Two Decades, One Playwright

Henrik Ibsen Festival IbsenfestTwenty years ago, a pledge was made. A pledge to a playwright and his works. A pledge to an audience base. A pledge to a company of artists that, for the foreseeable future, the works of that one playwright would be produced on an annual basis. Countless other things have come and gone but that pledge remained strong.

This season at the Commonweal, we celebrate both the pledge and the fact that the pledge is now considered fulfilled. It has been an honor for this company to stage the plays, both original and adaptations, of Henrik Ibsen for past 20 years. As we say adieu to that commitment, members of the Commonweal ensemble have been asked a question: “what is your strongest memory or fun fact about the company’s connection to Ibsen? I hope you’ll find these to be a good read and if they inspire any of your own memories…please share!

Stela Burdt: I met my husband (Scott Dixon) during rehearsals of Enemy of the People in January 2001.  Rehearsals were at Luther College, as we had students in the production. We got to know each other over the drives back and forth between Lanesboro and Decorah.

Scott Dixon: One of my favorite Ibsen experiences was directing Enemy of the People in 2011, ten years after appearing in it in 2001—my Commonweal debut.

Eric Lee in “When We Dead Awaken”

Eric Lee: When We Dead Awaken is the very first Ibsen production I’ve been involved in. It is an honor to be a part of the final Ibsen Festival, as a part of a 20-year tradition.

Philip Muehe: I saw Adrienne perform the title role in Hedda Gabler when I was in high school, and in college, I wrote my Theatre History II capstone paper about groundbreaking female protagonists…Hedda won.

Abbie Cathcart: I got to try lefse, Gjetost cheese (omg so good), Aquavit, and pickled herring (no me gusta) for the first time at last year’s festival!

Ben Gorman: The Wild Duck (2005), which also toured. I played the usually drunk, wry Dr. Relling, taking over the role a month into the production from Patrick Bailey; also played Werle’s house servant Pettersen. We toured upstate, including Fergus Falls MN, and a few of us did a day trip over to Fargo ND—in my case, just so I could say I’d been there.

Adrienne Sweeney w/ Chris Oden in “Enemy of the People”

Adrienne Sweeney: An Ibsen was my very first show here at the Commonweal—An Enemy of the People, 2001. It was also the first Ibsen play I had ever done.  AND…my first of TWENTY THREE shows with Scott Dixon! (WHA???)

Hal Cropp: Of the Ibsen productions in our 20-year history, I have performed in nine, directed seven, adapted one (The Wild Duck) and am the only member of the company who has been here for all twenty.

David Hennessey: Former resident company member Irene Erkenbrack Green and I have a record we suspect few actors can match. We have appeared together in separate productions of the rarely performed Peer Gynt: once at Luther College, 2003; once here, 2008.

Brandt Roberts: The Master Builder was my first exposure to Ibsen in college and my first Ibsen production at the Commonweal. Japanese shadow puppets have been an interest of mine and I got to play with shadow puppets in The Master Builder.

Bailey Otto: I have stage managed one-quarter of the productions during this commitment.

Megan Pence: My first stage kiss (A Doll’s House). My first stage death (Brand). My first (but possibly not my last) time appearing in only undergarments on stage (The League of Youth).

Jeremy van Meter: The first Commonweal play that my wife Catherine Glynn and I appeared in together as ensemble members was Jeffrey Hatcher’s adaptation of Pillars of Society. We played brother and sister—true willing suspension of disbelief!

Share your own memories and be sure to join us this weekend,
April 21-23, as When We Dead Awaken premieres during the 20th Annual Ibsen Festival to open Season 29 at the Commonweal!

 

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Goodbye…For Now

by Gary Danciu

Gary DanciuAs someone who loves stories and telling stories, it’s always been hard not to look at my own life through a narrative lens. My life will have had a beginning, middle and an end. I’ll look back at my life and see the different chapters and characters that made up my story. My time with the Commonweal has been a significant and important chapter, and I know that it will remain that way for the rest of my life. After six seasons with the Commonweal, I have decided to bring this chapter to its end. I did not make this decision lightly. I came to the Commonweal as an apprentice in May of 2011, a year after graduating college. This past August, I decided it was time to move on and find new theatrical experiences in the Twin Cities.

I remember my first day in Lanesboro quite well. A few company members greeted me warmly at our artist’s residence and then I attended the opening night of Sylvia. At the opening night party, I was introduced to the variety of interesting characters that inhabited the company at the time. Little did I know, that I would meet many more characters and that my time in Lanesboro would extend all the way to December of 2016. During my time with the Commonweal, I have been given incredible opportunities to grow as an actor and a person. I performed in sixteen productions, served on the design team for nine productions and received experience in all aspects of the company’s administration.  I’ve worked with dozens of talented artists over the past six seasons and I have forged life long friendships. To be honest, when I first came to Lanesboro in 2011, I wasn’t sure if I had what it took to make a life for myself in the theatre. I knew I had talent and a passion for theatre, but I just couldn’t imagine myself going off on my own and really making it happen.  My experiences here and the people who I have worked with have all helped me to imagine that reality. I now know that I have the tools and confidence to move forward.

League of YouthWhat I have valued most at the Commonweal is the chance to feel a part of a greater team and community. Throughout my life, I’ve always had the good fortune of doing what I love in service of something bigger than myself.  At the Commonweal, I’ve always been made keenly aware of the effect my work has had on our audience. I’ve always known what my work and the work of my colleagues means to Lanesboro. There are good days and bad days at the company (as there are everywhere), but I have found every experience, good and bad, to be educational and valuable. Wherever my path leads, I hope to eventually find that sense of connection and community that has been so deeply satisfying during my time here.

I’d like to take this opportunity to express my overwhelming feeling of gratitude to all of you who have made my time here in Lanesboro such an unforgettable and wonderful chapter of my life. I’ve been thinking a lot about all the people I’ve gotten to know over the years, artists I’ve worked with, patrons, and the people of Lanesboro. I also want to thank my parents for all the trips they made the see me perform and for all of their love and support from afar. You have all played a part in my journey, and I hope in some small way I was able to do the same for you. Even though I am moving on to the next chapter, the Commonweal and Lanesboro are places I will proudly and always call home.

The Many Faces of Gary’s Commonweal Career:

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