MN Theater Genius: January 2015

Behold the Twin Cities theater artist (Masochistus Triplethreaticea). It can typically be found either on stage or behind the scenes, collaborating with others of its ilk. Unlike similar species found in other cities, theater artists in this area are particularly diverse and innovative. There is no overwhelming atmosphere of “the right way to do things” in the region that might spoil the gene pool. Any theater artist with ideas and passion has access to the means to bring them to life. And yet, these creatures can be so difficult to catch. Despite their trailblazing nature, they’re also strangely polite and demur, keeping themselves hidden.

Luckily, dear reader, you have me, a theater genius (Selfappointium Selfimportantus). It is with tremendous pleasure that I help you find these wondrous creatures. For example, allow me to present five exciting species of theater to track down in January on 2015, starting with 2 Sugars, Room for Cream.

2 Sugars, Room for Cream
(Smartipantus Sweetnessatae)

Park Square Theatre recently opened Andy Boss Thrust Stage and the space is bursting with good ideas. For one, they’ve partnered up with some first-rate artists (Girl Friday Productions, Sandbox Theatre, and Theater Pro Rata) to make plans for the space in the coming year. On top of that, the stage is providing a new home for Carolyn Pool and Shanan Custer’s 2 Sugars, Room for Cream for three weeks in January.

2 Sugars, Room for Cream

Carolyn Pool and Shanan Custer in 2 Sugars, Room for Cream. Photo by Richard Fleischman

The show is a collection of songs and vignettes that prove that life is like coffee: dark, warm, comforting, bitter, and addictive. Pool and Custer co-wrote the show, striking a perfect blend of hilarious and heart-wrenching. The last time the duo presented this show, their performances won a well-deserved Ivey Award. This time around they’re adding some new material and have Matt Sciple sitting in the director’s chair, making it very easy to recommend.

The show runs through January 18th. Showtimes and ticket prices can be found on Park Square’s webpage. Interested in dinner and a show without having to park twice? The Great Waters Brewing Company is right around the corner (as is the Meritage, if you’re feeling fancy).

Snowflake
(Wonderousitae Junkatum)

For the last 25 years, Gale LaJoye has been touring the world with his one-man juggernaut of physical comedy, Snowflake. From January 13th to February 22nd, you can catch his work at the Children’s Theatre Company.

Gale LaJoye in Snowflake. Photo from lajoye.com.

Gale LaJoye in Snowflake. Photo from lajoye.com.

Snowflake is based on a real person from LaJoye’s home of Marquette, Michigan who would transform items that had been thrown away into puppets or toys and then give them away. Behind the show’s humor, it carries a message about homelessness and finding value in lost and discarded objects (and people). LaJoye is a pretty remarkable guy. After working as a clown for Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus (eventually earning the title of “Boss Clown”), he was paralyzed in a car accident, and doctors told him that that he would never walk again. It’s not surprising that he’d find so much to say (without uttering a single word of dialogue) about the treasures hidden in what other people consider junk.

It’s the Children’s Theatre, so this is obviously a great show for families. Information about ticket can be found on their website, childrenstheatre.org. The theater is a couple blocks away from Nicollet Avenue, home to an abundance of good food options (Icehouse, Eat Street Social, Peninsula, and many more). My advice? Try Black Sheep Pizza‘s new shop at the corner of 26th Street and Nicollet Avenue!

Show X
(Spontaneum Specialisti)

One night I walked into a bar in New York and a band was playing. As soon as I heard them, I understood their whole story. These were top-tier musicians who would command a premium ticket price if I were to try to see them in a concert setting. But that night they were in that bar. They were jamming together for the love of playing, and I was one of the very clever people who heard them. Check out HUGE Theater Monday nights, and you can be one of the very clever people watching some of the cities’ best improvisors creating scenes together, just for the love of playing.

Show X

Show X. Image provided by HUGE Theater.

If you are familiar with the Twin Cities improv scene, you’ll recognize some if not all of the names that appear on the Show X roster. These are the best of the best. If you are not familiar with improv, the show may include some structural elements that don’t make immediate sense. Don’t fret if you don’t understand why the performers narrate the objects that adorn the room in the first scene of the night; the band is just tuning up. It will lead seamlessly into a series of scenes that are hilarious and ingenious.

Show X is just one of the shows HUGE Theater has on their roster. Check out their webpage for information about tickets and reservations. Pro tip number one: show up at 7:00 pm on Monday the 12th or 19th to catch Jill Bernard’s incredible Drum Machine! Pro tip number two: catch some dinner across the street at Szechuan Spice. It’s awesome.

These Old Shoes
(Gracefulitae Recollectionatus)

The Illusion Theater brings Transatlantic Love Affair back to their stage as part of the 10th annual Lights Up! series. For folks who didn’t get to see the hugely successful These Old Shoes at the 2013 Minnesota Fringe Festival, here’s another opportunity!

These Old Shoes

These Old Shoes by Transatlantic Love Affair. Image provided by Transatlantic Love Affair

Transatlantic Love Affair took the Minnesota Fringe Festival by storm in 2010 with their production of Ballad of the Pale Fisherman. It showcased the ensemble’s distinctive movement-based style of storytelling, using the actors’ bodies to create the landscapes behind their lush narratives. When the show was produced as part of Illusion Theater’s 6th annual Lights Up! series in 2011, it resulted in an Ivey award for the production as a whole and artistic director Isabel Nelson won the award for Emerging Artist. These Old Shoes brings the ensemble’s signature style into the realms of nostalgia. The show takes inspiration from real stories from the casts own families and takes the audience on a journey through memories.

The show runs from January 26th through February 14th, and information about showtimes and reservations can be found on the Illusion Theater’s website. The show is in downtown Minneapolis, so there’s a lot of great places to eat in the area. If you go to Mason’s in the same building, you can use your ticket stub to buy one drink or desert and get a second for free. My vote is for Ike’s, just down 6th Street.

Death and the Maiden
(Intensitus Cooperationae)

Gremlin Theatre lost its performing space in St. Paul a little while back, but clearly it’s lost no momentum. Gremlin has struck a partnership with Torch Theater for the coming year, featuring a mix of co-productions and individual works marketed with shared resources. The first product of this shared endeavor is a staging of Ariel Dorfman’s Death and the Maiden.

Death and the Maiden

Craig Johnson, Stacia Rice, and Peter Christian Hansen in Death and the Maiden, produced by Gremlin Theatre and Torch Theater. Photo by Aaron Fenster.

So, everyone in the above photo has won at least one Ivey Award. To try to describe the scope of theatrical experience that will be on the Theater Garage’s stage (not to mention director David Mann behind the scenes) is perhaps too much to ask, even of a Theater Genius such as myself. Suffice to say that this story’s mix of rage, fear, guilt, and forgiveness will be presented masterfully.

The show runs from January 30th through February 21st. Keep checking Gremlin’s website and Torch’s website for information about showtimes and reservations. Information should be there soon. I’ve been a long fan of Rudolph’s Bar-B-Que across the street from the Theater Garage and, as luck would have it, one of my new favorite places to eat, Burch Steakhouse, is just up the street! Two different ways to be awesome with two different theater companies!

Now go! Enjoy a night (or several) out on the town, seeing some shows this month. It’s good for you!

Trust me, I’m a Theater Genius.

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