A Return to the Commonweal

A Return to the Commonweal

A few weeks ago, Tim Sailer (apprentice class of 2010) returned to the Commonweal to serve as a member of the resident acting ensemble and the Assistant Director of Marketing. We chatted with Tim to hear what he’s been up to and what he’s looking forward to, now that he’s back in Lanesboro.


Tim Sailer with David Hennessey and Carl Lindberg in The Rainmaker (2009). Photo by Jason Underferth.

How did you get your start at the Commonweal?

I went to college in St. Paul, and during my senior year (2009), I attended the Twin City Unified Auditions. That’s when I met Hal Cropp and Scott Dixon. They were recruiting for the apprentice program and called me back to read for Jimmy in The Rainmaker. Not long after, I took a trip down to Lanesboro to see the first apprentice production (Steven Dietz’s Private Eyes) and fell in love with the town and the theatre. A couple months later, I graduated college and joined the second apprentice class. Playing Jimmy was one of my favorite roles to date.

As the apprenticeship was winding down, I became more interested in the marketing side of the administrative work. Adrienne Sweeney offered me a job as a marketing assistant in addition to being part of the resident acting ensemble, where I spent the next year and a half.

Tim Sailer at the American Shakespeare Center's Blackfriar's Theatre

As Cassius in Julius Caesar at the American Shakespeare Center. Photo by Tommy Thompson.

What have you been up to these past ten years?

In the summer of 2011, I moved to Houston, TX to get my MFA at the University of Houston’s Professional Actor Training Program. It was two years of honing technique, developing a process, and learning about the business. During my final year, I received a contract to work at the American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, VA. There, I spent five years with the company—performing in their resident and touring ensembles. I played more than 50 roles across 35 plays. Some favorites include Cassius in Julius Caesar, Jack in The Importance of Being Earnest, and Mirabell in The Way of the World.

Later, wanting to shake things up, I took a more nomadic actor life, accepting contracts all over the country. I spent a summer back in Houston with the Houston Shakespeare Festival, a couple summers with the Texas Shakespeare Festival, and an educational tour of Macbeth with the Utah Shakespeare Festival.

Right before the pandemic hit, it seemed like I was going to set down roots in the Twin Cities, but that didn’t…pan out.

How was it that you ended back at the Commonweal?

Well, for one, I was offered a job! But even before that, I’d always felt this pull toward the Commonweal. The theatre and the town has a strong hold on me, which I hadn’t realized until recently.

I’ve learned that as much as I love acting, I don’t know that I love the hustle of acting, which is what most of the job is for so many artists. Most of my career has been following the work—bouncing from contract to contract with not much more than I can fit in the seats of a sedan. I’d been hoping for a long time that I could pivot to nestling in a more major market. But there were always logistical and financial hurdles in making that move.

Additionally, most of the acting contracts I’ve taken have been in smaller towns—destination theatres that are well outside of metro areas. I love that kind of work in those kinds of places. I feel strongly that all communities, no matter their size, deserve access to incredible storytelling by incredible artists.

With Laura Depta and Jerome Yorke in Picasso at the Lapin Agile (2010). Photo by Jason Underferth

What are you looking forward to?

I’m looking forward to acting on the stage again.

I’m looking forward to telling marvelous stories with this ensemble—both on and off the stage.

I’m looking forward to becoming a member of this community in one of my favorite places.


Tim will be back onstage at the Commonweal in our new adaptation of A Christmas Carol.

“Thanks for the Light”: A Fond Farewell

By Philip Muehe

 

If you see Adrienne, you know Philip is usually close behind!

September 1st I will leave the Commonweal and officially become the new Managing Director of the Rochester Repertory Theatre Company. It’s actually quite strange to say out loud to people. I have told many friends, family, and patrons about the news. While I have been met with nothing but support and well wishes, moving on from a place as special as this has been difficult in ways I didn’t anticipate.

As I sit down to write this blog post, I am reminded of how much my time at the Commonweal has changed me as an artist and person. My personal journey with the company—from patron at a student matinee, to summer intern, to apprentice, to company member—has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. After graduating, I knew I wanted to find a place where I could grow, to make mistakes, to challenge myself in new and exciting ways. As fate would have it, I found the Commonweal.

Cast & friends of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (2018)

Cast & friends of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (2018)


The 2014 Apprentice Class with Philip Muehe

Philip and the rest of the 2013-2014 Apprentice Class (Mike, Diana and Julia)

 

The first night of my apprenticeship, I unpacked my stuff and headed over to see our production of A Doll’s House. I sat in the front row, and was thrilled to watch it all unfold. The work onstage was extraordinary, and I was so proud and excited to finally be working here full time. David Hennessey, who played Dr. Rank, uttered “Thanks for the light” to Nora before his final exit. That line has always stuck with me. While my own exit from the Commonweal is hopefully not as final, I leave with the same magnitude: immensely thankful and deeply optimistic.

I’ve had some of the most difficult and rewarding artistic experiences of my life here in charming Lanesboro. Receiving my first professional directing gig, learning how to sound design, exploring my passion for marketing and developing new skills as a producer and arts manager unlocked new potential in me. One reason I am equipped enough to handle this new position is because of what I’ve learned here. My coworkers are more like my extended family. Through laughter, personal struggles and heartbreak I have come to lean on them and look to them for insight and a good venting session. I’ll also miss our incredible patrons, who have watched me grow as an actor and director; who waited with anxious hugs for me after a show; who supported us and kept us employed during a pandemic. They are the life of this theatre, and we are so lucky to have them in our corner.

The past five years have meant more than I can really put into words. The friendships, artistic opportunities and growth I was lucky enough to experience have paved the way for this new adventure. I will always look back fondly on my time here. The love and support I’ve felt from my coworkers and our patrons has meant the world. I feel very fortunate to have put so many smiles on your faces. But trust me when I say, you all have put so many more on mine. Until next time, thanks for the light.

All My Love,

Philip

 

Best of luck on this new adventure Philip! We will miss you, and don’t be a stranger!

 

A Recipe for Success: Reflecting on “I Love to Eat”

By Philip Muehe

Philip plays legendary chef James Beard

As I sat alone at my desk, endlessly scrolling blogs for new ways to promote the Commonweal during the pandemic, Producing Artistic Director Hal Cropp approached me and asked if I’d ever heard of a play called I Love To Eat by playwright James Still. I told him I hadn’t, but that I’d be happy to read it. I was immediately swept away by the humor, the heartbreak, and the honesty of the script and the man at its epicenter. “I like it!” I told him a few days later. “That would be a great show for someone to do!” Little did I know, the leadership of the Commonweal would produce the show, and I would be that someone to tackle the one-person comedy.

The art of solo performance is one that has always resonated with me, having worked on productions of The Amish Project, I Am My Own Wife, and Grounded. I adore stripping down elements that sometimes bog down a production. There is something infinitely refreshing to me about a single brave actor speaking to an audience. In a strange paradox, one person speaking all the words makes them all more important. That actor is the singular vessel for all of the action, the dialogue and characters. By the end of the performance you, as an audience member, have shared an intimate journey with that actor, and you both feel close to each other by curtain call.

James Beard is largely considered America’s first “foodie”

To answer the question I hear most frequently: Yes – I really do have all those lines in my head! No earpiece for me. I broke down the script into two-or-three page sections, and then learned one section a night during the month of February (except weekends of course). By the start of rehearsals in March, I was familiar enough with the script to focus on the process with my incredibly patient Director Hal Cropp, and our extraordinary Production Stage Manager Rivka Kelly. While it was difficult at times, the end results of all of our hard work, along with the design team, were certainly worth it. I also don’t mind the shaved head as much as I thought I would (no bedhead!).

Sharing this story with our patrons has been a joy. James Beard was a fascinating man full of mirth, sorrow, and dreams. Like all of us, he struggled with the expectations he had for his life, and the realities of what it became. But his amazing openness, desire to live fully and truthfully, and eternal effort to make others smile are things I will carry with me. It has truly been an honor to portray his many sides on our stage, and give you all a small glimpse of who he was. As I say in the play, “Cheer up, dear. If all else fails, simply be amusing. You can get away with anything if you’re amusing.” Here’s to you James!

Don’t miss Philip’s performance in I Love To Eat – must close June 27th! Click here for tickets!