It’s Not Goodbye

It’s Not Goodbye!

Longtime company members Brandt Roberts and Elizabeth Dunn will be moving to the Twin Cities in July. In their own words they each reflect on their time here:

Elizabeth Dunn:

It’s not goodbye, it’s see you later. You can’t say goodbye to a place like this. As one of the most beautiful towns in bluff country, Lanesboro has a premier professional theatre company, a rails-to-trails track offering over 60 miles of biking, an arts center that supports both emerging and established artists, with the scenic Root River winding through the driftless region, and . . . . So. Much. More. When I came to the Commonweal in 2015, I was simply hoping for a place to be stationary for a while. (The life of an actor can be nomadic.) I never dreamt that not only would I meet my fiancé, Brandt, but that I would enter such a loving, creative, and supportive community. The experiences I’ve had at the Commonweal are immeasurable, and the people I’ve met will hopefully be friends for life. Yeah, you don’t leave a place like this, you carry it with you. So, “see you later.”

Abbie Cathcart, Brandt, and Elizabeth in "Charley's Aunt."
Brandt Roberts: 

Similar to Elizabeth, I’ve started saying “auf wiedersehen” instead of “goodbye.” It feels less final…and more German. The Commonweal and Lanesboro have been my home for eight years. When I first saw Karl Unnasch’s art installation throughout the theatre lobby, I knew I belonged. I am beyond blessed to have lived and worked with such an incredible company and community. You are my extended family. There are too many memories to recount and people to thank. My emotions are mixed: excitement for what lies ahead and sorrow for what I leave behind. When I came here, I longed for an artistic home, and I found one. Until we meet again. Much love to you all.  

Below are photos from some of the wonderful shows they’ve been in together:

You don’t leave a place like this, you carry it with you.”

 —Elizabeth Dunn

“A Christmas Carol” director’s notes

“A Christmas Carol” director’s notes

“A Christmas Carol” director’s notes

by Craig Johnson

Our brand-new adaptation of A Christmas Carol runs from Nov. 19 through Dec. 19. Director Craig Johnson share his notes on this production.

In 1843, Charles Dickens dashed off his short novel, “A Christmas Carol,” to make a quick buck—well, pound—for the holidays. It sold out in a week, and 13 more editions came out within a year. And it’s been making money for theaters, filmmakers, and booksellers ever since. Oh the irony, for a story about a miser!

We used two watchwords to guide this production: faithful and fresh. We wanted to remain true to all the plot points in Dickens’ story, we wanted to warmly embrace the themes of generosity and kindness, and whenever possible we wanted to retain his astonishing original language—comic, dramatic, and bracingly relevant. But we also wanted to broaden the story and try something new. So this year we follow Scrooge’s ghostly journey as a woman.

Woah! Would a woman even be able to achieve that level of wealth and power in the Victorian era? Astonishingly, nearly 30% of all businesses in England in the second half of the 19th century were owned by women! And not just small companies such as dressmakers and milliners, but a number of larger, industrial concerns. However, a successful businesswoman would still have been something of an anomaly, an outsider—and outsiders in any society have always had the deck stacked against them.

Madam Scrooge couldn’t quite be the grotesque, slovenly comic ogre in Dickens original or popular movie versions. She’d never get a foot in the door of the stock exchange. But the description: “Hard and sharp as flint, and solitary as an oyster,” captured our imagination. What if Scrooge was better dressed than anyone around her? More perfect, always, correct, endlessly exacting; keeping everyone—competitor or friend—from ever getting close. And never, ever exposing herself to any vulnerability.         

That felt like a character we knew, and understood. And even if her behavior towards others was callous, harsh, and acid-tongued, we might be able to sympathize why she protected herself with such rigor. And maybe, just maybe, her transformation might be all the sweeter. Let us know how we did!

One last thought: early on, our music director Stela Burdt commented, “There is so much Christmas music created at this time, maybe people should always be singing and humming.” So you may hear snatches of hymns and carols threading throughout the show, plus a few raucous pub songs and music hall tunes to bring a little added cheer to the proceedings. Merry Christmas!

For more info and tickets: visit here.
A Christmas Carol runs from Nov. 26 – Dec. 19. Previews begin on Nov. 19.

“The time has come,” the Walrus said…


By Ben Gorman

Ben in An Iliad

That walrus is so wise.

After six years as a member of the resident ensemble at the Commonweal, I’m moving on to new things. Many of you, locally, know of my intense interest in All Things Sustainable; I’ve decided to return to my previous career (2006-2009) in the green sector.

My goal is to discover my best fit in the burgeoning world of sustainability and climate change remediation, one which provides me the satisfaction that I’m doing something tangible to alter human society’s headlong course off the Carbon Cliff. I shall begin (or resume) this new voyage of discovery with a position as a weatherization auditor, based in Rochester, MN. I’ve had a taste of this work before, having done something along these lines for a big utility while living in Columbus, Ohio.



Ben in The Elephant Man with Brandt Roberts, 2017

Ben in The Elephant Man with Brandt Roberts, 2017

My time at the Commonweal will remain close to my heart. I’ve been working, playing, and crafting art here for 20 years, off and on. I first arrived in the summer of 2001 to play small roles in Twelfth Night—then was unexpectedly cast in other roles in the fall. That was the pattern for a while: getting cast here seasonally, then taking on additional work as it arose. I’ve sojourned to Lanesboro—as actor or visitor—many times over the years, always maintaining my cherished friendships with the “lifers.”



My 20-year perspective has allowed me to witness—and participate in—Commonweal’s growth as a company….Could I be prouder of what we’ve achieved? Doubtful.


These past six years in the resident ensemble have allowed me to explore and grow as an actor, and I think I (we) have produced some memorable theatre in that time. Since 2001, I acted in 15 main stage productions, one Wealhouse show (the premiere year!), one virtual-only show (Headspace, 2020), and worked in some creative capacity on many more. I undertook my first one-actor show (An Iliad with Wealhouse), and I played an invigoratingly broad range of roles. My 20-year perspective has allowed me to witness—and participate in—Commonweal’s growth as a company, both with respect to its art and its organization as an institution. Could I be prouder of what we’ve achieved? Doubtful.



Ben as Hejre in The League of Youth, 2016

Ben as Hejre in The League of Youth, 2016

As for acting and The Theatre, I consider this stepping-away as merely a sabbatical, not a final bow and exit stage left. In the end, it’s all just stage movement, what actors call “blocking”—the stage manager will let me know when my next entrance is coming up. Meantime, I can actually go see some theatre for a change! Yes, including future shows at the Commonweal, my little sometime home in Bluff Country.

Keep a seat warm for me.



Ben as Scrooge in The Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge, 2017

Ben as Scrooge in The Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge, 2017