Gonzo Group prepares for Greeks in the Street festival

The five-actor company of The Frogs.
The five-actor company of The Frogs.
Image courtesy the Gonzo Group Theatre
If you can do Shakespeare in the park, why not a play in a parking lot?

While in New York City, Luke Weber of Gonzo Group Theatre saw a production by the Bard in one of the ubiquitous concrete structures. "It's a really nice festival that takes place on the East Side every summer," he says. "It was so much fun and such a simple thing. We thought, 'Why isn't this happening in the Twin Cities?'"

The fruit of their labor arrives this weekend with the first Greeks in the Street festival in St. Paul. There won't be Shakespeare on display, however. Instead, the company tackles The Frogs, a comedy by the ancient Greek playwright Aristophanes, the comic author who also wrote Lysistrata. 

"Shakespeare in the park is done so often, but you don't see Greek theater as often," Weber says. "And The Frogs is just a beautiful, fun show. The problems they were having in Athens at the time are the struggles we are having today."

The play follows the god Dionysus and his slave Xanthias as they travel to the Underworld to bring back Euripides, the master of the dramatic form. Adventures ensue as the pair undertake their journey, eventually finding Euripides locked in a battle of wits with another master of tragedy, Aeschylus, to determine who is the greatest master of the dramatic arts. It is up to Dionysus to bring the winner back to Athens, and save civilization.

The theater company has partnered with Irrigate Arts, an initiative along the lightrail construction corridor on University Avenue. Together, they have expanded the event beyond the show. In the hour before the performance, there will be games, face painting, a food truck, and other activities at the parking lot at Frogtown Square.

"We are hoping to create a street carnival type atmosphere or a neighborhood block party type of feel. We want it to be something that is fun and open," says Weber.

The five-actor company -- Ryan Claussen, Josh Vogen, Molly Pach, Pakou Moua, and Evelyn Digirolamo -- have been rehearsing right outside of the performance space, which has helped to create the right vibe for the performances.

"There have been a couple of instances where people stop and watch rehearsal," he says. "There are times when we have had to stop and let cars through. You try to not let it disrupt rehearsals and work through it. We are performing in a parking lot, and you have to deal with it as an actor. Luckily, the play is about Dionysus and his servant's trip through Hades, so you can have just about anything happen and have it fit the environment."


The Frogs
The parking lot of Frogtown Square
601 University Ave., St. Paul
Activities begin at 6:30 p.m.; show around 7:30 p.m.
Fridays and Saturdays through July 21
For information, call 651.330.2404 or visit online.

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