Minnesota Theatre

Information, reviews, and miscellaneous shorts focusing on professional, nonprofit theater—from a Southeast Minnesota perspective.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

18th Annual Ibsen Festival

April 17-19, 2015
The Commonweal Theatre
historic Lanesboro, MN

Kit Mayer design for The Master Builder
The Commonweal is preparing for its annual celebration of all thing Ibsen and Scandinavian: A weekend of events celebrating Scandinavian theatre, visual arts, music, dance, and food! The centerpiece is a world premiere adaptation of Ibsen's masterpiece The Master Builder.
The festival line-up features:
  • Dr. Marvin Carlson of The Graduate Center, City University of New York.
  • Designer Chat with Kit Mayer Commonweal Resident Set Designer
  • Darrell Henning Norwegian American Domestic Architecture, former curator of the Vesterheim Norwegian American Museum
  • Photo Exhibit: The Stave Church in Norway: a visual tour of both interior and exterior displays of Norwegian craftsmanship.
Stave Church in Norway
Other events include Scandinavian cuisine, an Aquavit tasting, artist demonstrations, author talks and more!

Click here to see the full schedule of events: Ibsen Fest 2015 Schedule.
For more information on all of our Ibsen programming visit www.ibsenfest.org.
Or call Adrienne Sweeney, Ibsen Festival coordinator, at (507) 467-2905, ext. 208.

Original Shorts

Original Shorts, the staged readings of the winners of Theatre du Mississippi's 4th annual short playwriting contests will be held April 16, 17, and 18 at the Masonic Temple in Winona.

The four winning scripts will each receive a staged reading.
“Fade to Black” by Greg Freier of Norwalk, IA
“Reciting Emily Dickinson” by Tim J. Brennan of Austin, MN
“I Been There Before” by Lee Gundersheimer of Winona
“Don’t Email Him, He’s Dead” by Kathleen Peterson of Winona
The contest also named four honorable mention submissions:
“Hot Potato” by Emilio Degrazia
“Daves” by Daryl Lanz
“Johnny Shoemaker” by Rand Higbee
“Denying the Pleistocene” by Larry Greenstein
Original Shorts
Friday, April 17 and Saturday, April 18 at 7:30pm
Sunday, April 19 at 2:00pm.
Masonic Theater 
255 Main Street
Winona, MN
$5 admission

Monday, April 6, 2015

Auditions for Summer Production at Historic Bunnell House

Bunnell House Auditions this Friday at 7pm!
Masonic Theater - 255 Main Street, Winona

The Bunnell House to Reopen this Summer – Looking for Performers!

The Winona County Historical Society has teamed up with Theatre du Mississippi to offer a completely new historical experience at the WCHS’ historic house in Homer, Minnesota this summer. Visitors to the Bunnell House will step back in time with the Bunnells to witness the events of early Winona unfold.

This summer's performance, The Hired Girl Gets Married, will take visitors back to 1856 as the Bunnells ready the house for the celebration. It is a time for new beginnings, not only for a young bride, but all, as pioneers in a new land, forging a new life and new identity.

Auditions will take place Friday, April 10 at 7 p.m. at Masonic Theater (255 Main Street, Winona) The performances will run June 27 through August 2, with two performances each Saturday and Sunday. Evening rehearsals will start around May 21, with a more intensive period of rehearsals two weeks prior to the opening. Performers will be paid.

 Director, Paul Sannerud, is looking for ten actors to play the following five roles: Willard Bunnell, a rough frontiersman; Matilda Bunnell, Willard's strong but ladylike wife; John Dyer, a rough-and-ready itinerant preacher; Rachel Vennon, the innocent bride-to-be; and Harry Herrick, her bookish fiancĂ©.
 Learn more about the historic Bunnell House at www.winonahistory.org.
Also visit Theatre du Mississippi online at theatredumiss.org

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Arsenic and Old Lace

Joseph Kesselring, Directed by Tod Peterson
Commonweal Theater, June 1, 2014

Arsenic and Old Lace is one of those plays that asks the audience to accept a plot driven by coincidences and characters who are over-the-top eccentric. In short, it asks us to suspend what we know of reality to enter into the world the play is creating. While comedy might seem like the most accessible type of theater, both because of our experience with it on television and the seemingly “lightness” of its subject matter, it actually makes great demands upon its audience. By asking us to suspend our sense of reality, to suspend what we know to be true, to suspend how we expect people to act in real life, comedy is asking the ultimate commitment of its audience. In return, a good comedy will reward the audience for accepting happenstance and coincidence for plot. The reward, of course, is the opportunity to laugh, but reward should also include some further engagement, perhaps some insight into the human condition.

A friend of mine once said of a Shakespeare comedy: “it doesn’t seem unreasonable to expect the greatest writer in the English Language to include a plot in a work of drama.” While Arsenic and Old Lace has a plot, contrived as it is, the rewards of the play lie elsewhere. And like much of Shakespeare, the rewards for suspending belief are usually worth the trip.

One of the things that makes the Commonweal’s Arsenic and Old Lace worth the trip is the chance to see some great acting. The elderly sisters at the center of the story provide both the lace and the arsenic. Surrounded by Victorian furnishings, Abby and Martha Brewster (played by Patty Mathews and Catherine Glynn), practice a genteel and gracious hospitality that seems to be from a far better past. Mathews and Glynn ooze sweetness: nothing gives them more joy than serving tea to visitors or bringing soup to an ill neighbor. The two actors move together, sharing common gestures and thought patterns that bespeak a lifetime of intimacy. The slow revelation of the arsenic within the lace is delicious, even to the large number in the audience members who clearly have seen this play performed (and laughed freely at the foreshadowing lines).

The audience’s likely familiarity with a play could be a problem: the play can’t rest on its surprise twists of the plot; a successful commonly performed play has to find other ways to engage its audience. The Commonweal’s production really seems to depend on the quality of the acting to bring the play alive. There is nothing out of the ordinary about the production itself, no attempt to make the play “fresh” or modern. The staging looks pretty much like the description Kesselring provides in the play script. If anything, the set is a little less elaborate and a little less Victorian than the playwright describes. This of course is due to the use of a thrust stage rather than the standard proscenium box Kesselring would have been writing for. The play really does stand on the acting. The cast is relatively large, and as we have come to expect at the Commonweal, there is no drop of talent for the smaller roles. Besides the brilliant performances of the Brewster Sisters, the antics of their nephew Teddy prove both enjoyable and historically edifying. (Teddy is played by Nick Ferrucci.) The disfigurement of Jeremy van Meter’s face (playing the prodigal brother-achieved with make-up and extreme facial acting) even gently (or not-so-gently) pokes fun at our own cultural obsession with looking young and the unnaturally rigid faces of our aging rich and famous population.

While not all plays stand up well to repeated performances, Kesselring’s script has certainly held up to repeated viewings (and readings) over the past 75 years. But the best reason to see this play (or see it again, if you’ve seen it before) is to see these characters in the hands of really fine actors. The Commonweal is really strutting its stuff with Arsenic and Old Lace.

Arsenic and Old Lace plays in repertory through September 8.

Visit the Commonweal for schedules and tickets: Commonweal Theatre (www.commonwealtheatre.org)

Friday, May 9, 2014

Original Shorts this Weekend

Theatre du Mississippi presents staged readings of the Winners of the 2014 New Play Competition

May 9, 7:30 p.m.

The End by Conlan Carter
Return engagement by Kathy Peterson
Fat Actress, Ugly Model, and Other Destructive Labels for Women by Bella Poynton

May 10, 7:30 p.m.

Return engagement by Kathy Peterson
God Always Exists Somewhere by Greg Freier
Fat Actress, Ugly Model, and Other Destructive Labels for Women by Bella Poynton

May 11 2:00 p.m.

The End by Conlan Carter
Return engagement by Kathy Peterson
God Always Exists Somewhere by Greg Freier

$5 Historic Masonic Theater
Winona, Minnesota


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Final Schedule for Ibsen Fest

Here is the latest version of the Ibsen Fest Schedule. Lots of good events, with a special appearance by Jeffery Hatcher’s 11-year-old’s take on Hamlet. And of course, Hatcher’s adaptation of Brand will be featured throughout the weekend.
Ibsen Schedule of Events (PDF)

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Original Shorts

Casting call for Theatre du Mississippi’s Original Shorts

Theater du Mississippi
Theatre du Mississippi is holding open auditions for their upcoming production, Original Shorts—staged readings of four short plays.

Open auditions: April 11 and 12, 7pm - 9pm
Masonic Theater (255 Main Street, Winona)

  • TdM is looking for around 9 males and 6 females in their 20s to 60s.
  • Actors may request to be cast in only one, or as many as all four short plays.
  • Actors will receive a small stipend.

The performance is a staged reading with limited rehearsals beginning March 30th.

Performances May 9-11 at the Masonic Theater.

For questions please email theatredumississippi987@gmail.com

Winners of TdM’s third annual Original Shorts playwriting competition

Staged readings of the four winning plays will be held at the Masonic Theater in Winona on May 9 and 10 at 7:30pm and May 11 at 2:00pm.

Return Engagement by Kathleen Peterson

Fat Actress, Ugly Model, and Other Destructive Labels for Women by Bella Poynton

God Always Exists Somewhere by Greg Freier

The End by Conlan Carter

Honorable Mention submissions:

The Switchblade by Bella Poynton

In the Shadow of the Monste by Jacob Wrich

The Ninth Train by Jane and Jim Jeffries

Soyuz 5 by Rand Higbee