2020 Passions: “A Christmas Carol”

By Philip Muehe

It’s hard to believe, but our 2019 Season is almost over! From a twisting mystery, to tropical islands, to a small church on Christmas Eve, this season truly has had something for everyone. Thank you all so much for being a part of it!

As we now look to the future, we are incredibly excited about our 2020 Season! Our 32nd Season is equally exciting and will offer just as many unique and moving experiences for our patrons. Over the next few entries of this blog, we will hear from people who are passionate about each show, and what they look forward to it brining our patrons.

Philip and Adrienne prepare for her role as Scrooge
Director Philip Muehe, and Scrooge herself Adrienne Sweeney practice their best “Bah, Humbug!”

While right now our stage is filled with toe-tapping bluegrass music provided by a triple-threat cast in Sanders Family Christmas, next season we will journey across the pond to Victorian London. This time next year, we will have opened our version of Charles Dickens’s classic A Christmas Carol. I will be fortunate enough to direct this incredible piece. It’s my favorite Christmas story – and I couldn’t be more excited!

While our unique adaptation has been done here before, next season will provide an entirely different experience. Associate Artistic Director Adrienne Sweeney will sit behind the miser’s desk. That’s right, a female scrooge! And not a “pants role” (A woman playing a man), Scrooge will be entirely female. Adrienne has been introducing us to so many wonderful people through her nuanced, focused, and powerful performances. I’ve admired her work since I first saw it when I was in high school, and since then we’ve become co-workers and good friends. So getting to share this journey with her is another huge plus!

Sally Nystuen Vahle as Scrooge photo by Karen Almond
Sally Nystuen Vahle as Scrooge (Photo By Karen Almond)

Why would the Commonweal want to do this? Why Not?! The lessons of A Christmas Carol, don’t just apply to men. It is a universal story for all humanity. So it would make sense, that in turn, we would feature a woman to help communicate its themes. Both Adrienne and I were inspired by Dallas Theatre Center’s recent production, featuring Sally Nystuen Vahle as Scrooge. The production was a huge success, and audiences were moved. That’s the thing about A Christmas Carol – we’ve all seen it, or have had some experience with it. However, by providing a new angle, you will see the piece in a whole new way, and hopefully get something new out of the familiar.

I am so excited for you to see this adaptation, and I hope you’re excited too. Keep an eye out for more information on A Christmas Carol, and the rest of the shows in our 2020 lineup. But before that, be sure to catch Sanders Family Christmas, now playing until December 22nd! We’ll see you at the Commonweal!

A Commonweal Farewell

By Eric Lee

Eric Lee
Eric Lee

To everyone of you who makes the Commonweal what it is, it’s time for me to share some news: Sanders Family Christmas is going to be my last performance as a Resident Ensemble Member.  My time here has been wonderful, and my life has been enriched by every one of you.

Five years ago, I was fresh from a year in LA. I was unsure of myself, and whether I wanted to even continue acting. I initially landed in Decorah and appreciated the beauty of the Driftless region, having grown up visiting. 

Jacob Marley (Eric Lee) tells Scrooge (Ben Gorman) his fate
Eric As Jacob Marley in A Christmas Carol

Shortly into my acting “retirement”, I became restless, and remembered that my aunt and uncle had taken me to a professional theatre in the area when I was in high school. I decided to submit my materials and Hal Cropp called me up, and soon he was in Decorah and auditioned me. Within a couple of weeks, I would step on the Commonweal stage for my first time, in Arsenic and Old Lace.  

I appeared the next year in The Three Musketeers, and then was thrilled to be invited to join the Resident Ensemble for the 2016 season. Onstage, I’ve had so many incredible opportunities. From Megan Pence’s wonderful telling of A Christmas Carol, the gorgeous Silent Sky, and of course the great fun of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.

Commonweal professional resident ensemble member Eric Lee in the role of Peter Shaw in Silent Sky
Eric As Peter Shaw in Silent Sky

This year has provided one great opportunity after another, starting with the mysterious Holmes and Watson and ending here with the lovely Sanders Family Christmas. And Jeremy van Meter and I have had quite the season together – having been adversaries, comical lovers, and now brothers! 

Offstage, whether working on our marketing team, or just being out and about, I have forged so many relationships that I will deeply value. From serving with the Lanesboro Business Promotion Group, working with other folks in the area to get out the good word of Lanesboro, to having the honor of being the word pronouncer for the elementary school spelling bee, I have enjoyed my time in Lanesboro so much.  

What’s next for me? Well, I’m moving to the Twin Cities. I don’t know just what that will hold, but I do enjoy new opportunities. I am so very fortunate that I had the chance to develop professional relationships there while being at the Commonweal. As I venture once again into the unknown and unpredictable, please know that I am grateful for everyone of you that has made my time here so very special, and who contribute to making Lanesboro and the Commonweal such remarkable places. I’ll see you all soon!

Thanks for everything Eric, we all will miss you. Don’t miss Eric’s swan song in Sanders Family Christmas. For Tickets —> Performance Calendar

Why Get A Season Pass?

By Beth Regener

It was a Saturday in October, and my husband and I were meeting friends in Lanesboro for what had been dubbed “Commonweal Day.” We were slated to see both the matinee show of The Clean House and the evening performance of Dracula: Prince of Blood – a double header. A great day was in store for us as we walked around the quaint historical town taking pictures, laughing, and enjoying great food at Pedal Pushers Café.

Beth and friends with Black Stache
Beth with her many friends at a performance of Peter and the Starcatcher

This wasn’t my first visit to Commonweal. Before I moved to the area, a good friend of mine told me about a show he was in down in Lanesboro called Souvenir. It was the first I’d heard of Commonweal, and I was intrigued. My husband and I spent a summer weekend in Lanesboro camping, taking in the views, and visiting the theatre. Our little getaway left a lasting impression: mesmerizing performances and a newly sparked interest to visit Commonweal again.

I wouldn’t get another opportunity until that now memorable day in October. And for me, that spark I felt before returned the moment I walked inside. I began to appreciate many more aspects of what makes Commonweal, well, Commonweal: the unique interior, the intimacy of the performance space, the intriguing scripts, and the spectacular production value.

Beth and friends in the theatre
Be come a part of our Commonweal Family by getting your Season Pass today!

Turns out, I wasn’t the only person who saw that. After that Saturday in October, I took one look at my husband, and that was it. We became season ticket holders and never looked back. The 2020 Season is very exciting, so if you haven’t yet, I highly encourage you to get you and your loved ones a Season Pass.

What really stood out to me were the people. Everyone was kind and engaging; it was as if they were all genuinely happy to see us. I started following Commonweal on social media (like you do), and I saw a post – a picture of some of the company members proudly and happily crowded around a young kid, smiling and supporting him in his play at his school. And I thought: Wow. These are professional theatre artists, wholeheartedly investing in their families and community. That is rare.

You would be hard pressed to find a professional theatre company that offers the whole package: great shows, a welcoming atmosphere, and generous people. Please consider joining my husband and me next season. We’d love to meet you! And most importantly, the artists at Commonweal would love to meet you, too.

Use the code EARLYBIRD20 before November 15th to get your Season Pass for just $99! Join Beth in being a part of the Commonweal Family. Call our box office at (800) 657-7025, or order your 2020 Season Pass online —> Season Pass Purchase