An Epic Homecoming

By Megan K. Pence

Megan K. Pence
Director & former company member Megan K. Pence

After my first year of grad school in the hot swampy weather of Florida, I was thrilled for a chance to return to the Commonweal and direct An Iliad. Wealhouse has been a twinkle in our eye for many years, and I was honored to play a small part of its inaugural season. Getting to come home to my Commonweal family for three whole weeks during a glorious Lanesboro summer was a wonderful gift, and one of the best working “vacations” I’ve ever had. An Iliad opened this past Sunday to a sold-out crowd, and is an incredible performance which I am so excited to share!

Though less popular than its companion The Odyssey, you may recall The Iliad as one of those long, complicated tales with a million pages and about as many characters that you were forced to read in high school or Western Civilization 101. In this adaptation by Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare, these Greek battles no longer feel ancient, irrelevant or overly long as the audience is transported to the shores of Troy in a mere 105 minutes. Through both poetry and contemporary language, we are fighting alongside Achilles and Hector, and the human price of war becomes very real. 

An Iliad by Lisa Peterson and Denis O'Hare
Resident Ensemble member Ben Gorman stars as The Poet

While this show tackles huge themes – war, fate, pride, honor, love – what excites me about this piece is the exploration of storytelling. One man (Ben Gorman) embodies not only The Poet, but also a dozen other characters. The Poet is doomed to tell this tale, each time hoping it may be his last. As an audience, we are left to wonder how our own stories help us make sense of the world and of ourselves. 

And oh, how Ben Gorman tells this story! While I love directing shows with many actors, there is something truly special about the collaboration and partnership of a one-person show. We learned how to trust one another, developed our own shared language, and ultimately became each other’s Muse. This truly is a tour de force performance that you will not want to miss.

Don’t miss out on this unique and compelling evening of theatre! See both Megan and Ben’s work in the epic one-man play, An Iliad. For Tickets —> Performance Calendar

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An Inside Look at a Double Show Day

By Lizzy Andretta

In my three seasons performing at the Commonweal, I’ve never had to take on the task of performing in two shows that are running at the same time – until now. While I knew that doing these two shows would be very trying, I looked forward to being a part of two very fun pieces of theatre that I knew would help me grow. Here’s what a typical two show day looks like for me:

9:00am

I start my day bright and early! After I drink my morning tea, I run whatever errands I need to do. Then I try to get a little bit of time in at the gym, because staying fit is very important given all the running and jumping I do in both shows.

Lizzy heading out for the day
Lizzy heading out for the day

11:00am

Because we operate under an artist administrator model, not only do we perform/direct/design our shows, but we also have to run the place! Before the show starts, I usually try and get some admin work done at my desk. Sometimes it’s a tough balance to achieve, but doggy snuggles with Lucy always help!

Lizzy Andretta with Lucy, at work
Lucy helping Lizzy get some admin work done!

12:00pm

Then I go downstairs and sign in for Boeing Boeing. I try to get there earlier as I need as much time as possible to construct Gabriella’s Brigitte Bardot coif and put on a few layers of makeup, as well as doing a light physical and heavy vocal warm-up (both Molly and Gabriella, for all their differences, are both very loud opinionated ladies).

Lizzy prepares in the dressing room
Lizzy prepares in the dressing room

1:30pm

It’s show time! Boeing Boeing takes off for flight as I get to run around as the smart and dramatic Gabriella! It’s a fun, but very physical show. So by the end we are all quite tired. But that’s only one show for the day done!

Lizzy in makeup as Gabriella in Boeing Boeing
Lizzy in makeup as Gabriella in Boeing Boeing

4:00pm

Once Boeing ends, I go home and take a quick shower to remove the spray and product from my hair and have dinner before I’m called in for Peter and the Starcatcher. Since I wear my hair naturally, I can afford to come in a little closer to my call time.

6:30pm

Once in for Peter, I spend a lot more time doing heavy stretches (none of which I actually do in the show, but I like doing them to help my body get as limber as possible) and warming up my voice for the singing.

Lizzy Andretta stretching before Peter and the Starcatcher
Lizzy Andretta stretching before Peter and the Starcatcher

7:30pm

Show #2 officially starts! Peter and the Starcatcher is so much fun. I play Molly, the titular Starcatcher in training. With such a large cast, and so many moving parts, this show is an incredible adventure to go on!

8:30pm

At intermission it’s time to get into my mermaid outfit! Why? Well…you’ll just have to see the show to find out! It’s a pretty glamorous sight to behold backstage.

Lizzy in her mermaid costume for Peter and the Starcatcher
Lizzy in her mermaid costume

10:00pm

The show is done, which means my busy day is also over! After such a marathon, I go straight home, satisfied with a good day’s work. Plus there’s a matinee tomorrow to rest up for! Thanks for coming with me on this long, but fun, Saturday. We’ll see you at the Commonweal very soon!

Have you seen Lizzy in both productions yet? Make your plans now to join us for both Boeing Boeing, and Peter and the Starcatcher this summer! For Tickets —> Performance Calendar

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Recapturing Childhood: A Magical Costume Design

By Annie Cady

Back in April, we had our first design meeting for Peter and the Starcatcher.  Though I read the play at least a couple of times before the meeting, this was really the first time that all of the designers come together to start working on the version of the play that we were going to create together. In this meeting our director, Hal, described his concept (he’s the ship’s captain!). He talked about the play being full of fun and adventure.  One of the phrases I jotted down in my notes was “recapture the magic and imagination of childhood”.  He wanted magic to be at the heart of the story. 

The three orphans at the center of our story.

The script requires the audience to use their imagination. As designers, Hal asked us to create a playground with lots of possibilities. We needed ways to quickly move forward in the story: to change locations with one move of a set piece or prop, and to change character with the addition of an eye patch, a hat or an epic mustache. Every actor plays multiple characters, often with merely seconds to change.

The feared Pirate to ever sail the Seas…BLACK STACHE!

As the Costume Designer, I thought about the life on a ship, and what those characters would need to survive that life. I thought about a long sea crossing and the world of pirates and orphan boys. My visual research mostly consisted of worn and patched up clothing. Pieces that looked lived in and brought a lot of texture to the stage. I found images that made sense for each character and started to sketch. My costume renderings take all of my research and combine the disparate parts into a single cohesive character.

Fighting Prawn: King of Mollusk Island.

I was also inspired by the time period, so you will see a nod to the late 1800s in some of the pieces.  But we are not strict – Hal did want magic, fun and an atmosphere of playfulness.  So, I chose to add some sillier things that also fit in with the quick character changes – lobster claw hands, pasta hats and a lacy bonnet for Jeremy all find a place in the design.

Things often change a bit as we make our way through tech week. My work is only partially done right now.  But so far, I think we are finding the way to bring magic, playfulness and adventure to life on stage. I can’t wait for you to experience all of that magic for yourself!

Don’t miss out on Annie’s epic designs! Make your plans now to join us for this magical adventure. Peter and the Starcatcher begins performances on July 12th! For Tickets —> Performance Calendar

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