The Year in Theater

Last year my boss sent me to sit in a dark room for 150 nights. Here's what I took away from the ordeal.

 

SARAH AGNEW,actor

During a performance of Hamlet in New York, Steve Epp, trying to recover from his sushi incident (which with the help of the gods and modern medicine he should recover from completely) and upon throwing up the line, "In the rank sweat of an enseamed bed," spied a small bearded Stephen Sondheim in the third row. We spent the rest of the show imagining the final scene as a show-stopping Busby Berkeley bloodbath. The rest is silence.

 

CARLYLE BROWN,actor, writer, creator of the autobiographical solo showThe Fula from America

In The Fula from America there is a character that was chief of police in Freetown, Sierra Leone. The chief was very kind to me and we were good friends. He helped me out of the country when the troubles began that would plunge Sierra Leone into decades of war. When I began impersonating him I had not seen him for more than 20 years. After a performance a young man from Sierra Leone came up to me and told me he knew the chief and that he had been executed for involvement in a pro-democracy movement. I cried and the young man put his arms around me to comfort me. I looked into his face and for all the tragedy it must have seen, it was bright, smiling, and full of hope, a marvelous sight in this world where horrors are commonplace.

 

MICHELLE HENSLEY,artistic director,Ten Thousand Things Theater Company

Antigone, put on by Children's Theater Company to begin their new Teen Theater series, was my favorite Twin Cities production this year. I loved the immediacy of being pushed around in the big warehouse space, and the physicality, energy, and intensity of the actors. With Luverne Seifert as the father/king and Sonja Parks as the adolescent/social protester, the personal and the political sliced together in a way that was large, beautiful, and rare.

 

WENDY KNOX,artistic director,Frank Theatre

As an audience member, the singular highlight of the season for me was Mixed Blood's production of Suzan-Lori Parks's Topdog/Underdog. Having seen the New York production (which was also a 2003 highlight), I knew that the script was great. But the local production was still phenomenal: great performances in an intimate setting. The show was gritty, it made me squirm, and it gave me things to think about that are still in my head. More theater should have that effect. Kudos to Jack [Reuler] and company.

 

PETER ROTHSTEIN,artistic director,

Theatre Latté Da

A highlight of my past year was participating in the International Symposium for Directors at La Mama, Umbria, Italy. The month-long symposium brought together 25 directors from around the globe to share new ideas, methodologies, and visions. We lived and worked in a 500-year-old convent, which is now an international home for artists. We took part in workshops led by master teachers from France, Poland, Brazil, and the Philippines. The opportunity to collaborate with this talented and diverse group of colleagues in the breathtaking hills of Umbria was an inspiring and life-changing experience.

 

KAREN WIESE-THOMPSON,actor

Being my first year post-gastric surgery and now 130 pounds lighter, it's all been great...and busy. The story that most sticks out in my mind, however, is from the Pigs Eye Theatre production of Twelfth Night. I was playing Toby Belch and had the distinct pleasure of sharing a very passionate kiss with the fabulous Kate Eifrig. During one performance, in the midst of said kiss, I suddenly hear my nine-year-old son shout from the audience, "You can stop now!" We barely made it off stage.

JOSHUA SCRIMSHAW,actor

My brother Joe and I put together a monthly late-night comedy show called Look Ma No Pants. This year we were asked by the Bryant-Lake Bowl to do a special "spooky" edition of the show Halloween night. Little did we know how spooky it would be....If you are familiar with the Bryant-Lake Bowl Theater, you are no doubt familiar with the much loved and much used EXIT door leading directly from stage to scenic Lake Street. Every show we've ever done at the Bryant-Lake Bowl has, in one way or another, taken advantage of that door. The Halloween show was no exception.

At the end of the opening sketch, fellow cast member Zvie was supposed to turn into a werewolf and chase Joe and me out the door and into the night. During the show, when we flung open the door to flee, there was a man in a hooded black robe standing on the sidewalk. His face was completely obscured by a ghoul mask. Before anyone knew what was happening, the masked man leaped onto stage. There was a beat where Joe, Zvie Razielli, the Ghoulish Intruder, and I all stood there, not sure what was going to happen next. Then, some "the show must go on" instinct kicked in and, as if on cue, Joe, Zvie, and I screamed and started to run in big wacky Benny Hill-style circles. Also, as if on cue, the Ghoul started to chase us.

After a few laps around the stage, we jumped out the door and tumbled onto Lake Street in a heap, the door slamming shut behind us. We did a quick head count and realized we were missing the Ghoul. We dashed back through the Bowl, into the green room, and snuck backstage. Sure enough, there was the Ghoul, still masked, lurking stage right. Up until this point, Joe and I thought this was possibly a prank being played by a cast or regular audience member. We changed our mind when we noticed the Ghoul was shaking slightly, nodding his head and muttering to himself all the while making the quick, random hand gestures of the recently de-institutionalized.

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