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

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

The Joys of Hatcher’s Mystery

We asked company member Eric Lee, who can currently be seen as Dr. Evans in Holmes and Watson, what performing the twisting mystery has been like.

Last fall, when we were looking at the season to come, I had one role I knew that I wanted for sure: Dr. Evans in Jeffrey Hatcher’s Holmes and Watson.

First of all, I love a good mystery. In elementary school, I must have read every Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew book in the school library. Then I found a treasure trove of old Ellery Queen mystery magazines at a neighbor’s garage sale! What a day that was!

Holmes & Watson production photo - 3 Holmeses
Eric Lee (far left) alongside the rest of the cast. Photo by Peterson Creative Photography and Design

Fast forward to last year. I’m reading Holmes and Watson, and the first thing that strikes me is that signature Hatcher cleverness and wit. I just love his way with language and how he tells a story. I was intrigued, engaged and drawn forward. I couldn’t wait to find out where he was taking me as I was reading—and not every play engages me in that way. When I first read the big reveals, I was just delighted!

Now that the show is on stage, you can hear the shock of the audience at every performance. I certainly didn’t see the twists coming. And why would we? Hatcher reveals the answers to all of his questions with his classic wit and charm. I take great joy in sharing those moments with each audience, and getting to see how they react to the twists and turns I got to take such pleasure in the first time.

Holmes & Watson production photo - dying Inspector
photo by Peterson Creative Photography & Design

I’ve heard it said that one reason we love mysteries is because we know there will be an answer. In a world in which there are rarely clean resolutions to our big problems, what a satisfying feeling it is! As always, I am so grateful to share these moments with you, our Commonweal family. Come and experience all the twists and turns for yourself!

Be sure to catch Eric’s work, and the rest of this stellar cast, before Holmes and Watson closes for good on July 6th.
For Tickets —> Performance Calendar