Welcoming Laughter

Newest Resident Ensemble member, Josiah Laubenstein, makes his Commonweal debut in the hilarious farce Boeing Boeing. We asked him why he enjoys the play so much, and why we as an audience always love to laugh.

When my wife and I lived in South Carolina there was an outdoor farmer’s market throughout the whole year. For a few weeks during the winter the city set up a small, iceskating rink. Up here an iceskating rink would be a place to go and watch some fairly graceful (or at least competent) people do some fairly graceful (or at least competent) things. In South Carolina, among people who had never seen ice outside of a Slushee cup, it was the perfect place for comedy. I haven’t laughed that hard in years. Tears would have frozen on my cheeks if it hadn’t been a balmy 45° out. 

Josiah Laubenstein in his previous life as a farmer
Josiah is almost always all smiles!

While you may look down on me for laughing so hard at people trying their best—and failing spectacularly—to stay upright on a patch of ice, I want you to know I laugh from a place of kinship. I grew up in Phoenix, AZ. Ice is not my friend. Snow isn’t either. I have ice skated twice and skied once and my skiing adventure ended with me running into a 5-year-old girl on a downhill slope. She kept her balance while knocking me flying. My poles and skis arced gracefully and I rolled like a dying bird 30 or so feet down the hill. The little girl skied back up to me to and asked if I was “al-wight.” Everything was fine but my pride. She skied off backwards, the little showoff.

I have a confession: I laugh when people fall down. If they’re hurt, of course I help. But I am a simple man with simple pleasures. And there is no simpler comedy than physical comedy. Youtube is a great source of this. People trying desperately and failing hard. Simple comedy is the best comedy. Farces are truly simple comedy. Boeing Boeing follows the misadventures of Bernard, who has three gorgeous fiancées, each flight attendants on different airlines who are never in town at the same time. When disrupted schedules find them all under the same roof for one madcap weekend, sparks fly!

Josiah Laubenstein as Bernard in Boeing Boeing
Josiah will play Bernard in our production of Boeing Boeing.

I performed in Boeing Boeing four years ago. I love it. There is very little better than when actor and audience are unified in the same breath, and in my experience laughter is the easiest way to get there. Laughter brings people together. I am thankful that Boeing Boeing will be my introduction to the Commonweal audience. Profound? Neither am I. Joyful? Willing to laugh? Definitely. I think that’s as good of a “Hello!” as I could have. I can’t wait to see you all soon!

Be sure catch all of Josiah’s antics, along with the rest of the stellar cast in Boeing Boeing, which begins performances May 10th. Join us for this hilarious farce, directed by a Commonweal favorite, Craig Johnson! For Tickets —-> Performance Calendar

A Commonweal Debut

Twin Cities director Peter Moore is making his directorial debut at the Commonweal with Holmes and Watson. So Peter, what has your first experience with us been like?

I can summarize my experience in Lanesboro in one word: who knew? (Yes, I know that’s two words, so sue me. Remember, there are only three kinds of people in the world: Those who get math and those who don’t). Who knew there was this talented, committed theatre company in such a small town? Who knew that the theatre building was so lovely, intimate and well-equipped? Who knew that the town boasted such great places to eat (including The Pastry Shoppe, which may well be one of the very best restaurants in the state)? Who knew that the tiny little corner grocery store carried such a wide variety of healthy foods and sold their very own delicious chocolate chip cookies at the counter to boot? Who knew, in other words, what a charming delightful place this is to come live and work?

Peter Moore, director of Holmes and Watson
Peter Moore directs our 31st Season opener, Holmes and Watson by Jeffrey Hatcher.

Well, probably all of you knew, but I sure didn’t. My pervious experience with Lanesboro was limited to a visit 25 years ago to go biking, and while that was certainly enjoyable, it wasn’t particularly memorable; in fact, my most vivid recollection is seeing a baby rattlesnake slither quietly off the bike path as I approached. The theater was there, but I didn’t see a show, and I remember almost nothing about the food, although I do seem to recall thinking the breakfast at Mrs. B’s was pretty good.

Directing Holmes and Watson at the Commonweal has been an unmitigated pleasure. From the actors, to the designers, to the crew, to the staff, everyone has been wonderful to work with. Maybe that’s because the actors, the designers, the crew and the staff are all pretty much the same people—nobody does just one thing here—but whatever the reason, it creates a terrifically creative and supportive artistic environment. The company is made up of a talented and very dedicated group of theatre professionals, all of whom are smart, kind and a delight to work with. The locals I’ve encountered have been unfailingly pleasant, and even the weather, dark and cold as it is in any part of Minnesota during winter, has provided a certain calm and quiet. Coming out of rehearsal at 10pm on a February night to find the streets utterly deserted and peaceful is a unique and not at all unpleasant sensation.

In short, I would happily return to Lanesboro, and the Commonweal, anytime. Except on Mondays and Tuesdays—the Pastry Shoppe is closed.

Peter, it has been a pleasure to have you here! Be sure to see his work as director for Holmes and Watson, which opens this weekend, join us! For Tickets —-> Performance Calendar

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