle is Sandbox Theatre's first production at Minneapolis' historic Southern Theater, and runs just four performances.

(Arrggh!  Have I mentioned enough times how much I hate missing this one?  Thankfully, you don't have to...)

Southern Theater - 1420 Washington Avenue South in Minneapolis

Friday, October 19th 8:00pm – Post Show Reception
Saturday, October 20th 2:00pm
Saturday, October 20th 8:00pm
Sunday, October 21st 2:00pm

Tickets: $15-$30

Photo by Richard Fleischman Photography - Ryan Hill as Allen Ginsberg, Kate Guentzel as Giselle in Beatnik Giselle

Engaged (or, Theater I'm Bummed I'm Missing, part 1)

With so many theater companies addressing the issue of the marriage amendment, a few of us were bound to overlap, in some cases completely.  Since I can't be there myself because my own play But Not For Love is going on at the same time, I wanted to help spread the word about another new play by a local playwright (and a new theater company) diving into similar territory.

Playwright Gemma Irish wrote Engaged.  Mom and I still recall her Fringe show Yvette quite fondly.

Christine Karki, who was such much fun in The Gay Banditos in this summer's Fringe, is directing.

I even know five of the six actors in the cast, all of whom I love watching ply their craft onstage - Joe Bombard, Jaime Kleiman, Patrick Kozicky (also in Gay Banditos), Amy Schweickhardt, and Mark Sweeney (along with Song Kim, who I'm sure is equally good).

Hence I am kicking myself for having to miss it because of my own play.  But the rest of you don't have this conflict, so by all means, you should go.  It's going to be good theater.  Sight unseen, because of all the great people involved, this comes highly recommended.

Here's the basics from their website...

BOOM! Theater makes its debut with the play Engaged, a world premiere drama by local playwright Gemma Irish.

Over dinner with friends, longtime couple Ben and Josh agree to help raise awareness about an upcoming marriage amendment. But they become entangled in more than just a political issue. Misunderstandings and insecurities surface, friends new and old are pulled into the fray, insults and food get thrown, and the very institution of marriage is called into question as these two men fight for the right to love who they love.

Actor and BOOM! Theater co-founder Patrick Kozicky says “My personal hope is that someday, my partner and I can have a discussion about why we should get married, instead of why we should be allowed to get married.  This play takes on both conversations which, in turn, become a discussion around the immediate fact that, legally and emotionally, marriage is not for everyone.” 

BOOM! Theater was created by four friends, Gemma Irish, Patrick Kozicky, David Ahlvers, and Shane Raatz. They wanted to create original shows with social relevancy, and work with artists who inspire them.   BOOM! Theater also wants to make theater approachable and accessible for everyone. 

Irish and Kozicky knew they wanted to create a show around the upcoming marriage amendment, and enlisted their friend and fellow actor Joe Bombard to play one half of the couple, opposite Kozicky, whose story is at the center of Engaged.

Bombard says of the play, “At its heart, Engaged is a relationship play, not just an amendment play. We dispel any myths that same-sex relationships are any different than heterosexual relationships; both have ups and downs, triumphs and struggles, consensus and dissent. The difference is in the politics.”

Director Christine Karki agrees: “Although it uses the marriage amendment as a talking point, a springboard for conversation, the play itself is not about the marriage amendment. This is a play about relationships. It just so happens that the three couples in the story are all in 'non-traditional' relationships, which adds yet another layer of complication.”

Playwright and BOOM! Theater co-founder Gemma Irish explains: “I wanted to explore the internal vs. the external. What does it mean that the government has an opinion on who I'm in love with? How do I reconcile my private life with my civic life?”

Engaged plays October 19 – 27 at the Cedar Riverside Peoples' Center - 425 20th Avenue South in Minneapolis.

Production Team:

Writer – Gemma Irish

Director – Christine Karki

Stage Manager – Callie Meiners


Joe Bombard

Song Kim

Jaime Kleiman

Patrick Kozicky

Amy Schweickhardt

Mark Sweeney

Show Dates/Times:

Friday 10/19 – 7:30pm

Saturday 10/20 – 7:30pm

Sunday 10/21 – 2:00pm

Monday 10/22 – 7:30pm (Pay What You Can Night)

Friday 10/26 – 7:30pm

Saturday 10/27 – 7:30pm

photo by Kim Pettengill - Patrick Kozicky and Joe Bombard in Engaged

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Is Your Theater Not Gay Enough? - Theater For a Month Before Election Day

If you just want to see the list of theater offerings you should consider seeing the rest of this week and in the weeks to come, skip down to the line of asterisks.  If you want to know the reasons behind my suggestions, read on...

It's strange how sanguine I'm feeling about the whole marriage amendment nonsense.  Not confident, not by any means.  Just ready.  There's going to be a vote.  It's coming. What are we doing in the meantime?

Part of the reason, of course, is that gay marriage is already illegal and unrecognized in Minnesota so… it's not like if we manage to vote the amendment down, gay marriage will suddenly become legal, or we'll recognize the gay marriages from other states.  We already have laws on the books.  They won't change.  There will still be 515-plus laws in Minnesota that treat gay and lesbian couples and their families different from other families.  There will still be over 1,100 laws and benefits that married couples have access to from the federal government that will be out of reach of lesbian and gay people in committed relationships. 

If the amendment passes, we get all this ridiculata inscribed in the state constitution, which will of course make it harder to undo, which is the point.  Laws can be overturned by courts or the legislature.  To undo an amendment to the constitution, we'd need to do this whole thing again in the opposite direction.  I need to do more research because some people have even told me there would be a waiting period to hold a vote to remove the amendment, if such a campaign were launched.  Someone also told me the vote to undo would need to clear a higher threshold than 51 percent of the vote.  (Feel free to correct me, I'd love those two data points to be wrong.)  Whatever way you look at it, the whole thing just calcifies if we put it in the state constitution, whether for a little or a long while.

Polls show the whole thing is really close, the people evenly split.  Tensions run high, opposing opinions are bandied about in public with regularity, from letters to the editor to blogs to lawn signs.

Theater probably needs to take the credit (or blame) for me not freaking out more.  Currently I have things I can do.  I scripted a touring production for Project 515 that traveled around the state this spring, trying to put a human face on the issue of those 515 Minnesota laws.  Right now, we're in the home stretch of rehearsals of my play But Not For Love, which The Flower Shop Project and Workhouse Theatre teamed up to co-produce.  There's characters in this play on both sides of the issue and they do battle it out, but at least everyone is talking to one another.  There's a double wedding and the possibility of a third romance blossoming.  Laughter and a happy ending.  My mom's even flying in for the second weekend to see the show.  Director Richard Jackson and our cast are so committed to telling this story, to digging into every little word of the text and mining out new information on the characters and plot that it's breathtaking to watch sometimes.

But there's so much theater going on right now dealing with this subject, I feel incredibly blessed to be in the middle of it all.

Unfortunately I've already missed Freshwater Theater's compendium of short works around the subject, Better (or) Worse, which was on stage last month.

But coming right up there are all kinds of offerings.  Just follow the links...


I've missed the opening performance of the latest offering from Thirst Theater, the No Round, but there are two more chances - Monday, October 8 and 15.

Tomorrow, Wednesday, October 3rd, there's the Amend This cabaret coordinated by Box Wine Theatre at the Southern Theater.  There's a little bit of comedy scripted by me that Box Wine co-founder and executive director Adam Sharp is performing alongside Kyler Chase, directed by co-founder and artistic director Bethany Simmons (phew, my little sketch is in very good hands).  In addition there's work on tap from, among others, Bedlam Theatre, Silver Slipper Productions, Table Salt Productions, improv duo Ferrari McSpeedy, comedian Ben San Del and storyteller Phillip Andrew Bennet LowTickets here.

Also tomorrow (10/3), John Munger and Third Rabbit Dance offers another edition of their monthly dance showcase The Rabbit Show at the Bryant Lake Bowl.  This month, women dancing with women, and men dancing with men in "Same Sex Duets."

Also continuing its run tomorrow (10/3) is Theatre Unbound's The Good Fight, a world premiere production of Anne Bertram's latest play, about suffragettes who learn jujitsu in order to defend themselves in the fight for the right to vote.  That plays at the Lowry Lab through October 14th. 

Related on the subject of voting - Appomattox at the Guthrie, spending Act One at the end of the Civil War in 1865, Act Two in the thick of the voting rights fight in 1965.  Harry Groener in particular kicks butt as both Lincoln and LBJ, and Shawn Hamilton is positively spooky as Martin Luther King, Jr.  Considering all the voter ID aka voter suppression aka "voter fraud" nonsense also going on this political season, recommended viewing.

Fringe favorites Shanan Custer and Carolyn Pool of 2 Sugars Room for Cream fame are offering their talents to a fundraiser at the Ritz on Thursday, October 4th - 10 Reasons To Go, 1 Reason To Give.  (And 2 Sugars runs again from October 11 to November 11 in New Century Theater in the Hennepin Theatre District in downtown Minneapolis.)

Next week, October 6 and 7, Bedlam Theatre is offering Making Amends - some theater and some useful information if you want to get out there and do something in the weeks that remain.

The Illusion Theater is offering their own compendium of marriage-related shorts called Love and Marriage, running October 10 to October 27.

Then my own play But Not For Love hits the stage at the Warren, Workhouse Theatre's home base, from October 12 to 28.

BOOM! Theater also weighs in on the subject with Gemma Irish's new play Engaged, at the Cedar Riverside People's Center, October 19 to 27.

And to throw a little more politic theater on the pile, there's also Gadfly Theatre's production of Mitzi's Abortion: A Saint's Guide to Late Term Politics and Medicine in America (following The Good Fight's run) at the Lowry Lab, October 19 to 28.

Is it any wonder I'm not pulling my hair out, fretting as I wait for November 6th to arrive?  There's too much to do.  So much to see.

And each offering is like a steady drum beat saying, "Vote, Vote, Vote, Vote, Vote…"

There's also something else I'm hearing, "You are not alone."

Which is a nice thing to feel in an uncertain time.

See some theater.  Lend what aid you can to a good cause.  Talk to your friends and family.  Get out there and vote.

And thanks, my extended theater family, for being as invested in this issue as you are.

Regardless of the outcome, the support is appreciated.

(Photo by Mark Webb, Workhouse Theatre - left to right, Paul Rutledge, Jen Rand, Erica Fields, Jeremiah Stich, Foster Johns)