A Mission Recognized

by Jeremy van Meter

Commonweal Resident Company 2017It is not often that we within the Commonweal Theatre Company publicly “toot our own horn.” We are happy, for the most part, to let the quality of our work speak for us. Today is not that day. Today we have officially announced that the Commonweal is the recipient of the 2017 Minnesota Council of Nonprofits and Propel Nonprofits Award for Excellence. Woo-Hoo, indeed!

Presented each year since 1987, the Mission and Excellence Awards recognize and honor the contributions of Minnesota nonprofits in the areas of Innovation, Advocacy, Anti-Racism, Responsive Philanthropy and Excellence (for large and small organizations). All nominees met a rigorous standard of evaluation in a wide range of areas, including board governance, financial management, civic engagement and, of course, artistic excellence. The Commonweal is the winner of the award in the category of small organizations and is, in fact, the first professional theatre in the history of the awards to ever receive that distinction from the council. As we sit on the cusp of a 30th birthday in 2018, this award comes at a very appropriate time in the life of the theatre and reaffirms our mission of providing live, professional theatre of the highest quality possible and to enrich the common good while doing so.

Commonweal Executive Director, along with Development Director Scott Dixon and members of the Commonweal Board of Directors will accept the award this Friday night, October 13 as part of MCN’s Annual Conference at the RiverCentre in St. Paul. In speaking with Hal about the award he said, “We are deeply honored to receive this award which recognizes not only the fine work that the professional artists of the Commonweal have put onstage for nearly 30 years but also the administrative excellence that the company has brought to serving our mission.”

The award comes with a modest cash prize, a one-of-a-kind glass sculpture and a professionally produced video highlighting the company, who we are and what we do best. This video is ours to use as we see fit in the promotion of the company and the ideals to which we strive. As with all accolades that we receive, we are fully aware that we could not do what we do without the support and love of the people who join us for performances and quickly become a part of the “family.” We share this award with you and look forward to celebrating with each and every one of you in the coming months and years as the fruits of this award ripen.

Living in Amplified Times

Ghost-Writer:  A Rare Experience in the Hurly Burly of 2017

by Michael Bigelow Dixon, director of Ghost-Writer

We live in amplified times: the endless 24/7 news cycle, the infinity of social media, even Mother Nature is increasing her volume to 11. Exhausting, yes, but within this avalanche of events and commentary are voices of the people caught up in political intrigues, social justice movements, and humanitarian efforts—and their actions provide the defining stories of our age … or so it would seem.

There is another kind of story, though, that focuses on the internal life of people who find themselves grappling with questions of meaning, relationships, and actions that can’t be reduced to a headline or meme. Their struggles are filled with ambiguity, complexity, and mystery, and their stories are necessary for our times as well, because real progress results not from amplification—who can shout louder than anyone else—but from introspection, reflection and honest self-assessment that leads to actions consistent with values.

Adrienne Sweeney in Ghost-Writer, 2017

Michael Hollinger’s Ghost-Writer offers this second kind of story. Our protagonist, Myra Babbage, must come to terms with her creative powers as she completes a novel supposedly authored by a deceased novelist. Set in 1919, a year before women won the right to vote in the United States, Myra’s struggle embodies the politics of her time. Her personal crisis regarding creative agency is further complicated by love, loyalty, and a deep dedication to the art form of writing. As one might expect of a play in which a writer works in a room alone—along with ghosts and memories that inhabit the space—this is a quiet play, and the action of explaining her strange circumstance leads to her final breakthrough—or is it breakdown—or both?

Ghost-Writer celebrates the importance of a thoughtful inner life and the quiet that’s required to reflect and then move forward. Such an experience seems all too rare—and therefore all the more valuable—in the hurly-burly of life in 2017.