New Roles Off Stage

By Elizabeth Dunn

A new year at the Commonweal always brings new changes. Working for a non-profit theatre organization usually means you get to work in many different areas creatively and administratively. Since 2015, I have been a video editor/producer, assistant to the company manager, designed props, worked as a box officer, and much more. This year being no exception, I found myself in a new position: last fall I took on the role of the Development Manager for the company.

Commonweal ensemble member Elizabeth Dunn
A former apprentice, Elizabeth Dunn now serves as Development Manager and Assistant to the Executive Director

First thoughts? I was apprehensive. My primary focus had been on videos and marketing up until then. The extent of my knowledge of the development world was “uh…those are the people that do fundraising,” and it didn’t go much further than that. Fortunately, I’ve had a huge support system behind me. Barb DeCramer, who has served on our Board of Directors since 2010, has over twelve years of experience in the Development field. Being able to utilize Barb’s knowledge and have her guidance has been indispensable. The Commonweal also gifted me with development courses up at St. Thomas University in Minneapolis, along with the guidance of another development consulting guru and friend to the Company: Dana Gillespie. I am grateful for the investment Hal Cropp and Adrienne Sweeney have made in me with these supporting resources. It’ll still be a bit of bumpy road ahead, but I feel equipped with the tools to help manage our development office.

And one of our latest development endeavors is already upon us! Over the past thirty years, the Commonweal has accomplished some pretty amazing things in: we’ve launched 25 world premieres, hosted the works of Henrik Ibsen for two decades, engaged more than 430,000 audience members, and so much more. All this was made possible because of YOU! The generous and passionate support of our patrons has sustained us through the early years, given us strength to grow, and gives us confidence as we look towards the future. And now, we invite you to help us reach the next level. The Opening Day Giving Campaign celebrates the start of Commonweal’s 2019 season.

Thanks to the work of our Board of Directors, the first $10,000 in donations—between now and April 13th—will be matched, doubling your gift! Please help us launch our 31st season by donating to our 2019 Opening Day Giving Campaign today. Here’s to you and our next 30 years together!

We are all so thankful for Elizabeth’s willingness to step up to the plate. That’s how we work around here! Be sure to see her work in both Holmes and Watson and Boeing, Boeing this season! Join us! For Tickets —-> Performance Calendar

Tackling the Unknown

Hey everyone, Philip here! As a former apprentice, this is one of my favorite times of the year at the Commonweal. It’s always such a pleasure to watch each apprentice class rise to the challenge and produce a fantastic capstone. This year’s capstone of Lauren Yee’s in a word is right around the corner! We asked this year’s class what it has been like so far to design their first professional show.

Gabriel (Stage Manager/Lighting Design):

Gabe hangs and focuses a lighting instrument for in a word
Gabe works his lighting magic

Working as both the stage manager and the lighting designer has been a journey with ups and downs. As a stage manager, the work begins before the rehearsal process. During the process, my time is filled with reports, tracking sheets, and blocking. As a lighting designer, I would normally only see the play once blocking is completed. But because I have been in rehearsals since the beginning, it is easy for me to start picturing how each of the scenes are going to look under light. It also gives me a chance to get a head start on lighting work by asking Rachel questions, and bouncing ideas off of her. Though our upcoming tech week will be busy , watching all of our elements come together will be the best part of this journey!

Brandon (Acting/Costume Design/Props Assistant)

2018-19 Apprentice Brandon Cayetano searches costume storage
Brandon searches through costume storage

I’ve been keeping busy designing and acting in this show! My role in the show has the most costume changes, so being in charge of costuming really helps me track my costumes throughout the show. On a typical day of rehearsal, I will work on costumes in the morning—searching for outfits in the costume shop, or researching different looks—and then I’ll head into rehearsals for the afternoon and evening. I was nervous when I first started designing, but after having Ian and Lauren try on their costumes for the first time, those nerves turned into excitement! I cannot wait for everyone to see both my performance and my costume design!

Ian (Acting/Sound Design):

Ian edits the soundscape for in a word
Ian fine tunes his sound design

Designing and acting simultaneously has very distinct advantages. For one, I have been present for almost every rehearsal, and have been able to keep a very helpful conversation going with our director about how we both imagine the aural environment of the play. In addition, if a thought comes up in rehearsal for either one of us, we are able to immediately propose it and discuss it. In this way, my thoughts on the design have changed vastly from my original inclinations in very beneficial and imaginative ways. The downside, however, is that I sometimes feel that my brain gets caught up shifting between thinking as the sound designer and thinking as the actor. It is not uncommon to find me staring into space during rehearsal, most likely listening to some of the transition music in my head. I’m excited for you all to hear it!

Lauren (Acting/Scenic Design/Props Design):

2018-19 Apprentice Lauren Schulke at work on the set for in a word
Lauren putting on the final touches

Working on in a word really has been something. I’ve worked on projects with friends in the past, but nothing from start to finish. It has been an absolute joy to work on an amazing piece of theater with some wonderful new friends! Seeing something through—from deciding on a show, marketing it, rehearsing it, and finally opening it—is something I’m enormously happy to be a part of. This process is one of the more difficult things I’ve done in my life. It’s not just the time and the workload, but it’s the wearing of many hats, and knowing when to put one on and take another off. It is so difficult to be on stage as an actor and not focus on the props that I see are missing or what still needs to be built on stage. But this process is also so exciting and the show really feels like ours!

Keep going, you’re almost there! We look forward to seeing all of their hard work come to fruition when performances start March 15th. Join us! For Tickets —-> Performance Calendar

Please be Advised: This production contains adult language and themes

Art Blooms This Spring

One day, this winter will be over. While that may seem far off now as the snow continues to fall, we are already looking ahead to the spring. We’re thrilled to announce the launch of a variety of spring programming. Associate Artistic Director Adrienne Sweeney has all of the details for you!

By Adrienne Sweeney

As Michael Scott from The Office would say:

“OKAY! It’s happening!”

I am thrilled to announce the official launch of our long-awaited second play series, Wealhouse, with Bakersfield Mist by Stephen Sachs. Even more exciting to me—I get to perform this two-person show with my hubby, Hal Cropp! I play Maude, a woman who believes she has purchased a painting by the famed abstract artist Jackson Pollock. She calls in an art critic to verify the work. Needless to say, sparks fly. Based on a true story, it’s a funny, saucy play about the nature of art and authenticity. I just can’t wait to jump into a role that is so very different from what I typically do here at the Commonweal.

Bakersfield Mist by Stephen Sachs
Adrienne and Hal star in Bakersfield Mist in March.

You might remember, Wealhouse was set to launch in 2017, but was postponed due to the challenges attending Scott Dixon’s cancer diagnosis. Wealhouse is a passion for many of us here at the Commonweal, but particularly for Scott, who championed the opportunity to engage our audiences in bold new ways. When I read Bakersfield Mist I knew this was just such a show. It really got me thinking…what is art? How can you tell? Who gets to decide? With a play that arouses these types of questions, it was a no-brainer that we would collaborate with our local experts, Lanesboro Arts, to offer a two-weekend celebration of creativity—Spring Into Art.

Not your typical art festival, Spring Into Art will be highly interactive, giving you the chance to create your own work at an art-making crawl. There’ll be a raucous “Canvas Clash” during which regional artists will compete in a multi-round, speed-painting art “battle” with works being created right before your eyes and you as the judge. The award-winning bio-pic Pollock will be screened both weekends. Panel discussions with curators and arts educators will address the questions above and more. And of course, there will be theatre! Not only will Wealhouse launch with Bakersfield Mist, but the Commonweal Apprentice Company will produce their capstone project—in a word by Lauren Yee.

The Spring Into Art Festival will take place March 21st – 24th, and March 28th-31st, 2019

You might be asking yourself—if the apprentice show is on the mainstage, where will Bakersfield Mist be performed? Another component of a Wealhouse production is that it will encourage us to explore a variety of performance spaces. In this case, Bakersfield Mist will find us back in our old home, next door—the St. Mane Theatre!

As we kick off our fourth decade of producing professional live theatre here in Lanesboro, I am delighted to be a part of this celebration of what makes Lanesboro truly unique—art! I hope you’ll join us as we explore new horizons.

We hope you can join us for this new festival, especially for our two theatrical offerings, Bakersfield Mist and in a word. See you in Lanesboro, soon! For Tickets –> Performance Calendar 

(Please be advised, both productions contain adult language and themes.)