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

Thursday, October 23, 2008

November Nights: The World Premiere of Ice Maidens

by Stan Peal
directed by Scott Dixon

The Commonweal continues its commitment to staging new works with the world premiere of Stan Peal’s Ice Maiden. The play, which was commissioned by the Commonweal, received a staged reading at the theatre last fall after Peal spent a year of “intermittent weekends” in Lanesboro working with the company. Next week it will receive a full production on the Commonweal stage for a two-week run.

Peal left Minnesota in 2001 to found the Epic Arts Repertory Theatre in Charlotte, North Carolina, but he remembers the cold. Peal uses the cold as a positive metaphor, as something “welcoming and invigorating. . . .Cold is usually a negative metaphor in plays,” says Peal. “I wanted the cold and ice to be positive and explore the idea of a baptism by ice—to see how the cold can purify and bring new life.”

Commonweal Artistic director Hal Cropp believes Peal has succeeded with this exploration and has captured something of Lanesboro. “The script is very much evocative of our region,” says Cropp. It is “filled with glorious imagery and vivid characterizations. I think the story, and Stan’s unique voice will ring true to our community.” The Commonweal bills the play as a moving, humorous, and ultimately heartfelt story.

Ice Maiden Image from Commonweal

The plot of the play involves a young woman visiting her Minnesota home. The visit stirs up memories of her sister falling through the ice and drowning during a childhood lake crossing. This memory has driven the young woman away from her home and away from her family, testing Peal’s metaphor of ice and cold as purifying and redemptive elements.

The collaboration between Peal and the Commonweal has been fruitful. Peal describes this collaboration in muted terms, noting that the collaboration is a reminder that the “playwright is not an isolated artist” and at some point the playwright must “let go and send the play through the collective process unique to the Theatre.” Peal feels that the Commonweal company “seems to have a particular sensitivity to the gradual curve of this shake-up process.”

Director Scott Dixon sees the “shake-up process” a little more turbulently: “it’s like handing that new car over to people who will abuse the hell out of it. The director, the designers, the actors—they pull at the seams, twist it as hard as they can, try everything they can think of to break it down before building it back up again.” In the end, Dixon muses, “When a script withstands that kind of workout, then you know you’ve got something.”

Ice Maidens runs November 1 – 16 with Previews October 30 and 31.

Visit the Commonweal for schedules and tickets: Commonweal Theatre

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