Guest Actor Series #2: A Vital Part of the Professional Theatre Company

In this edition of Drama Unfolds, we learn more about Colleen Barrett. Colleen is an actress living and working in Minneapolis/St. Paul but graciously accepted our invitation to “drive south” to join the cast of The Clean House in the role of Ana. We are thrilled to have her as a guest/seasonal actress this year and sure hope you get the chance to meet her and see her gorgeous work on stage.

A Most Important Part of our Theatre Company

by Colleen Barrett

Guest Artist - Colleen BarrettDescribe yourself in a sentence.
—A work in progress.

Where is your hometown?
—I was born in Seattle, WA. Lived in Des Moines, WA, St. Paul, MN, New York City, Milwaukee and Saigon, South Vietnam.  My parents emigrated to America in the early 1950’s. I hold dual American/Irish citizenship.

From your short time as a guest actor at the Commonweal, what have you learned about the company?
—Passionate, engaged and dedicated people who excel at whatever they put their hearts and minds to.

Where do you live when not in Lanesboro?
—I commute back to a suburb of Minneapolis.

What is the best part about that place?
—We don’t have any airplane noise and there are tiny bright green frogs that attach themselves to the glass windows at night in summer.

As a child, did you have dreams of what you wanted to be when you grew up? What were those dreams?
—No. I didn’t dream. We had a tough time and we were very poor. I started working to help my family in 5th grade. Seven of us lived in a two-bedroom apartment and my Mom babysat two other little boys Monday to Friday 7am to 5pm on top of her five kids. Dad worked as a mechanic for Northwest Airlines on swing shift. We had a lot of serious challenges when I was growing up. I was supposed to go work in a civil servant job – but I always knew I didn’t belong there. I’m too quirky.

Cheaper by the DozenDo you recall the moment or set of circumstances that led you to the stage?
—Sr. Raphaella cast me as the Mother in the play Cheaper by the Dozen in 8th grade at St. Philomena’s Grade School in Des Moines, WA. She didn’t audition us, she just assigned us our parts. I was very quiet and shy. When I came on stage in the school cafeteria for the first performance I felt completely at home.

Tell us something about you that might be surprising.
—I’ve worked tons of jobs. Kitchen assistant in a retirement home; burger stand; record shop; chairlift operator near Mt. Rainer; janitor; follow spot operator; manager of a high-end women’s clothing store in NYC; assistant buyer on 7th Ave in NYC; studied dance in NYC for 5 years; terrible waitress; dresser for the Men’s Chorus on Phantom of the Opera and Les Misérables at the Ordway; a slimer on a fish processing boat in Alaska; flight attendant for 2 regional airlines; over 20 years experience as an on-camera talent and voice actor in the midwest.

You love theatre. Why?
—The professional theatre world called me and I knew that I loved acting with a passion but didn’t know how to pursue it. There wasn’t a clear pathway when I was growing up. I just kept stumbling along trying to learn what I could and to study with people I respected.

Why did you take the role of Ana in The Clean House?
—I knew and respected The Commonweal Theatre’s work. Many actors I admire have worked for the company. I have also had the good fortune to work with Adrienne Sweeney in the past and jumped at the chance to work with her again.

I found Sara Ruhl’s writing a river of inspiration about the complexities of love, memory, time, parents, children, husbands and wives, lovers of any age, siblings, myth and “things that come in unannounced.” How could I say no to two beautiful roles? I get to play two women who are so very different from me and are passionate and romantic! I am a “mature” actress and who knows if I will ever be offered the chance to play those kinds of roles again!

I’ve lived long enough to know that when the Fates offer me a gift… I’d be foolish to say no.

Seeing Colleen take the stage in The Clean House by Sarah Ruhl is just one of the many things to do in Lanesboro. Hungry for another idea? Go for a hike, tackle the high ropes course or simply get back to nature on the beautiful grounds of Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center
The Clean House plays through October 22 —> PURCHASE TICKETS
Thanks for reading and I’ll see you at the theatre!—Jeremy

Guest Actors: A Vital Part of the Professional Resident Theatre Company

An Integral Part of Professional Resident Theatre Companies

For our production of The Clean House by Sarah Ruhl opening Saturday, June 30, it has been necessary for us to search outside of the Commonweal professional resident company for the purposes of filling three female roles in the production. These guest actors, or seasonal actors as we refer to them, are quite valuable and provide an integral part of the success of the plays they are involved with. Without them, a majority of the productions you have seen on the Commonweal stage would not have made it there. Over the next few weeks, I will be introducing you to the seasonal actresses appearing in The Clean House. The first is a familiar face in that she made her Commonweal debut in last season’s Steel Magnolias and is also currently playing the role of Rona Lisa Peretti in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Betti Battocletti.

Commonweal Theatre Companiy Guest Actress Betti BattoclettiiDescribe yourself in a sentence.

-I am a true Virgo with a twist; quirky and free-spirited but still very organized and pragmatic.

Where is your hometown?

– Milwaukee, WI

Where are you living now?

-Minneapolis, MN

What is the best part about that place?

-The city lakes and all of the great bike trails.

From your time at the Commonweal, what have you learned about the company?

– I have learned that the Commonweal is comprised of a small group of incredibly dedicated artists who, as a team, run all aspects of this amazing professional theatre company and make it work in such a surprising place as Lanesboro, MN.

As a child, did you have dreams of what you wanted to be when you grew up? What were those dreams?

-As a kid watching movie musicals on TV, being taken to live theatre by my parents and seeing my oldest sister in her high school production of Guys and Dolls, I knew that I wanted to be a dancer/singer/actress.

Guest Actress Betti Battocletti with Commonweal Theatre director Alan Bailey

   Betti with The 25th Annual Putnam County                    Spelling Bee director Alan Bailey

Why did you choose to take this role at the Commonweal?

-I enjoy working at the Commonweal, love Lanesboro, and thought that the parts that I was offered were challenging and would be fun to tackle.

Do you recall the moment or set of circumstances that led you to the stage?

I guess the same thing that I said above about childhood dreams. Started with little grade school shows, ballet classes, high School musicals and acting class. I had a great high School theatre teacher!

Tell us something about you that might be surprising.

-I spent a year bumming around the world by myself. Lived in Australia for 6 months. Ran out of money and had to work to get back to the States.

You love the live theatre. Why?

I love pretending to be someone else. As an introvert, I like the ability to touch people but still have the safety net of the space between the stage and audience. I like to move people as much as I like to be moved.

Catching one of Betti’s fine performances this summer at the Commonweal is just one of the great things to do in Lanesboro. Another great idea comes to us from Commonweal Board President Chuck Aug. Chuck says that the perfect evening includes dinner at The Old Village Hall, taking in a play at the Commonweal and then grabbing a nightcap at The High Court Pub or Lanesboro’s American Legion post. 
The Clean House previews June 29 and officially opens with a gala celebration on Saturday, June 30. Both performances begin at 7:30. 
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee returns Monday, July 2 and plays through September 24. 
Thanks for reading and I’ll see you at the theatre. — Jeremy

It All Started with a Professional Theatre Apprenticeship

From Theatre Apprenticeship to Grad Student

by Abbie Cathcart

Every now and then, we are forced to bid farewell to someone who has become quite special to us. This season is one of those times as our dear friend and colleague Abbie Cathcart has chosen to move on from the Commonweal. If you’re a Commonweal regular, you’ve seen her in several roles over the past three years including Shelby Eatonton in Steel Magnolias, Kitty Verdun in Charley’s Aunt and Ragna Monson in The League of Youth. In this edition of Drama Unfolds, Abbie shares a short reflection on her Lanesboro chapter. 

I am pleased to announce and am very excited to start graduate school work to earn a Masters of Fine Arts Degree in Acting from Michigan State University. As I prepare to leave Lanesboro and Commonweal, little things here and there keep reminding me of my first experiences at this theatre and the ways it has positively impacted my life. I joined Commonweal in 2015 as a member of the apprentice class for the season. I was 21, fresh out of undergrad and had zero professional experience under my belt. I was also pretty nervous. I remember the first show I saw at Commonweal, which was Woody Guthrie’s American Song. I was struck by the immense love and support that reverberated throughout the theater during that performance. From the cast onstage to the patrons who clapped, smiled and jumped to their feet to sing along to familiar favorites, I felt immediately at ease in this joyful environment. The cast of Woody Guthrie's American Song at the Commonweal TheatreThe next day, I had my first of many waffles at Spud Boy diner, then walked on the trails and introduced myself to the exceptional beauty of the Driftless Region.

I had initially only moved to Lanesboro for a job, but what I found once I got there was a delightful, unique gem of a community. Over the past three years, I have performed on Commonweal’s stage around 300 times and learned a lot in the process. I have grown to love my fellow resident company members like family, and believe they have shown me what it means to be a good human and artist. Taking this next step away from Commonweal to begin my graduate school career is very bittersweet. I am so thankful to my coworkers at Commonweal, our amazing patrons and the community at large for welcoming me and letting me collaborate with them for a few years.


Abbie leaves for Michigan at the end of the month after the closing performance of Silent Sky, her last show with us…for now. Bidding farewell to Abbie by sharing a performance with her is only one of the great things to do in Lanesboro in June. Need another idea? Commonweal resident ensemble member Eric Lee suggests a drink on “the deck.” Whether it’s a beer at the High Court Pub, a martini at Riverside on the Root or a glass of wine at Old Village Hall, an evening on an outdoor deck in Lanesboro will not soon be forgotten. 
Abbie is currently in both spring rep shows…but not for long!
Thanks for reading; I’ll see you at the theatre.—Jeremy