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Things To Do…Commonweal’s Fall Favorites

Some Of Our Favorite Things About Fall

Okay, I am ready to admit it as I begrudgingly pull out my sweaters and scarves. Summer 2018 (boy, do I love summer) has officially passed as the crisp, frosty mornings are upon us. More than any of the other three seasons, fall brings to mind things to do in the great outdoors and/or indoors. Mainly because one can still spend a decent amount of time outside without the threat of frostbite. And so, I give you a quick list of fall things to do from some of your favorite Commonwealers.

Thomas White (Production Manager): I love fall food. Honeycrisp apples, hot drinks on cold nights. Soup season!

Lauren Schulke (Apprentice Company): Hiking right when the leaves are falling!

Ben Gorman (Actor; Marketing Associate): Read and share autumnal / Halloween / horror / wistful-seasonal stories. By candlelight. Maybe with a fire going.

Josiah Laubenstein (Actor; Marketing Associate): Sit down to a cup of coffee and a slice of pumpkin pie.

Adrienne Sweeney (Actress; External Communications Director): I love to rake all the leaves into a huge pile and then have my dog Lucy run through them.

Hal Cropp (Actor; Executive Director): Take a fall hike through the leaves (but only if the Packers are not on TV).

Rachel Kuhnle (Actress; Administration Director): My favorite thing to do in October is going to haunted houses. I always try to go to Valley Fair in October when sections of the park are turned into haunted houses.

Philip Muehe (Actor; Director; Marketing Associate): Corn mazes and apple orchard adventures!

Brandt Roberts (Actor; Production Associate): Strolling through the woods on a crisp day.

Ian Sutherland (Apprentice Company): Watching horror movies/reading spooky stories/listening to horror podcasts.

Eric Lee (Actor; Marketing Associate): When the weather cools down, I can’t wait to start steeping my Lapsang Souchong! And if you’re not familiar, it’s a smoked black tea, and it’s like drinking a campfire in a cup. So if I’m around, and you think you smell something burning, hopefully, that’s just my tea!

Bailey Otto (Production Stage Manager): My favorite fall activity is listening to spooky podcasts while walking on the trail.

Jeremy van Meter (Actor; Communications Manager; Yours Truly): Finding a space for a solitary walk while listening to college football on the radio, yes, the radio. Go Hawkeyes!

There you have it. Some of the things we enjoy about the time of year we find ourselves in. One of the great things to do in Lanesboro right now is to take in one of the final six performances of Dracula: Prince of Blood.
Our world-premiere production from the desk of our own Scott Dixon must close Sunday, November 11. PURCHASE TICKETS —> November-December Calendar.
Thanks for reading and I’ll see you at the theatre—Jeremy. 

Our Talented Aquatic Cast Member(s)

As we prepare to say farewell to The Clean House this weekend, we think it only fitting to hear from the smallest members of the cast whom we have lovingly named Pink and Floyd. The script necessitates having a “fighting fish” onstage and with the length of the run, it was determined that there should be two fish that would “tag-team” and role share performances. Rigorous auditions were held and the two aquatic thespians chosen have been top-notch all summer. And so, without further ado, a word from Pink and Floyd. 

A Role-Share Like None Other

PINK—As the cast gets ready to close The Clean House, I was asked to talk a little bit about my time here and the process.

Last spring I had no idea what my summer and fall would look like. I assumed that I would be sitting in a shallow bowl of water for a few more weeks until some kid, freshly bored from being out of school, demanded a fish to keep them company. At that point anything goes; maybe I’d live to a ripe old age of 3, maybe things would turn south very quickly. Kids are fickle that way.

FLOYD—When I saw the audition posting saying the Commonweal was looking for ‘Talented Aquatic Acrobats & Strong Swimmers,” I wasn’t sure what to expect. I have a cousin who was in a circus once, and my late great-grandfather was part of a magic act, so I’ve got a little bit of that show-business blood coursing through my veins. I did my best to showcase what I could do, swimming to the left, then back to the right, then diving down while twirling slightly. To be perfectly honest I hadn’t warmed up completely and the twirl was a little more strained than I would’ve liked, but in the end, I booked the gig!

Rehearsals were grueling. I wasn’t used to six hours of rehearsal a day. Quite frankly my attention span is probably more suited to 10 to 12 seconds of rehearsal. Luckily the role is a role-share with another fish so we were able to help pick each other’s energy up when one of us would begin to lag a little. This also helped ensure that I was able to attend a friend’s wedding over the summer on the North Shore.

PINK—Preparing for a performance was like nothing I had ever done before. My typical performance routine before coming to the Commonweal consisted of swimming an inch to my left, running into the side of a bowl, and then repeating the process by swimming to the right. Something cool about the Commonweal was from day one of rehearsals I had the fishbowl that you see on stage. That might not seem like a big deal, but trust me, when you do community productions of Finding Nemo on a shoestring budget, you’re not always afforded such luxuries. With all that room to swim, I was able to make some performance discoveries that I think really enhance the storytelling.

FLOYD—Before the show I like to swim a few laps, just to get limbered up. I spend a good deal of time up on the platform closer to the hot stage lights, so, as with all actors, staying hydrated is a huge key to my success. Even though I don’t have any “lines”, per-se, I still do a full vocal warm up, partly out of superstition. But once the show starts I try to stay as “in-the-moment” as possible; mostly because, as a fish, I don’t have much in the way of short term memory—for me, it’s all about listening and responding!

One very exciting thing about this process was the stunt work involved! A lot of shows will set up a tank in a spot on stage and simply leave it there, but for those who have seen the show, I’m sure you noticed the moment in act two where the actress who plays Ana carries me down the stairs and sets me down on the center table. Usually, that kind of action sequence is done with CGI, but Megan, our director, was insistent that the audience see the move take place. Every night I get to feel like Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible!

PINK & FLOYD—As we wind down I just want to thank the Commonweal for allowing us this opportunity to shine. Not many places would’ve cast a completely unknown in such a central role, but they saw something in us and we’ll be forever grateful.

Your chance to see the fine work of Pink, Floyd and the other talented cast members is running short. As of this entry, The Clean House has just three performances remaining and must close on
Monday, Oct. 22.
GET TICKETS —> Performance Calendar
Thanks for reading (albeit tongue-in-cheek) and I’ll see you at the theatre—Jeremy. 

A Bloody Good Story

All of us at the Commonweal were thrilled when Ivey Award-winning director Craig Johnson agreed to join us this year to fill the director’s chair for our world-premiere production of Dracula: Prince of Blood by Scott Dixon. Craig’s sense of humor, timing, focused eye for creating beautiful stage pictures and his bold imagination are all ideal for a story such as Dracula. As we approached the opening of the production in early September, Craig shared his personal thoughts about the story, the characters and Scott’s original take on literature’s most seductive vampire. Here are those thoughts. 

An Iconic Horror Story in a Ripe Retelling

by Craig Johnson

Dracula: Prince of Blood director Craig JohnsonBram Stoker’s novel Dracula appeared in 1897, capping a century when prominent authors from Charles Dickens and Mary Shelley to Oscar Wilde and Henry James were turning out first-rate gothic horror novels, spooky ghost stories, and creepy tales of the supernatural. Critics praised Stoker’s imaginative narrative, but the novel’s iconic status came later as stage and screen versions of Dracula continued to thrill audiences decade after decade.

The story of the Transylvanian count may have its origins in the legends surrounding Vlad III Dracula, a Romanian folk hero who, in the 1400s, staved off the invading Ottoman Turks, killing perhaps as many as 100,000 enemies and earning the nickname “Vlad the Impaler.” While Stoker includes some historical references, his tale of the aging vampire needing to escape to England in search of fresh blood is entirely original. In fact, the intense yet courtly charisma of the title character was probably inspired by Bram Stoker’s boss—the great Victorian actor Sir Henry Irving, who employed Stoker as his personal assistant for many years.

That theatrical connection may be what makes Dracula so dramatically compelling on stage, why the story is always ripe for retelling, as we have with this premiere adaptation by Commonweal’s own Scott Dixon. The gripping plot is all here as is the vivid gallery of characters—the doomed Lucy, the wise (and slightly eccentric) Professor van Helsing, the tortured asylum inmate Renfield, and of course the powerful and seductive Count Dracula himself. Scott’s script has highlighted the psychological and thematic points of the story, so you can look for the tussle between science and faith, the restrictive role of women in society, the costs of repressing our sexuality, the guarded fear of the outsider. On the other hand, you can just lean back and thrill to a bloody good story!

And from the playwright:

When I first thought about adapting Dracula, I thought—there are hundreds of Dracula scripts out there, who needs one more? But the idea just wouldn’t let me go. I soon discovered that the enduring power of Bram Stoker’s story is that it’s like a jewel with so many facets, so many different ways of looking at it, and so yes, there is room for one more play about Dracula if you infuse it with some distinctive twists.

And it’s a task Scott is well-suited for. Besides being an accomplished playwright, he is also an author of horror and dark fantasy stories. News about all of his current and upcoming projects can be found online at Darkly Dixon or The Desk of Scott Dixon
Dracula: Prince of Blood plays Thursday & Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons through November 11.
GET TICKETS —> Performance Calendar
Thanks for reading and I’ll see you at the theatre—Jeremy. 

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