Gremlin Theatre

As someone said to me recently, theater people would be putting on shows regardless of the material rewards—it's just a fortunate happenstance when they also get paid. Well, why be coy? The person who said that was Gremlin Theatre artistic director Peter Hansen, and he's lived it for quite some time.

Gremlin's first season was way back in 1998, and for ages the company produced between two and six shows a year. Landing for a while at St. Paul's Loading Dock Theater, Gremlin put on sturdy stuff, such as The Petrified Forest in 2006. They staged standbys like Mamet, and O'Neill while mixing in new works by local playwrights such as Karla Reck and Alan Berks.

It's an approach that pays off, and Gremlin's productions have gained in assurance and craft. In February, Gremlin staged the gem Orson's Shadow, depicting a burnt-out Orson Welles locking horns with the ego-driven, insecure Laurence Olivier.

In April the company stretched with the premiere of Berks's Everywhere Signs Fall, a sultry labyrinth of secrets and unintended consequences. At the end of 2008 Gremlin staged Sam Shepard's Fool for Love, an emotional blowout featuring Hansen and Stacia Rice.

All three were very good shows, but Fool was different: It was staged at Gremlin's new space on University Avenue in St. Paul. Gremlin's home base is comfortable and easy to reach, and it will also serve as a primary venue for Theatre Pro Rata, Teatro del Pueblo, and a Hmong-based community theater.

Hansen (along with co-conspirators Carl Schoenborn and Casey Radmann) has not only kept his company producing, he's established a small-theater model combining both new and familiar works done well, and now staged in a welcome new venue. Give us more, please.

Quinton Skinner is City Pages' theater critic.

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