A Milestone Season of Professional Live Theatre

30th Season Milestones

by David Hennessey

Scott and Stela read Love Letters to start
A notable year. Then others joined hearts
’Neath Salt-Water Moon.
Thereafter, we soon
Met three unsung women who learned to chart

Faraway stars: staring up at the night
We bathed, awestruck, in swirling points of light!
A fun change of pace
Brought the cut-throat chase
Of kids seeking spelling trophies. The sight,

In Clean House, of messes we can’t control—
Including sickness that will not let go—
Taught us gently how
To live in the now.
After years of writing, with heart and soul,

His masterful Dracula, Scotty thrilled
As we staged it with full suspense and chills.
Standing ovations,
Public sensation!
He basked in the glow of visions fulfilled.

When the day finally came he had to leave,
We celebrated him more than we grieved.
We dedicated
Our last show slated
To A Wonderful Life the heavens retrieved.

That Dracula script? It’s now winging high
In our lobby, soaring to Silent Sky.

Click any image below to view the full photo.

And what a season it has been! Your love and support have guided this company to the end of our 30th year producing professional live theatre in Lanesboro. This year, we logged a record number of season pass holders, welcomed well over 1,500 first time patrons, surpassed our fall donation campaign efforts and saw more than 21,000 people walk through the doors and take a seat in the theatre. On that strength and with renewed spirit and energy, we forge ahead to 2019 and our 31st season. Thank you for a fabulous year — if you like us, talk about us and we look forward to sharing more compelling stories with you next year. 

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you at the theatre—Jeremy. 

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My “Silent Sky” Highlight

It is my opinion that we could not have chosen a better way to open our 30th Season at the Commonweal than with Silent Sky by Lauren Gunderson. We at the Commonweal search for stories that are transcendent and relevant and we hope you agree that this play fit that bill with no exception. As of this writing, Silent Sky has two performances remaining and for this edition of Drama Unfolds, I have asked cast and crew to provide one highlight from the production they know they will always carry with them. Here’s what they had to say.

Elizabeth Dunn (Annie Cannon) — The moment in the show where women’s rights are emphasized (and then later) women getting the right to vote. It’s been a thrill to portray a kick-ass suffragette, who worked so hard to pave the way for future generations of women.

Adrienne Sweeney (Production Director) — Sitting in the audience show after show and hearing/feeling the collective inhale when Henrietta finally sees her “heaven.” Knowing that we were all sharing the same breath at the same time gave me chills every single time.

Eric Lee (Peter Shaw) — My Silent Sky highlight is having been a part of such a moving story. My deepest love is for art that asks of us what we can be. For me, Lauren Gunderson’s Silent Sky encourages us to find our meaning, our wonder, our “Heaven” where it exists for us, and to recognize that there is much in common in that experience, however it may come about. Our experience of the transcendent, of being part of something bigger than ourselves, may be unique. But I do believe that there is something vital and essential in having it, whether it be through religion or through a profound wonder at the simple fact of existence.

Stela Burdt (Williamina Fleming) — Henrietta’s final monologue and these words specifically:  Because wonder will always get us there…Those of us who insist that there is much more beyond ourselves. And I do. And there’s a reason we measure it all in light. Wonder is something I have truly begun to have great belief in. Because I believe it is wonder that will help us solve many challenges we face today, both personal and worldwide. The drive to keep learning, keep discovering, keep on keeping on. And doing it within the greater connected world.

Philip Muehe (Stage Manager) — Henrietta’s line at the end of the play about how Hubble’s telescope, which uses her work, shows us “how vast and beautiful it all is.” The fact that she had NO idea how her work, dedication, and hardship would lead to the beautiful discoveries and knowledge we take for granted now, hits me so hard every performance. It always puts things in perspective for me. Keep plugging away y’all.

Abbie Cathcart (Margaret Leavitt) — I love the last scene in which Margaret’s piano playing helps Henrietta make her big discovery about the Cepheid stars. Up until this point in the story, Henrietta had logged thousands of hours studying these stars. She knew them intimately, but it wasn’t until she heard the music that she was able to think of them in a different way and then make her discovery. I love this scene because I feel like playwright Lauren Gunderson is reminding us that art does not merely decorate more serious endeavors, but rather plays an important role in human progress.

Megan Pence (Henrietta Leavitt) — The epilogue. Every time I hit the phrase “And I know that distance is only space and time…and for some of us, light,” I feel the catch in my throat because it so perfectly encapsulates life’s journeys. As I finish my time here at the Commonweal, I know that it is not the end, but rather a shift. And that my time here truly has been measured in light.
Seeing one of the final two performances of Silent Sky is just one of the great things to do in Lanesboro. How about another idea? Commonweal resident ensemble member David Hennessey suggests a stop at the historic telephone booth at the History Museum downtown. There you can dial up any of several local interest stories, all narrated by area residents—including David himself. 
Silent Sky by Lauren Gunderson plays Friday, June 22 at 7:30 and Saturday, June 23 at 1:30. 
GET TICKETS —> SILENT SKY AT THE CWL
Thanks for reading; I’ll see you at the theatre—Jeremy
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Repertory Theatre Actor: A Day in the Life

The Treats of Being a Repertory Actor

by Eric Lee

Eric is currently in his third year in the resident ensemble at the Commonweal. For this post, he offers his insight and perspectives on being a “repertory actor.” If you’re not aware of just what that means…read on.

Commonweal Professional Resident Ensemble Member Eric Lee

I am now entering the final weeks of my rep schedule of performing in both Silent Sky and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Now what, you may ask, is the rep? Rep is short for repertory. Merriam-Webster gives two definitions that are useful here:

  • a company that presents several different plays, operas, or pieces usually alternately in the course of a season at one theater
  • the production and presentation of plays by a repertory company acting in repertory

(www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/repertory)

The Commonweal Theatre Company is a repertory theatre company, and for a large portion of our season, an audience member can come and see the company perform two different productions in the same weekend. One of the possible treats this affords is the opportunity to perform two characters in two different plays at the same time, or “in repertory.”

Currently, Abbie Cathcart, Elizabeth Dunn and I are enjoying the opportunity of doing the rep between Silent Sky and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. I imagine I was given the distinction of writing about my experience as I have the most extreme transformation between the characters in the two plays.

Commonweal professional resident ensemble member Eric Lee in the role of Peter Shaw in Silent Sky

As Peter Shaw

In Silent Sky, I portray Peter Shaw, a Junior Fellow in Astronomical Research in the Harvard Observatory, circa the early 20th Century. I get to wear a three-piece suit, and the costume certainly informs some of how my character inhabits his world. I’m also the only man in that cast, and so I take advantage of a fairly luxurious preparation for the show. On the other hand, in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, I play Mitch Mahoney, the reluctant Comfort Counselor, performing his community service. My appearance is, well, a bit less put together for Mitch. And that preparation affects me in an altogether different way.

Commonweal professional resident ensemble member Eric Lee as Mitch Mahoney in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

As Mitch Mahoney

The first question I generally get is a variation on, “Do you ever forget which play you’re in?” It’s actually pretty hard to get confused onstage, and definitely in this rep. The plays and characters are so very different, as are the circumstances the characters find themselves in. Plus, one is a musical, and the other is not, so that’s certainly helpful.

The memories that are built up in rehearsal are so deeply ingrained within the worlds of the different plays, and our physical observations, that it would be very difficult to suddenly find the other jumping into mind, or even worse, out of my mouth. The one time that it can be difficult is simply in getting to the dressing room, and remembering which play to get ready for. But one quick glance at the calendar and even that is remedied fairly easily.

One of the wonderful things the Commonweal affords us as actors is the opportunity to exercise our craft, and to stretch ourselves in new ways. And it is certainly tremendous fun to get to share the very different things we can do with the family that is our great and loyal theatre-goers. I am so grateful for all the support we receive for the work that we get to do here.

Witnessing Eric’s amazing transformation on the Commonweal stage is just one of the many great things to do in Lanesboro, MN. Need another idea? Commonweal board of directors member Joan Ruen suggests a tour of the Minnesota Amish countryside with Bluffscape Amish Tours. And Joan should know, it’s her company!
Our spring rep is currently running through June 23rd and features two outstanding productions. GET TICKETS —> RIGHT HERE.
Thanks for reading and I’ll see you at the theatre—Jeremy
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